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Subject Summary: Part IA Mathematics

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.


Programme Specification: Part IA Mathematics

This course is taught by the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics with input from other Physical Science Departments.

There are two versions of the course, A and B. Course A provides a thorough grounding in methods of mathematical science and contains everything prerequisite for the mathematical content of all physical-science courses in Part IB of the Natural Sciences Tripos, including specifically Mathematics, Physics A and Physics B.

Course B contains additional material for those students who find mathematics rewarding in its own right, and it proceeds at a significantly faster pace. Students are strongly encouraged to take Course A unless they have a thorough understanding of material in Further Mathematics A Level.  Both courses lead to the same examination and qualification.


  1. to provide a course on elementary mathematical techniques that are used in the physical sciences courses of the Natural Sciences Tripos;
  2. to prepare students for more advanced mathematical courses in the Natural Sciences Tripos;
  3. to develop mathematical skills and methods appropriate for students in the physical sciences. A detailed syllabus is determined by a committee which has input from the physical science subjects in the Natural Sciences Tripos.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students should:

  1. have a knowledge and understanding of a range of elementary mathematical techniques;
  2. be able to solve mathematical problems based on the course material;

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, supervisions, and occasional examples classes.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • two unseen written papers each of three hours (for aims 1-3 and learning outcomes 1-2).

Courses of Preparation

Essential: A Level Mathematics.

Recommended: A Level Further Mathematics.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.