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Should CS majors take multivariable calculus?

  1. Jun 9, 2006 #1
    At my school multivariable calculus (aka calculus 3) isn't required under the computer science corriculum. I'll have to take other math courses but we're not forced to take calculus 3 and as far as I know it is not a prerequisite to any computer science course my school offers. The subject seems interesting but because it's not required do you think I should forget about it? Does CS ever make use of the concepts I'd learn?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 9, 2006 #2
    You probably won't use the subects in calc 3 in CS, but you should still take it for sure.
  4. Jun 9, 2006 #3
    You should take it, but it will not be used at all in most of your courses, unless you take a course in computer graphics and/or computer vision. You really should concentrate on discrete maths more.
  5. Jun 9, 2006 #4
    Discrete math is where it's at for the majority of CS related topics. Calc III will teach you how to think in a different way though, and should not be disregarded. I thought it was by far the most interesting of the calc series (advanced calc not included). Linear algebra is also VERY important. This all depends though... do you want to be a code monkey, or work on interesting topics? The more math you have the better in my opinion. A lot of things can be coded with brute force methods, but they can be GREATLY simplified with a little bit of mathematics.

    You never know. You might end up changing your major, and calc III might end up being very important. It's an interesting class, and it is definitely NOT going to hurt you. So if you have time in your schedule, give it a shot.

    P.S. I changed my major from CS to EE. My opinions might be skewed.
  6. Jun 10, 2006 #5
    short answer: yes

    long answer: Calc 3 was definitely one of the more interesting maths I've done, and my understanding of calc in general increased tremendously (I am computer science and computer engineering major.) If you are doing _any_ kind of robotics or computer graphics it is crucial really.

    However, if you are weak at math and did not like calc 1/2, or your GPA is in trouble, reconsider not doing it - calc 3 is a class people traditionally struggle in (which is all more reason to take it, because your knowledge of math & calculus will be superior to other computer science students)
  7. Jun 11, 2006 #6
    Thanks guys.

    I've been wondering about this lately. I thought that if any field of CS would make use of calculus 3 then it would have to be 3D graphics, but the more I think about it the more that seems wrong. Where would multidimensional calculus come in handy for graphics programming? Calculus deals with limits, rates of change, area under curves, etc. How would you use that?

    I was sort of bored with calculus 1 but loved calculus 2 (in particular the integrating and series parts). Do you think I'd enjoy calculus 3?
  8. Jun 12, 2006 #7
    You would be suprised. I took a 3D computer graphics course last spring, taught by someone from dreamworks.

    For the simple stuff, you don't need much math. But when you get into the more advanced stuff, you need more math. He used linear algebra from day 1 and while he didn't use any calculus directly (i.e., didn't calculate any specific integrals) the vocabulary he used was definitely drawn straight out of my calc 3 course. Knowledge of vector functions are definitely crucial as well.

    The thing you need to keep in mind, calc 3 is entirely conceptual. For calc 1 and 2, you learned and memorized a lot of formulas, tricks, calculations, etc. (i.e., quick, what's the integral of x^2 dx from 2 to 3).

    On the other hand, in calc 3, you won't calculate as much. It's entirely about theory and conceptual, you won't really have to know any more integral or derivative rules than you do know - they're just all extended to n-dimensions. That's tough for a lot of people, but if you're good at it you can just sail though it really.
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