# What kinds of math to learn for understanding dynamic systems in cognitive science? [closed]

A current trend in cognitive science is to view the mind as a dynamic system (e.g., Continuity of Mind by Spivey, in which cognition is understood as a "continuous and often recurrent trajectory through a state space"). Although I'd like to critically evaluate this trend, I've never taken even a basic calculus course.

I don't intend to build dynamic systems models myself. What is the bare minimum of math learning that I need to accomplish in order to understand dynamic systems in the context of psychology? I don't intend to build dynamical systems models myself. Remember, I'm a total novice!

• Let me preface this by saying I think this question might be a bit too open ended for the site, but to give you a head start... Well, don't be embarrassed you haven't taken calculus, everyone has to start somewhere. However, I would say that a solid course in differential equations is a prereq for anything "dynamical", and that normally requires a couple of semesters of single variable, and usually a semester of multivariable calculus to stomach it all. Of course, you could just start studying the dynamical systems and fill in whatever math you run across, which will give you a Nov 2, 2012 at 1:49
• more intuitive grasp of things, but might be more painful in the short-term. Nov 2, 2012 at 1:50
• I've taken advanced calculus and have a few classes on state space and control systems, and still, can barely understand even the simplest state space equations. If I remember correctly, a lot of them involve matrices and linear algebra to be able to understand what's happening with the states. Nov 2, 2012 at 6:38
• Tyler, you have posted this question on seven different Stack Exchange sites: here, Linguistics, Computational Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, CS Theory, and Philosophy. Cross posting once is frowned upon, let alone six times! Which site do you want this question on?
– Josh
Nov 3, 2012 at 13:16
• Sorry Tyler, I never heard back from you and so I cast the final close vote on this question. Please comment back if you'd like to discuss this with me. I'd be happy to help explain what went wrong here and help you out!
– Josh
Nov 9, 2012 at 15:15

Unfortunately, in psychology and cognitive sciences (and some parts of neuroscience) absolutely no mathematical training is given beyond the highschool level (intro stats, basics of linear algebra in $\mathbb{R}^2$ and $\mathbb{R}^3$, and intro calc; see also this answer). To make this relatable, I will compare understanding dynamics sytems to literature, where you have 3 levels: (1) being able to read, (2) being able to assess, (3) being able to write.