How difficult is Differential Equations and Discrete Math compared to Linear Algebra and Multivariable Calculus

Hello everyone,

So next semester I’m going to take DE and DM at the same time. I took both Calc 3 and Linear Algebra in this semester and aced them. I found Calc 3 to be fairly easy to me, but I was somewhat struggling in Linear Algebra. I’m just wondering if DE and DM will be somehow relevant to Calc 3 and Linear Algebra or not. I am actually kinda nervous now because I would have to get at least an A in either of those two courses in order to transfer to the universities I’m applying to. I would be very grateful if anyone here can provide me some general ideas about the concepts that I will learn in DE and DM.

So, since you need an A to transfer why not increase your chances and just take one of them and increase your odds? Also, why the hurry with math?

Since you didn’t tell us why and how you struggled with linear algebra, I can only guess. I think you might do better in differential equations than in discrete math, simply based on the type of math involved.

Well, I’m majoring in CS and want to transfer by Fall 2021. That’s why I have to take both of them to satisfy the transfer requirements at the universities I’m applying to.

For discrete math, here is a course home page:

Here are some differential equations textbooks:

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My daughter is a Senior math major she said the 2 hardest classes were

Dif Equations
Real Analysis.

I can only relate personal experiences. DiffEq courses (ODE and PDE) were a continuation of the calculus sequence, so it was a logical progression. It certainly wasn’t easy, but it you deeply understand Calc principles (not just the memorized formulas), DE shouldn’t be too bad.

I found Discrete pretty easy - even my D who has studied the topics in her Math Circle found them logical and straightforward.

LA was it’s own animal. From what I recall, performance there didn’t mean much elsewhere. It’s probably built upon for a Math/CS degree, but I don’t recall using it much in future engineering coursework, certainly not DE/Discrete.


Agree there too.

Disagree strongly there. Linear algebra is among the most useful math subjects. It’s so widely used throughout sciences, engineering, economics and other social sciences, and of course, many other math subjects.

If you disagree strongly that I don’t recall using it much in the rest of my education and career, then we will just have to agree to disagree on who has a better perspective on my personal experience.

I completed an engineering degree, a graduate degree, and a 25 year careers as an engineer, manager and business executive and never once needed to calculate an eigenvector.

So I’m going to stick with me.

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So my son is a senior in college and in Industrial engineering. He had all this math plus higher end Calc Stats etc etc plus learning many different programming languages. He was on an internship and had to calculate things for evaluate for cost savings measures and which product would be the best value (might be off on reality but go with the example)…

So I asked him with all his math classes he had and even with multivariate Calc he had in high school, what did he use on the job. He answered Excel! I found this soo funny. But after talking to many more engineers this seemed the norm… Besides maybe some modeling software and an occasional sql. Excel seems to be used alot… :thinking:.

@RichInPitt I wasn’t challenging your experience, so don’t be defensive. I was only challenging your advice that linear algebra wasn’t used much outside of Math/CS.

Many engineers (perhaps yourself included) don’t realize they were using linear algebra even when they did. As an example, did you ever use Fourier analysis as an engineer? Fourier Transforms, as linear transformations, are based on linear algebra. Why functions can be expanded in a Fourier series? Why and how can they be inverted? How to calculate their components? Et cetera. The answers are all in linear algebra.

I would agree with the others in that if you struggled with LA, I would only take one course. Diff Q seems to be the normal sequence to take next before Discrete Math.

If you have to take both then I would consider looking at Coursera before the semester begins and sign up for some courses (free for basic) if you want to get a head start on these. Another option would be to take one course now and the other in summer.

Two of my kids are in CS, one in school and one is out. The one out said you don’t really need anything beyond LA for it, the other one had a choice to take either Linear Algebra or Diff Q but didn’t need to take both. LA just happened to work better in her schedule and she had a brief introduction to it in high school, but the class was brutal at her university, as is Diff Q.

You may just be fine even taking both, and your issue may be if your classes are online vs in person, but also perhaps you always did well in math and it came easy and you went in a little too confident. I’m assuming that probably won’t be the case this semester and it may just work.

Thanks for sharing your experience guys. The reason why I’m taking both classes in this semester is because I’m planning to transfer by Fall 2021, and they are parts of the transfer requirements at most of the universities that I am applying to.

So in the University of Michigan CDS, Common Data Set (holy grail), it states that the Essay is indeed important to them. Things like Rigor of classes are Very Important to them.