Plan to learn Math for science?

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#1 6 March, 2016 - 07:03
Joined: 2 years 4 weeks ago

Plan to learn Math for science?

Its been many years since last touched maths, but am interested in taking a degree physics.
But I know that my maths skills are lacking, what would be a good course of action/plan to get a good understanding and use out of maths that will be needed?

I know I need to understand the big four foundations algebra, trig, geometry and calculus.
Where do I start for someone who has struggled in the past with maths?

6 March, 2016 - 09:22
Joined: 2 years 5 months ago

I am taking a similar path although my needs are for computer science / machine learning....

If you start with khan academy (from the beginning)... I am in Grade 7 / 52% of their World of Math it will take you back up to the first university course level in linear algebra and calculus.

There is a bit of a gap in the progression to Analysis that I don't seem to be addressing (Proofs). Mathematical Logic, set theory, number theory and rigorous mathematical proofs seems to be skipped over by much of the standard curriculum. There is a nice little course called Prove It! (TGC) the provides a decent introduction. I'm not sure exactly how to fit it in yet.

I attempted several times over the last year to jump into linear algebra and calculus using... Coursera, MIT OCW, and Textbooks... In each case I was quickly overwhelmed by gaps in geometry, trig, and algebra. I have been pushing through the Khan stuff for between 2 and 3 months. Context; I took calculus, linear alg, stats 25 years ago and did well but my focus has all been on business processes rather than math ever since.

Things went extremely quickly until just recently as I have begun splitting my time with improving my mental calculation from 2->3 digit multiplication and mental division at the grade 6/7 level. ( I have been making an effort to use my head rather than a pencil for as much of the curriculum as possible). I am "hoping" to be back at an undergraduate level by Christmas.

If you use your torrenting skills almost all of the recommended textbooks for linear algebra, calculus, stats and discrete math are available for year 1-3 math/engineering/physics.

No silver bullets but an 1-2 hours a day of study can move the math relatively fast. An adult learner doesn't have the intellectual flexibility of youth but we generally understand the value of dogged persistence.

The resources are certainly there. Professional coaching/tutoring would probably be helpful at some point but almost all of the math up through year 2-3 of university is simply adding individual elements to your toolkit. Logic and Calculation rather than creativity. Becoming a Mathematician; creating math is a another level that I don't propose to engage in. Here coaching/mentoring would definitely help OR maybe it wouldn't but it wasn't your stated purpose.

For me personally it would be nice to understand enough math to be comfortable with modern physics (fields etc), consume godel escher bach, the feinstein lectures, and most importantly for me be able to use math for quantitative analysis of data using classical techniques and machine learning.

Hope that helps.... (I'm muddling through the Major System for the 3rd or 4th time, practicing linking/loci a bit, and drilling mental multiplication in parallel). Sort of have a 5 year plan that I keep getting distracted from by life.

If you feel like chatting along the way PM me. It would be nice to have someone to chat with occasionally. For the most part my wife thinks I am a wingnut, although this may be a common situation unrelated to my efforts.

6 March, 2016 - 09:35
Joined: 2 years 4 weeks ago

thanks for the reply.
I am curious how those gifted in maths process math, how they seem to just get it, what is their secret?
It's like they seem to pick it up at in intuitive level.

6 March, 2016 - 13:10
Joined: 2 years 5 months ago

Start young, be talented, practice 10,000 hours. All the secrets are annoyingly simple but generally not terribly helpful ;).

15 May, 2016 - 19:40
Joined: 1 year 10 months ago

I started a related thread: Resources for Learning Math, Physics

13 June, 2016 - 16:10
Joined: 8 months 3 days ago

Calculus is what you need for engineering & undergraduate physics. It's fundamental to understanding the relationships beween the ideas. Calculus and then differential equations.

I used to teach calculus and in my experience the the biggest obstacle was algebra skills. You don't need much geometry. You need to be familiar with the trig, exponential and logarithmic functions, what they look like when graphed, how they relate to the right triangle and the basic identities. You don't need a whole trig course to get that. But your algebra skills should be fairly complete and fluent. When you have that you should take Pre Calc which is the theory of Limits and then Calc 1 followed by 2 & 3. A good grounding in these math skills will pay off big time in physics or engineering. If you really want a good understanding of the Calculus and the theoretical underpinnings you could take a course in Real Analysis but while that topic is beautiful and fascinating, it will do little for your practical skills. Very few physicists and engineer take the trouble.

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