If you are thinking of taking a class in discrete mathematics, you might be wondering whether or not it will be a hard class. This post will show you how hard you can expect it to be and what you can do to make it easier.
Overall, most students find discrete math to be a hard class when compared to math classes at a similar level such as calculus or linear algebra. This is because discrete math tends to be the first exposure most students have to proofs.
There are actually a number of factors that will impact the difficulty of the class for you. However, there are a number of things that you can do to make it much easier.
Reasons why discrete math can be a hard class
Most students take discrete mathematics at around the same time as calculus and linear algebra. Discrete mathematics is a very different class to both of them since it tends to be focused on proving mathematical concepts.
Proofs, in mathematics, can be very difficult the solution is not always obvious and there are not always clear cut steps to take like in more computational classes.
As a result of this, if you have not taken a class in proofs or logic before, you should expect discrete mathematics not to be an easy class.
That does not mean that you will not be able to do well though. There are many resources that you can make use of online that will help you with each of the topics in discrete mathematics.
Discrete mathematics is also a very important class if you expect to be taking higher level math classes later on since they will usually be proof based as well.
Reasons why discrete math can be an easy class
While discrete math is usually a students first exposure to proofs, there are still some things that limit its difficulty.
The proofs that get asked in discrete math will normally be designed so that you can make use of a certain kind of proof and will almost always be similar to proofs that you see in class. As a result, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to see what the solution is if you take the time to look at lots of examples from the book.
Also, the concepts that get taught in discrete mathematics are usually not difficult. Examples of topics taught in discrete math are functions and inverse functions, sets, cardinality, basic probability, basic combinatorics and logic.
It depends on the professor
If you are taking the class in college, the difficulty of the class will largely depend on the professor.
Some professors will cover the material quickly, expect you to know everything from the book, ask tough proofs and give you little idea of what will be on the exam.
While, other professors will not rush through the book, ask simpler proofs and let you know what you can expect to see on the exam.
Before choosing the class, it would be recommended to see how other students have rated the professor that will be teaching it.
It depends on your own background
The difficulty of the class will also depend largely on your own background in mathematics. If you have taken classes involving proofs before, it is likely that you will be fine in discrete math.
How much you can expect to study
Generally, you should expect to spend around 15 hours per week on the class. You might need to spend more or less time on the class than that, depending on other factors influencing how difficult the class is for you such as the professor, how demanding your college or high school is and your own background.
Ways to make discrete easier
Below are some things you can do in order to make discrete math an easier class for yourself.
Plan the schedule for the semester early on
It is important to plan the entire semester out during the first week of classes. By doing so you will be able to spot potentially difficult weeks, before they come, avoid missing due dates and know when you need to start focusing on a certain class.
Make sure to do well on the homework
The weighting that gets given to the homework can often be high in discrete mathematics. Yet, many students do not take the homework seriously.
However, this is a mistake since doing well on the homework will help boost your grade, make up for bad exam results and help you to do better on the exams.
You can ensure that you do well on the homework by reading the book before starting it, not waiting until the day before it is due and using resources such as Google, additional books and Youtube to study parts that you get stuck on.
One other option would be to use the website chegg.com where they will give you solutions to the questions asked in textbooks. However, it is important to make sure that you actually learn the material and avoid simply copying the answers otherwise you will struggle on the exams.
Prepare for it ahead of time
Another thing you can do that will greatly improve your chances of success, in the class, would be to prepare for it ahead of time. My recommended way of doing so would be to watch a Youtube playlist teaching discrete mathematics. Here is one playlist and here is another. It would also help to work through a discrete mathematics textbook.
Pick a well-reviewed professor
As mentioned above, the professor will have a big impact on the difficulty of the class. It would help to try to choose your professor for the class as early as possible and to look at what other students have said about them.
Read the book before skipping to the problems
Many students will jump to the problems before reading the relevant chapter from the textbook because they want to save time. The problem with this is that the problems will be based on what is in the textbook and the professor will often skip over sections from it.
Instead of jumping straight to the problems, you will likely have a much easier time if you read the chapter before jumping to them.
Prioritize the material given to you by the professor
If the professor gives you any material then make sure to prioritize understanding it especially if it is a study guide. This material tends to be very likely to appear on the exam.