I am currently a high school student trying to get as far ahead in mathematics as I can. In doing so, I accumulated a good 10 physical math books, and a library of online resources including 2 or 3 full textbooks. These are the subjects:

  1. Art of Problem Solving Geometry textbook

  2. Standard High School Calculus textbook from single variable to multivariable

  3. Schaum's Outline Series in Linear Algebra

  4. George Andrew's text on Number Theory with Dover Publications

  5. Charles C. Pinter's text on Abstract algebra with Dover Publications

  6. Earl A. Coddington's text on introduction to ODE's with Dover Publications

  7. Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis with McGraw Hill

  8. Joshi's text on introduction to general topology from Halsted Press

  9. John E. Freund's Modern Elementary Statistics with Prentice hall

  10. Kenneth H. Rosen's Discrete Mathematics and It's Applications with McGraw Hill (available online in PDF format)

  11. Introduction to Functional Equations (also available online in PDF format)

These are the main ones that I read from time to time. The problem is that there are so many I am having trouble finishing any of them. I am trying to get better in math competitions (AIME and USAMTS).

I guess I am asking for a sort of schedule to follow so that I can focus my energy into one topic at a time with stress on mathematical problem solving for Olympiad type problems.

Also I realize that these books may not be sufficient to learn the Olympiad type problem solving. So any suggestions to other books and helpful online resources would be great! Thank you for your suggestions.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It would really help to know what you know already. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2014 at 0:08
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    $\begingroup$ You will almost definitely not need to know general topology for any US High School mathematics. I can't even remember any topology questions on the Putnam exams. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2014 at 0:10
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    $\begingroup$ If you're preparing for contests, I would skip Rosen and go for Concrete Mathematics or Generatingfunctionology $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2014 at 0:19

2 Answers 2


As a 3rd year Applied Math major who owns several of these books I hope to offer some advice. Since you are pushing yourself, your time spent with Rosen would not be worth nearly as much once you start reading Knuth's Concrete Mathematics or Generatingfunctionology (credit to Chris Dugale in the question comments). Even if you don't have an eye toward coding/programming, you also would learn much about discrete math by perusing Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming, particularly Volume 1 (Fundamental Algorithms) or Volume 4A (Combinatorial Algorithms, Part 1).

I would prefer Andrews's Number Theory over Pinter's Abstract Algebra based on what's usually taught in high schools. But then again, if you have the patience and perseverance to read select sections of Gauss's Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, you'll gain great understanding in number theory topics too.

Though Schaum's Outline Series in Linear Algebra has good problems for practicing, its scope is not nearly wide enough to be a primary focus for your linear algebra skills. I used David Poole's Introduction to Linear Algebra for my school's linear algebra classes at RIT but I highly recommend Stephen H. Friedberg's Linear Algebra because of its chapters regarding Diagonalization, Canonical Forms, and Inner Product Spaces. These topics are powerful in themselves for linear algebra and probably not as valuable for contest math. However, learning about these topics will give you a solid foundation for important concepts later on. What I'm trying to say is that Friedberg's discussion is a much more worthwhile investment of your time than Schaum's.

I don't about Coddington's Theory of Ordinary Differential Equations, but I can give an extremely highly recommendation for Nagle, Saff, and Snider's Fundamentals of Differential Equations and Boundary Value Problems. This text is an exceptional balance of theory, applications, examples, and exercises that gives a very clear and thorough exploration of ODEs and PDEs (Laplace's Equation, Heat Equation, Wave Equation, etc.).

I'm going to use Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis in my upcoming semester for a Real Variables course. I imagine that this classic text would be worth some of your time for contest math but only if you have a strong handle on elementary single-/multi-variable calculus. James Stewart's calculus books are popular and decent for the most part; Ron Larson and Robert Hotsetler's calculus books seem to have clearer explanations and better exercises. [Avoid George Thomas's calculus books at all costs! They are terribly written.]

Though I can't confidently offer a "schedule" for contest math practice, all I can say in general is to bolster your linear algebra, calculus, discrete, and analysis skills by consulting the texts above.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the excellent references. Amazingly, they can all be found online! XD $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2014 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Saudman97 You're very welcome - glad I could help a little! $\endgroup$
    – Xoque55
    Aug 17, 2014 at 17:34

Two primary decision making factors stand out: A lack of time, and focus on math competitions (AIME, etc).

In this scenario, it is best to drop topics that are not asked in AIME (Statistics, Linear Algebra, Abstract Algebra, Analysis), and focus on Math competition books.

The other books can be studied as and when you get time.

(Answer is late, but might be useful for someone else...)


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