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Not sure where else to ask this -- Can I teach myself Diff Eqs?

  1. Mar 27, 2015 #1
    So I'm not sure if this is the appropriate section, so mods, please move this as you see fit.

    I am a sophomore biochemistry major looking to go to graduate school for biochemistry or evolutionary biology (decision should be made by next semester after I take biochem formally). Unfortunately, I don't have any time in my schedule to take but one more math class -- either Calculus III or Math Stats I (maybe Math Stats II if I move some things around). I am really beginning to find math interesting after being in Calculus II for a semester, and am interested in continuing my studies in it as much as I can, through Diff Eq.

    So my question is: Is it possible to one to self-teach a class of that level? I'm by no means stellar at math, but that is how I learn most concepts anyway -- self study. I would like to study it 1) because my roommate (actuarial science major) has repeatedly told me and shown me how fun it is) and 2) because I feel like it could be useful in designing models during some of my graduate work (I see a lot of specialized models used in EEB, especially first order diff eqs).

    If it helps, I'm currently making a 92% in Calc II -- I'm FAR better at pure math than I am applied math, but I am more than capable of doing both.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 27, 2015 #2
  4. Mar 28, 2015 #3
    It depends, I think. The core material of an introductory differential equations course is not that hard to learn on your own. It's basically just a matter of learning a bunch of different types of equations and remembering the "trick" for solving each type. In my experience, the challenge was when you weren't strong in the prerequisites required for a given solution type. For example, if you're weak in matrix math, then solving systems of differential equations will be quite challenging.

    So if you're strong in the prerequisites, you shouldn't have too much trouble (aside from the typical motivation/time factors of self-teaching). If you find your prerequisites are lacking in one area, it might be challenging to catch up without a friend/professor to help you.
     
  5. Mar 28, 2015 #4
    Yes, it is possible.
    In fact, as you may have noticed already, most university work is up to you anyhow. Sometimes you get a bad professor, sometimes you get a good professor, sometimes you get a professor who knows the material but can't teach, etc. Whatever, the situation, the onus is on you to master the material and quite often that means, even though you are taking a course on a subject, you still end up teaching yourself.

    From my own background, the first course on Differential Equations was taught in second year (after students had covered several courses in Calculus, Linear Algebra, etc.) I was anxious to get to the material so I found out what the textbook was for the course, purchased it, and worked through it over the summer. Fortunately, the textbook was good, so I didn't need much additional help, and I was well-prepared when the course started the next Fall semester. The book started with basics and built on each lesson one step at a time. It actually made learning DE's quite enjoyable.

    Bottom line: go for it. It can't hurt to gain all the additional learning you can.
     
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