How to Learn Discrete Math

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Discrete math is widely taught as a small component of larger high school mathematics courses, but this type of math is rarely addressed as its own standalone course until college. This is unfortunate, as Dave Patrick, Ph.D., explains “discrete math, in particular counting and probability, allows students ... to very quickly explore non-trivial ‘real world’ problems.” Discrete math is both important for daily living and college-level math comprehension. Additionally, discrete math is commonly used for computer programming and other important technological skills. Learning discrete math takes time and patience, but the process doesn’t have to be overly difficult if you follow the right steps.

    Begin taking free online courses through sites like Carnegie Mellon University’s “Open Learning Initiative.” Such courses will provide you with a basic foundation to get your education started.

    Use textbooks for reference material and to help augment your online learning. Richard Johnsonbaugh’s “Discrete Mathematics” is a good starting point for text-based learning.

    Consult free online tutors for interactive help on specific topics. Organizations like Tutor Vista offer free tutorial support to further enrich your learning.

    Watch videos to aid your comprehension. Many learners thrive on visual examples, so it is useful to supplement online and hard-copy text with visual aids. An excellent series of videos can be found at Math Vids’ discrete math webpage. Math Vids requires registration to view videos, but the site does not charge any fees to register.

    Take a local college course in discrete math to formalize your learning. Although self-learning through web and text resources is excellent to begin learning discrete math, the best final step for advanced learning is formalized instruction. College courses will provide you with the support of a dedicated instructor and enriching educational discussions among classmates. Additionally, college courses can be taken for graded credit, allowing you to more effectively include this recognizable form of learning on a resume. Unfortunately, this option is not free, likely costing you several hundred dollars. Only take this final step if you really need to advance your skills or receive professional recognition and college credit.

    Things You'll Need

    • Internet access
    • Discrete mathematics textbook

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