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Type of Math Used in Electrical Engineering

by Andrew Breslin, Demand Media

    Electrical and electronic devices are ubiquitous in the modern world. Curious students with a knack for understanding how things work may well be drawn to electrical engineering as a career. But before you go anywhere near a live wire, you need to learn a lot of math.

    Acing It With Algebra

    The basic algebra students learn in high school is only the beginning, a necessary foundation for almost any further development in either mathematics or electrical engineering. A prospective engineering student must be able to solve variable equations and to understand how to factor complex polynomial expressions. You must be very comfortable working with logarithms and be familiar with algebraic manipulation of complex numbers — numbers with both real and imaginary roots. You will also need to be familiar with Boolean algebra, a logical system that is central to understanding circuit design.

    Trying on Trigonometry

    At first glance, it may not seem relevant to study the relationships between the sides and angles of right triangles, but trigonometry is essential to electrical engineering. Alternating current is described by sine waves, so an understanding of trigonometric functions is indispensable.

    Keeping Up With Calculus

    Calculus is the mathematics of change, and a deep understanding of how quantities change with respect to one another is essential. Calculus can be divided into two basic sub-disciplines: integral and differential calculus. You’ll need both for advanced studies in electrical engineering.

    Getting Great With Analytic Geometry

    Analytic geometry uses numerical techniques to describe classic geometric concepts including lines, points and curves. While the ancient Greeks understood geometric concepts of conic sections, parabolas, circles, etc., analytic geometry allows for deeper analysis of these forms. It describes these ancient geometric constructs with equations representing relationships between quantities. Analytic geometry is one of the most significant tools for understanding and describing the relationships between changing quantities, and it is essential for any advanced study in electrical engineering.

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    About the Author

    Andrew Breslin has been writing professionally since 1994. His articles and op-ed pieces have appeared in the "South Florida Sun Sentinel," "St Paul Pioneer Press," "Detroit Free Press," "Charlotte Observer," “Good Medicine,” and others. He studied molecular biology at Westchester University and frequently writes about science and mathematics.

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