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Performance IQ and higher mathematics

by c5pi1 min read24th Aug 20195 comments

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IQ and g-factor
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How good of a proxy for later success in mathematics (bachelor's degree+) would performance IQ be? In particular, as a limiting factor, would you consider using it when chosing whether or not to continue studying?

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I did a bachelors in math at an elite US university, and was exceptionally good at math even compared to my peers, so my observations may well be totally useless. With that out of the way:


I think it depends very much on what you expect to get out of math. On one end of the spectrum, if you want to be Gauss, you're almost certainly out of luck. If that were in the cards, you would have at some point realized that you're the smartest person almost everyone you know has ever met. On the other end, there's nothing in a standard undergraduate math curriculum that an average person couldn't understand, with enough time and effort.

Regardless of whether you fall on that spectrum, I think it's a terrible idea to actually use your IQ to decide whether you should study math- no matter how good a predictor it is, your actual math performance is an even better one. Every single person I know who struggles with math began struggling immediately on contact with real proofs. If you can handle that, even with some degree of difficulty, you're fine.

1c5pi1yThanks for your answer, " Regardless of whether you fall on that spectrum, I think it's a terrible idea to actually use your IQ to decide whether you should study math- no matter how good a predictor it is, your actual math performance is an even better one. " Got to agree on that first part, I thought the same when I was younger ; I've actually already started studying. My biggest issue (and the reason behind this) is that my work and investment (3rd year undergrad math, at a very good french university) are seemingly unrelated to my results. I've went to doing almost nothing and somehow managing to pass, to trying my best and having apparently worked my ass off and failing. Results which have been average,mediocre,good. If I'm looking for another (perhaps not so related) predictor of math performance it's because I feel like at no point any work I did actually paid off in proportion to my efforts or even had a positive effect on my results. Proofs aren't the problem, I tend to forget things and am rather intuitive in my functioning so I usually lack in rigor/tend to miss details while writing. I've invested enough not to bother anymore (and I'm pretty close to letting go, even though I love maths) if I don't have at least one good reason to keep going (I've already went much further with compromises than I thought I ever would). I will probably go and do the tests, if the results are high enough I will most likely give it one last shot, otherwise I will be done with it. (probably more about having an objective reason than what the tests themselves mean) As you said " no matter how good a predictor it is, your actual math performance is an even better one ", but deep down I'm still not convinced, how irrational it might be.
1Pattern1yYou might not come up with as many new things as him, but understanding his work doesn't seem impossible.
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Performance IQ as opposed to what? You mean the subtest of WAIS? Probably full WAIS, verbal+performance, is a better predictor than just performance. Probably you could find a set of subtests that would be better than the whole test, but I think performance was just chosen as the complement of verbal. And verbal probably wasn't designed as a coherent test of verbal skill for normal people, but as intelligence tests that had a prerequisite of verbal skill that might be misleading for the retarded, who are the main subject for IQ tests.

I meant the "Perceptual reasoning index scale" in particular ; I don't really care about verbal score as I doubt it could be a limiting factor for me. The 2 others indexes (working memory, processing speed) might be important but I will give them importance only if the score for perceptual reasoning is already high enough.


(using the WAIS-IV, performance IQ is indeed an older concept)