Sum like it not

The Chemistry Maths Book
February 7, 1997

This book aims to cover all the mathematics required by a chemistry undergraduate. It begins with the meaning of addition, subtraction and multiplication and goes on to show how to add fractions. By the time we reach page 292 we are solving Legendre's equation.

The initial material may be suitable for chemistry students with little mathematical background -and these are growing in numbers - but such people will not appreciate and not understand the later material. Conversely, the student looking for the mathematical background to understand the more theoretical aspects of chemistry would find the early part of the book far too elementary.

The book attempts to cover many different topics but most are treated in insufficient depth to be useful.

The organisation of the material is confusing. There are many instances where a concept is used before it is defined. For example dy/dx is used and a differential equation is solved in chapter three but differential calculus is not discussed until chapter four; base vectors are used six pages before their properties are defined; the vector product (chapter 14) is defined as a determinant (chapter 15) - although here there is a forward-pointing reference.

I was particularly disappointed that in the chapter on partial differentiation the author fails to make clear what variables are being held constant, a common source of misunderstanding and confusion among undergraduates.

The author has tried to cater for the mathematically and nonmathematically minded students, but will satisfy neither.

Peter J. Grout is in the laboratory of physical and theoretical chemistry, University of Oxford.

The Chemistry Maths Book

Author - Erich Steiner
ISBN - 0 19 855913 5
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Price - £17.50
Pages - 542

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