I just finished my first long test in our introductory course in operations research. Assuming that I didn’t fail the test, I think that I barely passed it. I did commit some careless mistakes but the part of the test which took my time my was the modeling / problem formulation part, which is anything but trivial. Still, I find myself liking modeling than proving theorems.
During my undergraduate years, we spent a great deal of time proving theorems here and there. I didn’t know to what extent does pure math courses deal with proofs until I encountered Advanced Calculus, where proofs spanning at least a page are not uncommon. During that semester, I actually found the electromagnetism course in physics more enjoyable than the math classes.
I realized that I like applied topics more than theory. That’s why when I learned about operations research, I naturally migrated to the field (quantitative finance was another major option). Perhaps because it’s more practical — should I ever work for the corporate world, I may be given the task of, say, modeling the supply chain.
More importantly, I find modeling, a key aspect of operations research, to be an art. Although the same thing can be said about pure math, I think that modeling is closer to the traditional meaning of art, i.e. a representation (in terms of mathematical symbols, in this case) of an existing phenomenon.
I did suck on that first long test but it’s not a major issue anyway. It’s still a long way before I become skilled in mathematical modeling, and in particular, optimization modeling.