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Which is the better choice, linear algebra or differential equations?

  1. Feb 23, 2010 #1
    I am an undergraduate physics major and I have a choice of taking linear algebra or differential equations in the fall. I was wondering which class would benefit me and my choice of a major more. Obviously I will talk this out further with my advisor, but I am looking for some outside opinions.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2010 #2
    You'll need to take both in due time, I took linear algebra first, but it is useful to be able to solve some basic differential equations for solving simple harmonic oscillators in your first mechanics and E/M courses. In my school, the physics professor "taught" how to solve the DE's we needed to solve as we went along. Not rigorous enough for further study, but it allowed us to get by before taking a DE class. Your advisor should be able to tell you what you will be expected to know in your physics classes.
  4. Feb 23, 2010 #3
    depends on what you do. if you want a future in quantum mechanics go with linear algebra. if you want thermodynamics and classical mechanics you probably will want differential equations. regardless you should take both eventually.
  5. Feb 23, 2010 #4
    Take Linear first. There's not any area of math where the ideas from Linear don't come in handy (including, as a previous poster pointed out, in DE's).
  6. Feb 23, 2010 #5
    Differential equations comes up a lot, but like others have said, if you do well enough in calculus, you can probably pick up enough to get you one your way. Linear algebra, I haven't used much yet, but it's starting to creep up in the quantum mechanics class I'm currently taking... but differential equations hit us right from the start in this class. So yeah, both are really important & you really needed them both. Some schools require linear before differential, this is because in differential you'll see matrices pop up, although I did it backwards, I took differential before linear.
  7. Feb 23, 2010 #6
    Both are absolutely fundamental for physics. Take both as early as you can. I took them simultaneously over the summer.
  8. Feb 23, 2010 #7
    I would suggest both. That being said, however, you might end up learning allot of linear algebra in a differential equations class (I know I did), so if you have to choose one...
  9. Feb 24, 2010 #8
    You can't do PDE's properly without linear algebra either.
  10. Feb 26, 2010 #9
    Thanks for the input. After reviewing both subjects I feel that it is best to take both. My major only requires me to have up to multivariable calc, but I can see where more training in math would greatly benefit me.
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