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How much math do i need?

  1. Feb 16, 2013 #1
    I'm a physics major in calc 3 and matrix theory and i'm finding math harder to learn than physics. My major requires calc 1-3, and differential equation. Matrix theory isn't hard but i do find that i need to spend much more time on math to be able to learn it than with physics where it comes to me much easier and makes more sense.

    Seeing that Physics is a pretty math intensive field, especially with theoretical physics, i was wondering how much math i really need? I do plan on getting a Ph.D in Physics and i don't want my math skills to hold me back but i don't enjoy learning math and it makes my schoolwork much more time consuming. Other math classes above diff. eq. are classes that deal with proofs, partial diff. eq 1 and 2, and then mostly theory classes after that. Are those necessary for me to take?
     
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  3. Feb 17, 2013 #2
    What area of physics do you intend to go into?

    The best answer would be you need as much math as you're willing to take, and even then study more on your own outside of classes.

    This is even more so if your intending to go into theoretical physics.
     
  4. Feb 17, 2013 #3

    Fredrik

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    There's an enormous difference between theoretical and mathematical physics, and an enormous difference between experimental and theoretical physics. Some experimentalists need very little math. Some need to be able to solve certain types of problems (solve differential equations and stuff) that theorists don't, but in general, theorists need a lot more math than experimentalists. Mathematical physicists need stuff like real analysis, complex analysis, topology, functional analysis (probably two courses in that), differential geometry, and more.
     
  5. Feb 17, 2013 #4
    I would recommend a couple courses on linear algebra for QM and then some PDE's classes for E&M and mechanics, then top it off with a math methods class. I have taken many proofs and heavy abstract math classes and while they really did change how I think they don't have direct applications to physics or anything for that matter. If you're going to take these type of courses the key would be to find a professor that deals with the applications in their research and can throw snippets of this in their lectures.

    I love pure math classes but I also go into those classes not caring about the applications. Many of my friends got frustrated from taking pure math classes because they wanted applications, so just be ready if you intend on taking them.
     
  6. Feb 17, 2013 #5
    I believe matrix theory is actually linear algebra. I don't see it called that elsewhere but at my school there is no "linear algebra" only matrix theory. There is numerical linear algebra but that is mainly programming algorithms into MATLab. That makes me curious if I might be in the same program as the OP?
     
  7. Feb 19, 2013 #6
    I haven't decided which area i want to go into however Space Propulsion has been attractive to me for a while. But i also don't wanna just do purely theoretical work, i want to do hands on work and build the devices were testing.
     
  8. Feb 19, 2013 #7
    Yes, Matrix Theory is Linear Algebra. There is also another Linear algebra class past my matrix theory class but it is pretty high up i believe.
     
  9. Feb 19, 2013 #8

    Fredrik

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    I would define linear algebra as the part of the mathematics of linear transformations that doesn't require topology. It's a fairly easy subject in my opinion.

    It's pretty common to teach matrices first, because that part of linear algebra is more about computing stuff than about theorems and proofs. It makes sense to me to call it matrix theory instead of linear algebra, since you can spend a few weeks working with these matrices and learning almost nothing about the main theorems of linear algebra.
     
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