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Studying Math Units at University Level - Best Progression?

  1. Jun 14, 2013 #1
    Hi Everyone, I hope this is the best place to put this topic if not I do apologize!

    I'm currently pursuing an IT degree in software development and plan on studying a few related mathematical units that I believe would be beneficial to me. In this regards, Discrete maths, Calculus and Linear Algebra seem to be typical in a normal CS degree (which isn't available near me, unfortunately) and thus I've decided to these as well as perhaps Statistics.

    Anyways, my question is what would the best progression be? I do not have a strong mathematical background but one of my units in computer organization has gotten me comfortable with algebra through the us of boolean algebra and circuit diagrams.

    In a nutshell, I am currently thinking Discrete Math > Linear Algebra > Calculus

    I reason that way because the textbook we will be using (Rosen) only has an algebra requirement and from my look at the book, I feel that I should be fine given my current knowledge and programming experience.

    Then since my university lists the prerequisite for Linear Algebra as having done either Discrete Math or Calculus, I figure that its prerequisite knowledge is something the both share, perhaps proofs & functions as opposed to anything more intricate to them individually?

    Then I figured to do Calculus since I have done no high school level calculus and my knowledge of trigonometry is quite minimal. My progression above is in the hope that this structure will allow me to move into calculus comfortably without doing some sort of foundational mathematics unit in order to be ready for it.

    Anyways, is the above progression a good idea and will it achieve what I am hoping for? That is to be able to do Calculus without a foundations course? Or should I just do the foundations unit, and if so what would be the best progression?

    Thank you for your help! :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2013 #2


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    You will need a thorough grounding in algebra and trigonometry before you attempt university-level math like calculus or even linear algebra. Studying Boolean algebra won't cut it versus regular algebra. I think a CS degree presumes that the student has had a broad exposure to other branches of math besides discrete math, LA, etc.

    Just because there are no schools nearby which offer the courses you desire to take, this doesn't mean you can't research what other schools require as pre-requisites for their CS programs. This is the age of the internet, after all.
  4. Jun 14, 2013 #3
    Thank you for your reply.

    I should clarify, a couple things. My mentioning of the CS degree was simply to state that I was choosing mathematical units to make my degree more CS-like. In other words, these mathematical units are not compulsory for my degree and I am taking them by choice and have looked into what these particular units have as prerequisites as per my university's handbook and have mentioned them here.

    Secondly, my familiarity with algebra is beyond just boolean algebra, I just meant I have done boolean algebra at a university level while having a regular high school level knowledge of algebra prior to it. Though as stated, my knowledge of trigonometry is fairly elementary mostly due to it being a few years since being at high school.

    With that said, you have answered my question regarding if discrete mathematics will prepare me for linear algebra and then calculus which seems like it will not but I guess I'll wait to see if there is a consensus here before making a judgement on what I will do. I might even just familiarize myself with trigonometry through some self study during the end of year break before seeking to take up the other units.

    Once again, thanks for your input.

    Edit: to clarify further since what I said might've been confusing regarding algebra. Having had to use Boolean algebra helped me get comfortable with algebra again after years of not using it. I suppose the same could be said of trigonometry but I don't want to unnecessarily take that risk head on but rather through the side where the requirement of the knowledge may be there buy not at such a high level and not necessarily so vital to the understanding of the topic at hand.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  5. Jun 14, 2013 #4


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    Discrete math can be pretty scary, I would do calculus first for sure.
  6. Jun 14, 2013 #5


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    In my experience, people would usually take calculus before either of those classes. Some schools will have you take differential equations, linear algebra, or a combined course with some material from both in between Calc II and Calc III. Discrete math would usually come after that.
  7. Jun 14, 2013 #6
    I recommend linear algebra as soon as possible. Especially before Calc 3 and Diff Eq. Taking them at the same time is good, but I feel linear algebra can help one get the most out of Calc 3 and Diff Eq. Take discrete whenever you want/can.
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