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Applied math major classes to take

  1. Nov 11, 2015 #1
    I am in differential equations and I really wanted to go into applied math but this is the first math class I have taken that I detest. I really enjoyed calculus 1-3 and linear algebra especially which made me want to pursue applied math but differential equations is just not appealing to me at all.(which makes it hard to study causing me to do poorly the first time in a math class)

    Has anyone else had a similar experience with the class or what are some ways I can enjoy it more? As of now its just memorize techniques and apply them to very specific situations and work out ugly problems.

    What are some areas of applied math I should look into taking next? At this point I will be able to take mainly electives outside of only a few core classes. I would like to avoid classes similar to differential equations if possible.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2015 #2


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    Yes, differential equations is a boring class. It's just a collection of techniques and recipes. Don't worry, you're not the only one who thinks this.
    Don't give up on differential equations though, they can have a very fun and deep theory.
  4. Nov 11, 2015 #3
    I agree that ODEs was not all that exciting but an applied mathematician should be well versed in differential equations. I recommend that you try taking a course in PDEs. You'll learn some critical and interesting techniques there (fourier series, eigenfunctions, transforms, distributions, to name some) which have wide applications. Also, PDEs are much more interesting than ODEs in my opinion, but, you need a good background in ODEs if you want to do well and really understand PDEs

    As for other courses for electives in applied math, I'd consider:
    Numerical/computational methods,
    Complex Analysis if that's not already required,
    Math methods in physics if you have such a course,
    Differential Geometry

    As a side note, even if you avoid any course with "differential equations" in the name, your applied math courses will assume familiarity with DEs and use results from there; so, I'd recommend becoming familiar with them regardless.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2015
  5. Nov 11, 2015 #4
    Just a question: have you actually applied the differential equations yet? That's the fun part. I find it incredibly satisfying to set up a model of a system using differential equations (whether it's simple and can be solved analytically or not).
  6. Nov 11, 2015 #5
    Thanks for the feedback I will try to stick through it and try to put in the effort with the hope it will pay off in more interesting classes in the future. There are lots of things I don't enjoy doing but I know are beneficial so I will treat this class like that even if I don't see it now. I try reading the book and I get bored and end up self studying other subjects I find more interesting. Does anyone know of any other textbooks that might be more interesting I could try to supplement my reading with? The book is just for reference anyways but I think the book being so dry is partly my lack of interest also.

    No we are just learning the techniques. The class also has a lot of engineers and physics majors so I think the instructor feels they will pick up which applications will be important later on in there upper division classes. We didn't learn any applications in my linear algebra class either but I found the theory and proofs(of which there are none in this class) to be much more satisfying in that class despite not applying them.
  7. Nov 11, 2015 #6
    Then you're missing out! Even problems that seemed simple in intro physics before you knew differential equations come to life in a brand new way. Springs? ##F = -kx##. But we also know ##F=ma=m\frac{d^2 x}{dt^2}##. So ##\frac{d^2 x}{dt^2} = -kx##. Look! Differential equation! Now throw in friction and a driving force, and you've got an even more interesting problem. And that's only a simple example. To me, the interesting part is not solving the differential equation, but what it is the differential equation is solving.
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