Maths in chemistry

Maths in chemistry

Maths is an integral part of chemistry and forms the basis of a chemist’s ability to:

  • understand unfamiliar concepts 
  • to construct models
  • to solve problems 

In addition to providing the necessary tools required to cope with the more obviously quantitative parts of the subject, it also helps in developing a language for providing insight in all branches of chemistry.

This ranges from the more traditional areas of inorganic, organic and physical Chemistry to some of the newer areas of the subject such as biochemistry, analytical and environmental chemistry. 

At York, we recognise that most students are undecided on their choice of degree course when picking their AS levels, and so we do not require an A level Maths qualification as part of our admissions policy. 

Instead, we choose to provide a comprehensive maths skills course, taught by chemistry staff, to support those students who have not taken Maths beyond GCSE (or equivalent). 

In addition, in the first and second years, all of our chemistry students take courses in maths, to provide them with the tools necessary for typical problems encountered in quantitative topics. Textbooks written by York chemistry staff support our maths courses.

For further information on maths for Chemistry and our pre-university site, see Stepping Up to Chemistry.

Term 1 Year 1

The maths skills course, which runs throughout the first term of the first year, is taught through a series of lectures and workshops, where students tackle mathematical problems set in a chemistry-context. 

For students without A level maths 

Topics covered include fundamental concepts such as:

  • numbers and algebra
  • managing units 
  • the form and use of functions and equations 
  • an introduction to basic calculus

For ALL students 

We support students through a number of classes designed to reinforce their knowledge and develop key quantitative skills.

We offer drop-in sessions for students to get feedback and advice from tutors. All tutors teaching on the course operate anopen door policy to students requiring more feedback and support

Terms 2 and 3 Year 1

All students participate in maths courses in terms 2 and 3 of our first year. 

In term 2, the course introduces:

  • functions
  • limits
  • differential calculus
  • integral calculus 
  • differential equations

This is followed in term 3 with work on 

  • power series 
  • complex numbers 
  • vectors

Year 2

In the first term of Year 2, the course covers matrices and determinants and revisits concepts covered in the first year through a revision session.

We believe that the integrated approach we take in providing comprehensive mathematical support to all of our students pays dividends in helping students to cope with all aspects of the course. 

We deliberately structure our maths teaching to help underpin key topics covered in the first and second year so that some of the more abstract concepts are familiar to students before they meet them in their chemistry lectures.

View topics taught as part of our core course, including those with quantitative concepts

In addition, advanced option courses on quantum Chemistry and chemoinformatics are available for students wishing to venture further into the exciting world of maths in chemistry!