Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How much maths is involved outside of university?

  1. Oct 26, 2011 #1
    i've heard from people: the real world is nothing like university, engineers don't really use much except for formulas and computers do most of it anyway.

    How true is this?

    I personally hate maths but i like engineering, trying to just get through it.

    Also since i hate maths, is it even worth me continuing to try and be an engineer?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 27, 2011 #2
    1) Depends on the field.
    2) Depends on the math you are talking about. I'm a mechE and I do math everyday. But it is mostly just basic maths, some algebra, etc. Sometimes I get to do higher math, but I'm never like defining B.C's for higher order diffEQ's.
    3) When you say you hate math what do you mean? You hate math class, or you are not good at algebra/trig/geometry, etc? If you want to be an engineer you need a fundamental understanding of these subjects to be successful. An engineer who doesn't understand trigonometry and geometry isn't very useful.

    If you are planning on EE, then you will need math. If you want to get into control, you will need math. It is true that computers will do the tough stuff, but you need to know the stuff. Don't quit. Brush up on math on your own time, on your own terms, on things that excite you.
  4. Oct 27, 2011 #3
    engineering can not be defined without mathematics( specially the core branches). well i dont think that should be the reason. new ideas and concepts make engineering perfect.
    i am a mech engg and i can say u ill like mathematics once u get into engg. and if not u ill never like engineering.
  5. Oct 27, 2011 #4
    I am not great at maths, i usually take longer to see the link between two things aswell as understanding it.
    I don't like it because of this reason, if i was ok at it then i would be fine and be happy about it all.
    When you say basic maths, does that mean, modelling a compression of a container and integrating some complicated sin^2x+e^3x^2 + cosxsecx sort of function (havent come across anything in fluid mechanics where this is the case with sec and cos and sin but it was just an example) , or simply getting equations and doing some simple algebra such as rearranging, etc etc.
  6. Oct 27, 2011 #5


    University trains you to become a physicist which by definition is heavily theoretical. If you are in industry you will be dealing with real life problems, and you will be dealing with approximations almost exclusively. It doesn't mean that the mathematical concepts aren't important, as you need to be able to justify your approximations mathemetically, it juts means that the method is less rigorous. None of your supervisors will ever ask you for a mathematical proof of something, but they will ask you to justify what you've done and there will no doubt be mathematics at the foundation of your thought process.
  7. Oct 27, 2011 #6
    dacruick: Exactly. You could sit there and model the turbulent flow and account for pipe erosion, flow eddies, contamination, and all sorts of little almost insignificant details and after 2 months of rigorous computing discover that the total head required for a pump in some system is 92.29456 ft. You'll just factor in contingency and call it 105+ anyway.

    Your time as an engineer needs to be utilized efficiently. Higher order maths are more expensive for the little value they add.

    Now, that is not to say that engineers don't work with software that can do stuff like modal analysis and other complex stuff, but as far as field math goes, its mostly back of the envelope and the rote memorized equations.
  8. Oct 27, 2011 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Being able to pass an exam in higher order maths will make lower order maths easy, intuitive and quick for the rest of your life. Even if you never use the higher order maths again.

    Understanding a 2nd order differential system from the foundations will forever enable you to see one in action and probably know a guy (or girl) who can solve it for you (even of you can't).

    It depends on your field, but the most valuable maths I did was Fourier analysis. Forever, I will have a gut feel for the frequency response of a system given its input and a feel for its inertia.

    What I didn't learn from engineering maths was stats. Every engineer who deals with n < 10 should have a sound understanding of the basics.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook