Is a question about how to overcome a particular difficulty I'm having with math appropriate? In particular, my difficulty is with applied math, and the question I wish to ask is as follows.

I have a pretty good grasp of logic. In pure math, everything seems logical (but not straightforward). People are explicit about what they mean, distinguishing between "A implies B" and "B implies A", for example. Thus, I can generally tell what's going on.

However, whenever I attend applied math lectures (think: vector calculus, differential equations, etc.), the "logic" of math suddenly becomes opaque. It's like they're just "doing stuff" on the board, and I lose all sense of how the statements relate to each other. Are they all equivalent? Are we proceeding by a sequence of implications? What's going on?

Does anyone else have this problem? And if so, what can be done about it?

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I think you have a rather unusual notion of what applied math is. $\endgroup$ Mar 2 '13 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed with MG. If I had to guess, you probably have a fuzzy AM professor (he might be well-meaning, but a bad lecturer). My lectures in this topic were as strict as the better pure math ones I sat in. $\endgroup$ Mar 2 '13 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker How would you define applied math? And what should I call the sort of math that I'm having trouble with, if not "applied"? $\endgroup$ Mar 2 '13 at 21:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Vector calculus and differential equations fall under the umbrella of "analysis". $\endgroup$ Mar 2 '13 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ @user18921 These fields may have an applied flavor the way they are taught at your institution, probably because they are widely used in areas such as engeneering and not taught with mathematicians as the main audience in mind. Applied math does usually refer to applications of mathematics to other fields. Arguably, the term is not overly useful though. $\endgroup$ Mar 4 '13 at 7:21

The question looks okay: it is about mathematics, is stated in a constructive way, and is definitely not too localized. One possible objection I see is being vague or incomplete. An example of what kind of "stuff" goes on in your class may be helpful. Or maybe an indication of what country and educational level we consider here. There are major differences between courses called "differential equations" in different countries.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .