My maths ‘A’ level is a long time ago (I actually did a further year of maths – albeit “maths for engineers” and so very cookbook like – at University) and, to be honest, I have never worked in a job where much beyond competent arithmetic has been required, so last year, when I started the MSc, the set theory rang some bells, but they were pretty muffled ones.

I got through last year and the exams, though that experience taught me that thinking “I remember this stuff” and actually putting the hours in to ensure you *know* it are very different. What’s more the prospect of my end of degree project and the need to read and understand a number of papers with some degree of mathematical formalism spurred me on to ensure that I had a firmer grounding in all of this.

My view has long been that books are the key that unlocks knowledge – if you can find the right book, read it and understand it then you will be most of the way there.

So, naturally enough I looked for books that would give me a good grounding/reminder over set theory, functions, relations and so on: the areas of discrete mathematics that matter most for computer scientists.

The first book I bought was Sets, Logic and Maths for Computing (Undergraduate Topics in Computer Science) but I would have to say I wasn’t hugely impressed. I could live with the description of the topic as one of the “undergraduate topics in computer science” because I suppose that is just what it is. But what annoyed me with it was the lack of worked through answers to all the exercises – what’s the point of putting exercises in a text book and then not explaining the answer? And then the explanations of some of the more complex issues was poor: there is a short, dense explanation and we move straight on to the partially explained exercises.

Happily, though, I found a better book: Discrete Mathematics for Computing.

It is a thinner (and more expensive!) volume but it does thoroughly explain the topics on which it touches and every exercise has a solution provided – it just does the job better.

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