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MA261 Differential Equations: Modelling and Numerics

Lecturer: Andreas Dedner

Term(s): 2

Status for Mathematics students:

Commitment: 10 x 3 hour lectures + 9 x 1 hour support classes

Assessment: Coursework (100%). Part of this course work will require some programming. These assignments can be completed using either MATLAB or Python. Support in form of solution templates will be provided for MATLAB only.

Prerequisites: MA133 Differential Equations and MA124 Maths by Computer (or equivalent)

Leads To: MA398 Matrix Analysis and Algorithms, MA3H0 Numerical Analysis and PDE's


Mathematics arises all around us not only is nature but also in social structures. A fundamental notion is that of Mathematical Modelling in which natural questions are turned into mathematical problems. Two types of mathematical models are (i) those arising from the application of physical laws and (ii) those arising from the analysis of data. In this module we expose some fundamental aspects of mathematical modelling involving ordinary differential equations. For example, fundamental principles in science like conservation laws and force balances lead to initial value problems. These principles can also be extended in epidemiology for the modelling of the transmission of diseases.

Mathematical models, in general, are too complex to solve explicitly, so that approximation methods and computation are essential tools. Consequently, this module also investigates different methods for approximating the solution to ODEs. Of particular interest and value are their mathematical properties, particularly in respecting properties of the underlying model.

Topics include:

- demonstration of fundamental principles in deriving models ( reaction kinetics and Hamiltonian principle, and fundamental role of dimensional analysis perturbation theory to simplify complex models

- approximation by discretisation (Runge-Kutta and multistep), and the tools needed to analyse there

- analysis of discretisation (stability and convergence)

- examples of the use of these tools in applications.


By the end of the module the student should be able to:

- Understand the central concepts of mathematical modelling

- Be able to derive and analyse fundamental numerical methods

- Implement and test numerical methods using a scripting language


  1. F. F. Griffiths and D. J. Higham, Numerical Methods for Ordinary Differental Equations: Inital Value Problems, Springer (2010)
  2. Witlski, M.Brown, Methods of Mathematical Modelling: Continous System and Differential Equations, Springer (2015)

3. R. L. Burden and J. D Faires, Numerical Analysis, 8th edition, Brooks-Cole Publishing (2004).

Additional Resources

Year 1 regs and modules
G100 G103 GL11 G1NC

Year 2 regs and modules
G100 G103 GL11 G1NC

Year 3 regs and modules
G100 G103

Year 4 regs and modules

Archived Material
Past Exams
Core module averages