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Chemistry and Mathematics

  1. Feb 3, 2009 #1
    After a long hiatus from college (I took a year of classes about ten years ago), I've decided to go back with the goal of obtaining a BS in chemistry. I took regular and college level chemistry during high school and really enjoyed the subject.

    Mathematics has always been a struggle for me. I've never come close to failing, but I need to ask a lot of questions and require extra help to get an A or B grade. If I don't take the time out to practice daily, I won't do well.

    I'm taking College Algebra this semester and am working hard at it. I practice constantly (hours at a time) and lose track of time. I did really well on the first quiz, but the quiz I took today...I know I got half of them wrong. I'm really depressed about it because I think this stuff should be obvious.

    I'm worried that I won't be a good chemist if I'm having such a hard time with the math. It's not that I don't study either; in fact I think I might study too much to the point that I'm tired of looking at it. Yet, I still get problems wrong. I'm not even studying trigonometry or calculus yet and that makes me really worried.

    I don't ever recall having issues with math in the actual chemistry classes I took in high school. Then again, they were only high school courses.

    This post has become longer than I wanted it to. I'm hoping to hear experiences from other chemistry majors; I can't be the only one who struggled with math. I don't want to give up either.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2009 #2


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    Depending on the topics you pick there isn't a huge amount of complex maths in ugrad chemistry. Obviously you need algebra and some calculus.

    There are areas of chemistry that are very theoretical and mathematical but I seem to remember that you only meet them at the level of "that's the wave equation for a hydrogen atom - it's scary" without having to do anything much with it.

    Maths is one of those areas that people get scared of because they think that they can't understand it and, worse, assume everybody else gets it easily. Sit down and work through the algebra rather than just skipping past everytime you see an equation and it will get easier.
  4. Feb 17, 2009 #3
    I am 42 (almost 43) and avoided any math in high school... I went to college years later and took Biology, two Physics classes, Astronomy, Trig, College Algebra, and Statistics. My major was Philosophy/Logic :) I did well in my classes graduating 'Summa' but I did not learn near enough math! So, rather than try to get around it, I am going back over algebra and trig. Hopefully, I will be able to reach rudimentary skills in calc. I am doing this via books and online tutorials. I have always admired science and been interested in it.

    Chemistry is the main reason I have decided to teach myself (re-learn in some instances) mathematics. While the chem books I have been going through are very much beginner level books, I can see that at some level proficiency in math will be a help, well... that, and the fact that I am also interested in physics (although not the best student).

    My advice would be to devote time to quality study. I have always been determined even in the face of discouragement. Cultivate that, it will help.

    Good luck
  5. Feb 17, 2009 #4
    Thank you for your replies; I apologize for my delayed response.

    After the quiz, I went back to the problems I had trouble with and practiced them over and over. I asked my professor questions constantly and met up with her after class a couple of times to go over problems in more detail.

    The end result was a 94% on my first exam, which included the material covered in the quiz.

    I'd like to try and take a math class every semester so that the knowledge stays fresh. If I'm away from it for too long, I forget things.
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