How Much Mathematics Do MDs Have To Know?

Oct 8 • Education • 569 Views • Comments Off on How Much Mathematics Do MDs Have To Know?

Medical doctors must acquire a broad knowledge of mathematics, science, and social science to complete their education. Certain prerequisite courses are required during undergraduate studies in order to enter medical school, and additional coursework may be required depending on the type of medical school the student wishes to enter. Certain medical specialties require advanced mathematical knowledge. As medical technology becomes more data-driven, mathematics has come to play a more significant role in the training of a medical doctor.

How Much Mathematics Do MDs Have To Know?

Pre-Medical Programs

Students aspiring towards a profession in medicine often major in a science to prepare sufficiently for the MCAT, the medical school entrance examination. The MCAT features sections on general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biological science, all of which require advanced coursework in mathematics. Organic chemistry includes stoichiometry, or the science of balancing chemical equations, which requires at the very least a solid understanding of algebra. Advanced chemistry and physics course work makes use of linear algebra, calculus, and multivariable calculus. Students who wish to major in a subject other than science must still complete coursework to successfully pass the MCAT. Two semesters of calculus is often the maximum amount of mathematics coursework required to apply to medical school and the minimum needed to excel on the MCAT.

Medical School

The standard medical school curriculum continues the rigorous study of chemistry, physical science, and microbiology begun in university. However, the focus is on the human body on a macro- and microbiological level. Genetics and microbiology classes require an understanding of calculus, algebra, and statistics. In the first year, introductory biostatistics classes present students with mathematical models of diseases in particular populations. Studies of the cardiovascular system and respiratory system involve mathematics as students learn how dosages of pharmaceutical drugs impact certain biological processes, how heart monitors work, and how respiration and blood flow can be assessed through vital measurements.

Medical Specialties

Medical physicians can prescribe pharmaceutical drugs. This alone requires an understanding of mathematics. Prescriptions are written based on assessment of a patient’s vital signs, weight, current usage of other drugs, and other factors. Statistics and basic algebra play a role in predicting what dosage would be effective for a particular case. Physicians who pursue a specialty in preventive medicine perform extensive biostatistical analysis. Such physicians assess risk associated with genetic history, medical history, history of adherence to treatment, and other factors to assess a patient’s prognosis and determine if she or he is at risk for particular illnesses. Probability and statistics are an integral part of this specialty. Anesthesiologists, who ensure that a patient is safely made unconscious during surgery or other major operations and woken up afterward, employ sophisticated statistical and measurement devices to determine how much medicine a patient needs.

Plastic surgeons use mathematics for every operation. Determining the amount of skin required to create a graft, for instance, requires complicated equations. For all surgeons, especially brain surgeons and plastic surgeons, geometry is crucial to the success of their operations. Brain surgery requires exacting measurements and precise angles to determine the size and location of an incision and the placement of cameras. A mistake in mathematic calculations could be fatal. Advanced imaging technology, such as an MRI, requires knowledge of mathematics to interpret the image.

Mathematics is required in every branch of medicine. Before embarking on a career as a medical physician, taking the most advanced mathematics courses throughout one’s education is highly recommended. As medical technology becomes more digitally oriented and data driven, mathematics will surely play an even more crucial role.


Raymond Reynolds is a freelancer who typically focuses on education, medical science, the medical profession, nursing and other similar matters; those interested in joining the exciting world of medicine should consider

Image credit goes to Nhurya.


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