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Math for CS

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In about a year I'll be applying for an alternate entry program for University, aimed at students who did poorly or didn't finish high school. I don't remember much of the math I studied in high school, and really would like a refresher as well as learn a lot more (I only ever learned elementary algebra and simple statistics stuff).

What should I learn to prepare myself for university computer science? Are there any good resources (books, articles, sites, etc.) that you can recommend to help get me up to speed?

Many thanks,

Hannah

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Academically, you're expected to have gone through: Algebra and Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus. That said, the way that math is taught in school is rather...poor. It also doesn't really prepare you for computer science.

You should be comfortable with elementary algebra. If you're not comfortable solving basic equations with unknowns, definitely you must refresh this portion. You should be familiar with the basic trigonometric functions and concepts. It's urgent you can do this much. Basic arithmetic, the basic trigonometric functions, and simple algebra are constantly used.

You'll want to catch up on Calculus, at least to the point that you can simple derivatives and integrals, but it's not that urgent. Your university may place more emphasis on it than needed for computer science.

More important is a grasp of linear algebra and this is too easily underemphasized. I doubt your university will expect you to come in with knowledge of this topic, especially given the alternate entry program. But it's critical to CS. Just as much as you can do basic arithmetic, you should be able to work with vectors and matrices. If you have time to at least touch and grasp the basics of linear algebra, you'll be well prepared for CS.

Spending time with probability also has very good payoffs. Again, this is something that your university won't expect of you, but it comes in handy.

That's the math theory portion. A good thing to do, if you haven't done so already, is to try a bit of programming before hand. You should search these forums, Wikipedia, and generally Google to get an awareness of various programming languages. If you want a games focused approach initially, consider a game engine like Unity or tools like Game Maker, or modding.

Heading in, able to program, is going to give you a big advantage when starting your CS program.

Off hand I don't have any books recommendations. Maybe one book to get would be Polya's How To Solve It.

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In about a year I'll be applying for an alternate entry program for University, aimed at students who did poorly or didn't finish high school. I don't remember much of the math I studied in high school, and really would like a refresher as well as learn a lot more (I only ever learned elementary algebra and simple statistics stuff).

What should I learn to prepare myself for university computer science? Are there any good resources (books, articles, sites, etc.) that you can recommend to help get me up to speed?

Many thanks,

Hannah

Every school has different preferences.

As oler1s pointed out, first-year college students are expected to be competent in algebra, geometry, and trig at the least. Different schools may expect a different background, but that's a fair minimum.

At graduation each school also has their own minimum standards. Since you want to go into games you should consider taking at least a semester in linear algebra and discrete mathematics in addition to their requirements. Additional maths beyond those are always beneficial, but computers are processors of discrete mathematics; complex game worlds and graphics are little more than applications of linear algebra. Those two math topics are core to computer games.

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Most colleges don't expect you to know calculus. Only higher tier ones do like CMU, Toronto, and Waterloo. Places like that. Most colleges expect you to have gone through algebra completely in high school. I would highly recommend you brush up on algebra. It should be very easy and a review if you have done it before. As far as going beyond that. Most of the math you learn in a "REAL" computer science department is calculus, linear, and discrete math. Discrete math is incredibly important. You cannot get through a data structures class without it.

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Most colleges don't expect you to know calculus. Only higher tier ones do like CMU, Toronto, and Waterloo. Places like that. Most colleges expect you to have gone through algebra completely in high school. I would highly recommend you brush up on algebra. It should be very easy and a review if you have done it before. As far as going beyond that. Most of the math you learn in a "REAL" computer science department is calculus, linear, and discrete math. Discrete math is incredibly important. You cannot get through a data structures class without it.

It's funny that you mention it, but Toronto is hopefully where I'm headed. I'm applying for their Transitional Year Program so I'm already at a disadvantage when it comes to just being accepted at all, and need to learn as much as I can beforehand.

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