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Learn discrete mathematics with online courses

Discrete mathematics forms the foundation for computer science. It can give you a better understanding of algorithms and data structures and help you develop problem-solving skills vital for different technical professions.

What is discrete mathematics?

Discrete mathematics is a discipline that's focused on mathematical structures that are discrete rather than continuous.Footnote 1 This branch of mathematics deals with objects that come in distinct units, such as sets, graphs, sequences, and trees. Discrete mathematics focuses on objects that can be counted and analyzed, in contrast to constant mathematics, which uses functions and calculus to study continuous data.

Discrete mathematics includes topics such as counting theory, probability theory, graph theory, and combinatorics. Counting theory deals with the number of ways something can occur, while probability theory looks at the likelihood of specific outcomes occurring. Graph theory explains connections between different objects, and combinatorics focuses on finding the most efficient way to solve a problem. These core concepts make discrete mathematics an essential part of computer science.Footnote 2 Notably, computer scientists use discrete mathematics to design algorithms and create efficient solutions. Discrete mathematics also has applications in data science, where it can be used to create models that help analyze large datasets. 

With its wide range of applications, discrete mathematics is a vital subject for anyone interested in pursuing a career in computer or data science. Learn discrete mathematics online with courses delivered through edX.

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Discrete mathematics course curriculum

As you begin your study of this field, many courses will focus on the fundamentals, such as applied discrete mathematics and discrete mathematics symbols, and then move on to more advanced topics as needed. Throughout your coursework, you will learn about real-world discrete mathematics examples and engage in practical work.  

A discrete mathematics online course can cover:

  • Logic: includes basic propositional and predicate logic, as well as more complex topics like modal logic and the study of paradoxes.Footnote 3

  • Combinatorics: deals with counting and analyzing permutations and combinations, often in the context of probability theory.Footnote 4

  • Graph theory: studies various properties of graphs, such as their connectivity and coloring.Footnote 5

In addition to these foundational topics, an online discrete mathematics course often covers algorithms and data structures. Algorithms are step-by-step instructions that can be applied to solve problems. And data structures are ways of organizing data so that algorithms can be used effectively. Other computer science topics can include the design and analysis of algorithms, automata theory, and computability theory.

You can study discrete mathematics as part of a full program that allows you to earn a bachelor’s degree in data science or even a master’s degree in data science. You can also enroll in a boot camp in a related field to build your knowledge and skills in this field of math.

Explore discrete mathematics jobs

There are a number of different types of professionals that rely on discrete mathematics to perform essential job functions, including:

  • Computer scientists: use discrete mathematics to analyze algorithms, write code, debug programs, and create new software.  

  • Data scientists: use discrete mathematics to analyze large datasets and predict future trends. They develop machine learning models that can detect patterns in data and make decisions based on them.

  • Operations researchers: use discrete mathematics to develop optimal solutions to complex problems. This could involve optimizing a manufacturing process or determining the best way to route trucks through a delivery network.

How to use discrete mathematics in computer science

Discrete mathematics is a critical component of computer science, so aspiring computer scientists need to understand its basics.Footnote 6 By understanding discrete mathematics and its applications, computer scientists can develop software applications, create networks, and develop algorithms to solve modern-day problems.

But knowledge of discrete mathematics alone may not be enough to earn a job working in this field. For example, to become a computer scientist, learners typically need to earn an advanced degree, which can include additional instruction on computer programming languages, databases, software engineering, computer networking, and more.Footnote 7

If you are interested in pursuing a career in computer science, explore the range of educational opportunities offered through edX which include specialized individual courses and boot camps on topics such as coding, as well as full bachelor’s degree and even master’s degree programs. Build the skills and knowledge you need to set yourself apart and advance your career.

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