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Math Background

  1. Aug 10, 2007 #1
    Hello Everyone... This is my first post and I would like to tell you my problem seeking your help...

    I am studying Physics and Mathematics in my own with the help of some pure mathematics professor who offered to give his help to me in parts that I do not understand.. I am already enrolled in a university but for some personal reasons I am studying other fields that I was forced to study or had to study...:frown:

    Generally 95% of my problems in understanding Physics is due to I lack rigorous understanding to mathematical definitions and proofs … that's why I have stopped studying Physics and turned to more math to solve this problem..

    My question is which fields of mathematics should I start with to close this gap ? I have heard that discrete mathematics is quite good for building a mathematical base... Others recommended calculus... :confused:

    Hope my English helped in describing my problem... Looking forward to hearing from you soon. :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 10, 2007 #2


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    Its not about a choice as to which course you should take. The math requirements are usually in hierarchical order with other math courses being prerequisites for others. As an example, if you want to take differential equations (very important), you'll first need to have the necessary [differential and integral] calculus courses and maybe linear algebra.
    Assuming that you have the necessary algebra, trigonometry, and geometry background; calculus would be a good place to start.
  4. Aug 10, 2007 #3


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    What discrete mathematics does for you is that it gives you a gentle intro to reading & writing proofs.

    Speaking from experience, I would say that this is pretty indispensable. I have often seens physicists friends of mine incapable to solving a very simple physics problem simply because it began with the words "Show that". Their brains simply had never been wired to deal with that.

    So you could learn to overcome the fear of proofs through this course, and then go on to learning calculus the non-rigorous way and be on your way with physics fast. Or, you could skip discrete math and learn proofs (and generally how to speak math) by learning calculus the rigorous way. This means picking up an analysis book (or 5).
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2007
  5. Aug 11, 2007 #4
    Thank you quasar987 & ranger for your assistance.. :smile:

    So Discrete Mathematics isn't any help in Physics compared to Calculus .. the former just gives the proper way the student should be capable of handling proofs .. ?
  6. Aug 11, 2007 #5
    Not quite, calculus is good training for solving the boring apply the equation type of problems. Discrete mathematics is good training for solving the more interesting "show that" type of problems. :-)

    You will probably want to learn both.

    I would suggest learning calculus first, because knowing how to compute things makes learning proofs easier, because you will have a better understanding of what it is you are trying to prove.
  7. Aug 11, 2007 #6


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    in high school i was fortunate to have a course out of allendoerfer and oakley's principles of mathematics, which covered logic first, and then simple concepts of groups, complex numbers, and probability I believe and finally calculus and analytic geometry.

    the logic was the most valuable part for me, and was a big advantage when i reached college. the logic course taught me hiow to learn math, and then i could study the math courses i needed for their content.

    a course in the foundations of analysis, metric space topology, was also helpful.
  8. Aug 11, 2007 #7
    indeed you were fortunate mathwonk, at what age was it?
  9. Aug 11, 2007 #8
    Should I learn logic before calculus?
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