Mathematics for Physical Sciences

This course is a good option to take if you have done Maths at A-Level. The course is split into two courses: Maths A and Maths B.

Maths A is aimed at people who didn’t do Further Maths at A-Level, whereas Maths B is aimed at those who have done both Maths and Further Maths. The B course contains everything done in the A course, plus a little bit more. This means that if you try the B course but find it tricky, it’s easy to switch to the A course, but it’s harder to switch the other way. There are two exams at the end of the year, A and B students sit the same exam, however those who did the B course will have more questions to choose from.

If you didn’t get the chance to do Further Maths, but feel confident about tackling the B course, then there’s nothing to stop you. It just might mean a bit more work. It’s possible to do Maths B with just AS Further Maths, but you would find it quite challenging. Your DoS will have a meeting with you at the beginning of Michaelmas to discuss it.

There are no practicals in Maths, but there are assessed computing exercises in Matlab in Michaelmas term which you’ll have a couple of computing lectures to prepare you for. This is not a hard task, so don’t worry about it even if you haven’t done any programming before. You get quite thorough instructions of what to do and you have plenty of time to do each one. Almost everyone gets the same mark, so there’s really no need to stress about it or spend too much time on it.

The maths lectures will introduce you to the methods you will need to learn but following the calculations the lecturer is doing can be very difficult, hence it is very important to go through them yourself in the exercises. The lecture notes for Maths tend to have the stuff you need to know in them, but very few examples of how to do the problem questions for supervisions. It won’t help for most of your supervisions during term but at the end of a topic the lecturer will generally spend the last few lectures going through examples, so get ready to start scribbling them down. If you want more example questions they can be found in the book mentioned at the bottom of the page. Your most useful resource in Maths will probably be your supervisions.

By far the best book for the course is Riley, Hobson and Bence’s Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering, which follows the course really well (you’ll even find questions from it reproduced on your question sheets). It contains many worked examples and problems. It’s definitely worth getting if you’re planning to do Maths in Part IB. Look for a bargain second hand copy. There is also a book of answers, which gives detailed answers to the odd-numbered questions, this is less useful but can be helpful. The book should be available in the library.

Link to course website:

The Natural Sciences Society of St John's College