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How much math is needed

  1. Nov 1, 2009 #1
    I'm picking classes for next semester and I'm deciding between calc 3, thermo, and quantum chem. Calc 3 is not required for my major, but the other 2 are. My school only requires calc 2 to take the chem classes, but I've heard that it's helpful to take more math classes before I take them. Anyone with experience have suggestions?


  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 1, 2009 #2
    I'd recommend thermo. It pops up everywhere in chemistry. Calc 3, not so much (I won't say it never pops up since I haven't taken very much chemistry, but I've never seen it).
  4. Nov 1, 2009 #3


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    In my experience, just sign up for the class you want to take. (Not calc 3). If you need some specific math knowledge while taking thermo, or chem, then learn it on the fly when it becomes necessary!

    It will be more enjoyable that way. I've done this with a few courses in the past.
  5. Nov 1, 2009 #4
    What is your major?
  6. Nov 1, 2009 #5
    You sound like a chemistry major. When I took thermo we didn't need a lot of math because of how it was taught. Same thing with quantum. I stopped at Calc 3 (and did fine) but most people took ODEs and Linear Algebra. Out of the two, thermo needs less math.

    Looking back, I regret not taking more math. How much you need will depend on the professor and how much you want to understand vs regurgitate.
  7. Nov 1, 2009 #6
    I'm a molecular bio major. Thermo and quantum chem are the most math intense classes I need to take. Several people told me that it's good for any science major to take calc 3, matrices, and diffy Q. I don't mind math, but I want to make sure I can handle the math in the hard chem classes.
  8. Nov 1, 2009 #7
    I would HIGHLY recommend taking calc 3, linear algebra, and differential equations if you actually plan on taking physical chemistry. I would also recommend taking group theory because in the quantum portion you will go over the groups and their irreducible representations when doing electronic and vibrational spectroscopy. Believe me when I say it helps to have already done the math previously instead of learning it concurrently in the class.

    I'm quite literally the only person in my physical chemistry class (~60-70 students) that has taken those classes already and where the average person took 80-90 minutes to finish their midterm, I was done in 25. So I would say it helps, but it's not needed because the math methods are gone over in class.
  9. Nov 1, 2009 #8
    Thanks for the info. I was leaning towards calc 3 because I'd rather not learn a bunch of math while taking the chem classes. I'm also ahead of schedule so there's no need for me to hurry and take those chem classes. What's group theory? There's no course with that name offered at my school. What sort of class covers that.
  10. Nov 1, 2009 #9
    Group theory would probably fall under an abstract algebra course. I don't know how other schools do it, ours broke up the intro abstract algebra sequence into groups and then fields and rings for the 2nd quarter.
  11. Nov 1, 2009 #10
    My school offers abstract algebra. The prereq is intro to proofs and I can't fit that in my schedule for next semester... don't want to take too many credits. I'll keep this in mind when I make my future schedules.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2009
  12. Nov 1, 2009 #11
    first course in Abstract Algebra introduces Groups...and fields and rings.

    edit: yeah our requires an introductory course to proofs before taking Abstract Algebra. Unless you are planning in double major i really doubt it is worth it.

    if you must learn Group concept do it when you need it. I'm sure whatever of Group theory is required for Chem won't be that intense/hard.

    edit2: pick up a decent Mathematics book (ask in forum if you don't know any) that introduces to various mathematical ideas required in your field/major and read through them when necessary. There are plenty of "mathematics for physicist" books...so i'm sure you can find something for field/major as well.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2009
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