Discrete Maths in Civil Engineering Curriculum

Last weekend I made a fantastic acquisition at Casa del Libro. I bought one of those old books of mathematics from the Sobolev Institute of the former USSR: Mathematical foundation of cybernetics. This reminded me many calculus exams I had passed with the invaluable help of Makarenko, Demidovich and others when I was a student of civil engineering. Later, I had to read and study a small part of the work of Galerkin -another relevant Soviet engineer- in order to start the master thesis.

The ackward title could be changed into "Discrete Mathematics" for marketing purposes but the approach is more straight forward, applied and concise than that of other discrete mathematics books. Discrete mathematics is the study of countable things such as integers, graphs, combinatorics, etc... Many of the civil engineering mathematics are based on the notion of continuity whereas objects studied in computer science mathematics are discrete.

During my professional practice I have slowly realized that some of the CS Math concepts are easy to understand and can be useful if applied to daily civil engineering problems such as traffic control, urban planning, FEM programming or logistics. Clearly, teaching Maths to civil graduates should include less topology and differential geometry (an absurd waste of time from my point of view) and more discrete stuff (for example, the shortest path problem) .

The book that serves as an excuse to open this post was first published by MIR Moscow, a casualty of the demise of the former USSR but fortunately there is another publishing house which continues their work: http://urss.ru/