Wendy Brown reviews this chemists toolkit of mathematics

Maths for chemistry cover

Maths for chemistry
Paul Monk
Oxford: OUP 2006 | Pp324 | £19.99 | ISBN 0 199 27741 9
Reviewed by Wendy Brown

This is a 'must buy' book for any chemistry undergraduate who finds mathematics a challenge. In contrast to some of the other 'mathematics for scientists' books on the market, the material is presented in a manner that does not intimidate. The book is well written and each mathematical step, however small, is clearly explained. There are several typographical errors, but this does not detract from the clear writing style. The material is presented in ideal 'bite-sized' chapters, with self-test exercises and worked examples throughout. I particularly liked the extensive use of chemical examples, which highlight to the student why mathematics is essential for chemistry.  

For the most part the content is good and I particularly liked the treatment of calculus, which is explained clearly. The initial background chapters are also very good and contain material that, as lecturers, we all assume as prior knowledge when we really shouldn't. I also liked the last two chapters on statistics - students often think that error analysis of their laboratory data is some form of black magic and these chapters explain clearly how to perform a good analysis of experimental errors. There are a few topics missing from the book which I would have liked to have seen included. For example, higher order calculus such as partial differentiation, essential for thermodynamics, and multiple integration, important for quantum mechanics, are two important omissions. A short introduction to matrices and complex numbers would have been a useful addition to the book too.  

However, despite these omissions, I will definitely be recommending Maths for chemistry to University College London chemistry undergraduates this year. Priced at £19.99, the book is good value for money because it should serve students as a reference source for mathematical techniques throughout their chemistry degree courses.