If you’re thinking of taking graph theory next semester, you might be wondering if it will be a difficult class. This post will show you how difficult you can expect it to be and what you can do to make it easier.
Overall, compared to other high-level math classes, graph theory is relatively easy. However, being a high-level math class, it will still require a significant time commitment and it will likely be proof heavy.
There are actually many factors that will influence how hard graph theory will be for you. However, there are also a number of things you can do that will make your time in the class much easier.
Reasons why graph theory can be hard
An introductory class in graph theory tends to focus on things such as different types of graphs, ways of traversing graphs and some introductory theorems. These concepts can be very different to what you might be used to in most math classes and there are a lot of different things to learn. This can cause some difficulty for students.
In addition to this, graph theory tends to be a class involving lots of proofs. So, if you have not got much experience with proofs, you will likely find graph theory to be a difficult class. With that being said, the proofs are not that difficult, so if you do have experience with proofs, you should be ok with the proofs in introductory graph theory.
Reasons why graph theory can be easy
While there can be some difficult aspects of graph theory, there are also some things that make it an easier class compared to its alternatives.
The topics that are usually introduced in an introductory graph theory class tend to be relatively straight forward topics. If you have already taken a class in discrete math and you did not have too much trouble, it is likely that you will be able pick up the concepts in graph theory relatively easily.
In addition, the proofs in a first course in graph theory do not tend to be very difficult when compared to proofs in abstract algebra or real analysis.
It depends on the professor
How difficult graph theory will be for you 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
How difficult the class is will also depend largely on your own background in mathematics. If you have taken classes that involve proofs before such as discrete math, abstract algebra or real analysis, it is likely that you will be fine in graph theory.
How much you can expect to study
Generally, you should expect to spend around 15 hours per week on the class assuming its 3 credit hours. 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 is and your own background.
Ways to make graph theory easier
Below are some things you can do in order to make graph theory an easier class for yourself.
Plan the schedule for the semester early on
It would help a lot 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.
Prepare for it ahead of time
Another thing you can do to greatly improve your chances of success, in the class, would be to prepare for it ahead of time. I personally graduated with a 3.8 GPA in mathematics and I put most of it down to preparing for the classes before actually taking them.
My recommended way of preparing for the class would be to watch a Youtube playlist teaching graph theory. Here is one playlist.
It would also help to work through a discrete mathematics textbook. You’ll likely be able to find a cheap one from Dover books on mathematics.
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.