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December 14th, 2014, 08:24 PM  #1 
Newbie Joined: Dec 2014 From: home Posts: 7 Thanks: 0  Starting a new path in Computer Science... but math...
Hello forum, I'm Jay and soon I'll be embarking on my adventure through a Computer Science course which is being provided to me by my employer and I'm scared shitless. Not because of the computer science part, or the networking, or other such computery things, I've been working in IT for around 5 years now. But because of the math, Discrete math, Logic, Set Theory, Graph Theory, Combinatorics... What the hell does it all mean??? Pardon my hyperbole... But really I'm asking because I don't know. Not only do I not know what it means, but I don't even know where to start with it. You see I was raised in a little rural town in the middle of nowhere that didn't have the best education system and I was terrible at math even then. I ended up not even completing highschool, but did however manage to get my GED which allowed me to join the Military. Now I'm going to a course that could open up alot of doors for me, could get me into my dream job really. But... that dirty little four letter word: Math. To be honest it scares the shit out of me. I want this... I want it bad, and I'm willing to bust my butt working toward it, but I feel like a dog trying to learn how to perform open heart surgery right now. The course I'm going to has a fairly high attrition rate, around 50% and everyone seems to be struggling in that same area. Everyone's telling me to look out for "Discrete Math" and Logic. But I have no background on those things. I do get logic, at least in laymen terms, as I've used a bit of it in programming. I've looked into discrete math, and it seems pretty expansive in its own right: 05: Combinatorics 06: Order theory 08: General algebraic systems 11: Number theory 12: Field theory and polynomials 13: Commutative rings and algebras 14: Algebraic geometry 15: Linear and multilinear algebra; matrix theory 16: Associative rings and associative algebras 17: Nonassociative rings and nonassociative algebras 18: Category theory; homological algebra 19: Ktheory 20: Group theory and generalizations 22: Topological groups, Lie groups, and analysis upon them tl;dr Going to comp sci/networking course with hard math I don't understand. I was told it would be heavy in "Discrete math" and logic. What math should I focus on (I have a little under a month to start prepping for the course) How does all of that even apply to computer science? Do you have any suggested reading? For dummies? Where would you suggest I start? 
December 15th, 2014, 04:59 AM  #2  
Senior Member Joined: Jan 2012 From: Erewhon Posts: 245 Thanks: 112  Quote:
So, have they given you a list of what maths they expect you to know? Also how much time do you have to get up to speed with the prerequisites? CB Last edited by CaptainBlack; December 15th, 2014 at 05:05 AM.  
December 15th, 2014, 05:36 AM  #3 
Senior Member Joined: Apr 2014 From: Glasgow Posts: 2,094 Thanks: 702 Math Focus: Physics, mathematical modelling, numerical and computational solutions 
Don't worry! Here is my view of it... 1. From my experience, universities typically won't let you on to do a course if you don't meet the prerequisites. Since you got onto the course, they must be happy with your previous results. As CaptainBlack says, Universities will go over everything they expect you to know that is not in the prerequisities, so you'll get plenty of practise on the basics if you're rusty. 2. Most Universities have tutors/mentors or someone who keeps track of your progress. If you find things tough, go and speak to them. I probably learned just as much from my tutors and their homework tasks as I did from lectures. 3. My colleagues who did PhDs in computer science only studied a small fraction of the topics of discrete mathematics that you listed. They simply didn't cover it in their syllabus because they didn't need to go into it in nearly as much detail as they do in a mathematics degree course. I can't speak for the particular course you are doing, but if it's anything like the computer science course my colleagues undertook, you won't even have to do half of what you listed. 4. Maths is often full of jargon and complicated words when the concepts themselves are actually okay. Discrete is just a fancy word for "chunky"... you will be studying mathematics of steps... perfect for algorithms that have loops and calculations that occur bit by bit over time rather than in one go. Don't be afraid to give it a go just because it sounds bad or looks complicated. And one last thing: as long as you work hard, do your best with your work and don't be afraid to get help if you're stuck, you'll be fine. Studying maths is a bit like climbing a large staircase up a mountain... looking up at the mountain looks scary, but you only need to worry about the steps in front of your feet. Don't let a long list of topics listed on some website (the mountain) stop you from walking up some steps Last edited by Benit13; December 15th, 2014 at 05:40 AM. 
December 15th, 2014, 05:52 AM  #4  
Senior Member Joined: Jan 2012 From: Erewhon Posts: 245 Thanks: 112  Quote:
CB Last edited by CaptainBlack; December 15th, 2014 at 05:58 AM.  
December 15th, 2014, 10:47 AM  #5 
Global Moderator Joined: Nov 2006 From: UTC 5 Posts: 16,046 Thanks: 937 Math Focus: Number theory, computational mathematics, combinatorics, FOM, symbolic logic, TCS, algorithms  Right. Your course, no doubt, will be an introduction to some of the gentler areas of number theory and combinatorics, maybe with a touch of order theory; you certainly won't be requried to learn Ktheory for the degree.

December 15th, 2014, 05:09 PM  #6 
Newbie Joined: Dec 2014 From: home Posts: 7 Thanks: 0 
To clarify a bit, this isn't a college course. While it may be modeled after one it is actually the Joint Cyber Analysis Course put on for all branches of the military. So there are no educational prereqs per say. More like you have these minimal qualifications so you are viable for going through the course to see if you get picked up, here's the whole thing from beginning to end. Do your best, but my best in math isn't very good. My base question is, what types of math do you really need for computer science related topics? The crux of the problem is that this school is very... limited on what they tell you about it due to its nature. So I'm left trying to piece the puzzle together myself, so I can get a leg up before it starts. I need to know what I should study before I know... But it only makes sense that due to the nature of the course they model themselves after a computer science/networking/programming course. 
December 15th, 2014, 07:44 PM  #7  
Newbie Joined: Dec 2014 From: home Posts: 7 Thanks: 0  Quote:
As for prep time, my class doesn't start until the start of January. Quote:
 
December 15th, 2014, 07:55 PM  #8 
Senior Member Joined: Jan 2012 From: Erewhon Posts: 245 Thanks: 112 
Look at the mathematics section of Chapter 1 of Don Knuth's book "The Art of Computer Programming, Vol 1, Fundamental Algorithms" see below. It might be worth your while looking at this book anyway, but the mathematics content of chapter 1 is probably all you will need on maths. Last edited by CaptainBlack; December 15th, 2014 at 07:58 PM. 
December 16th, 2014, 01:43 AM  #9 
Senior Member Joined: Apr 2014 From: Glasgow Posts: 2,094 Thanks: 702 Math Focus: Physics, mathematical modelling, numerical and computational solutions  
December 16th, 2014, 05:26 AM  #10 
Global Moderator Joined: Nov 2006 From: UTC 5 Posts: 16,046 Thanks: 937 Math Focus: Number theory, computational mathematics, combinatorics, FOM, symbolic logic, TCS, algorithms  Concrete Mathematics is a pretty good recommendation here  I think that should be approachable and would get you up to the desired level. I'm not sure how much time you have to study, though.


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