All Chemistry degree courses require students to have good mathematical skills. For most courses you are not required to to have studied AS and A level Mathematics content prior to starting your degree as you will be taught these topics during your first year. However studying some topics post-GCSE will provide useful preparation for your Chemistry degree. The mathematical techniques required for Chemistry ranges from basic manipulation of fractions through to calculus, including vectors and differential equations.
More and more students are starting Chemistry courses having studied A level Mathematics. “In 2013 the proportion of students undertaking Chemistry degrees who had A level maths was 71%, an increase from 53% in 2006 and 63% in 2009 (sourced from UCAS data). In 2013 a further 8% took AS Maths giving a total of 79% of Chemistry students taking some form of post-GCSE maths.” Mathematical transitions: a report on the mathematical and statistical needs of students undertaking undergraduate studies in various disciplines by Jeremy Hodgen, Mary McAlinden and Anthony Tomei.
Whilst the mathematical content varies from course to course, the topics below appear in most:
The table below shows typical areas of mathematics that might be studied in an undergraduate Chemistry degree course. The hyperlinked topics take you to examples of how this mathematics might be used in a Chemistry degree.
|Fractions and Indices||Derivatives||Equation of a straight line|
|Decimal Places and Significant Figures||Equation of a tangent||Sequences|
|Proportion||Stationary Points||Inverse Functions|
|Changing Units||Partial Differentiation||Trigonometry|
|Errors and Uncertainties||Vectors|
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The following websites and books have useful information about the mathematical topics you will study during your Chemistry degree together with other resources to support your preparation for Chemistry at university.
ChemNet has a range of resources to support students' research into career paths - designed by The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Mathematical Issues for Chemists (NRICH) - a discussion of the need for the mathematics that Chemists learn to be put into context.
Maths for Chemists (Universities of Birmingham and Leeds) - a comprehensive guide that allows students to explore key mathematical ideas quickly and succinctly.
Royal Society of Chemistry - the RSC's own website brimming with resources.
Maths Careers - links to lots of careers that use Mathematics!
The Science and Math Connection - more on the application of Trigonometry to Chemical Bonding.
CPD for teachers - a course for teachers produced by the RSC.
The following commonly used textbooks give potential Chemistry undergraduate students an idea of the mathematics covered in degree courses.