Mathematics for Chemistry/Introduction

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This book was initially derived from a set of notes used in a university chemistry course. It is hoped it will evolve into something useful and develop a set of open access problems as well as pedagogical material.

For many universities the days when admission to a Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science or even Physics course could require the equivalent of A-levels in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics are probably over for ever. The broadening out of school curricula has had several effects, including student entry with a more diverse educational background and has also resulted in the subject areas Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics becoming disjoint so that there is no co-requisite material between them. This means that, for instance, physics cannot have any advanced, or even any very significant mathematics in it. This is to allow the subject to be studied without any of the maths which might be first studied by the A-level maths group at the ages of 17 and 18. Thus physics at school has become considerably more descriptive and visual than it was 20 years ago. The same applies to a lesser extent to chemistry.

This means there must be an essentially remedial component of university chemistry to teach just the Mathematics and Physics which is needed and not too much, if any more, as it is time consuming and perhaps not what the student of Chemistry is most focused on. There is therefore also a need for a book Physics for Chemistry.

Quantitative methods in chemistry[edit]

There are several reasons why numerical (quantitative) methods are useful in chemistry:

  • Chemists need numerical information concerning reactions, such as how much of a substance is consumed, how long does this take, how likely is the reaction to take place.
  • Chemists work with a variety of different units, with wildly different ranges, which one must be able to use and convert with ease.
  • Measurements taken during experiments are not perfect, so evaluation and combination of errors is required.
  • Predictions are often desired, and relationships represented as equations are manipulated and evaluated in order to obtain information.