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Natural Sciences Tripos


Mathematics options in Part IA (the first year).


The subject matter of this course is drawn from mathematical techniques used in the physical sciences and includes lectures on vector calculus, vector algebra, matrices, complex numbers, ordinary and partial differential equations, elementary probability theory, and computing techniques.

Mathematics is the primary choice for our physical science students. An A level or equivalent in Mathematics is essential and is expected to be taken if a student also takes Physics.

There are two options within Mathematics. Course A will be followed by most students and provides a thorough grounding in methods of mathematical science and contains everything prerequisite for all physical-science courses in Part IB of the Natural Sciences Tripos. Course B contains additional material for those students who find mathematics rewarding in its own right, and it proceeds at a significantly faster pace.

Mathematics is run by the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, in the University of Cambridge Faculty of Mathematics. More information can be found here.


Mathematical Biology

Mathematical Biology provides a broad base for further studies across all of biology and is the primary choice by our biology students. The course also provides sufficient mathematical background for certain “physical” subjects in Part IB and Part II, and students reading Mathematical Biology in Part IA have successfully gone on to later studies in, for example, Chemistry and Earth Sciences (although in some cases additional study over the long vacation between first and second year is required).

An A level or equivalent in Mathematics is highly recommended for this course, and experience shows that almost all students who have studied mathematics at the post-16 level are adequately prepared to perform well on the course. In particular, AS Level Mathematics, Scottish Highers, German Abitur, Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus and a number of other qualifications all provide sufficient background to follow the course, although in certain cases some independent study will be required, and help from supervisors.

Students without one of these backgrounds will be asked by their College to self-study the first four chapters of 'Mathematics for Biological Scientists' by Aitkin, Broadhurst and Hladky before coming to Cambridge, as well as to have looked at the additional online resources at here. To access these materials before coming up to Cambridge, you will need to be granted access, please contact the Course Administrator to do this. In addition, some ‘Introduction to Basic Calculus’ lectures and problem sheets will be available online from the beginning of Michaelmas Term.

More information on the course content can be found here.


Any student who is concerned about their mathematical background should discuss this with their Director of Studies before or soon after arriving in Cambridge, and in some cases it is likely that their College will be able to make extra support available, such as extra supervisions.