Social scientists study a diverse set of phenomena including speech patterns, information sharing on the internet, disease spreading, demographics and changes in population, traffic patterns, decision making, and economic instabilities, to name just a few. The aim of mathematical modeling in the social sciences is to produce insights and predictions about social phenomena beyond what is possible with more traditional research methods. Although many social science models are inspired by models of physical systems there are important differences between modeling social and physical systems related to the role of noise and complexity. The successful interpretation of mathematical results in terms of real world people and societies requires a deep understanding of both the social systems being studied and the mathematical abstractions that are used to model these systems.

The course objectives are threefold:

  1. To learn a number of mathematical tools that are used by social scientists.
  2. To develop the ability to analyze and critique mathematical models, especially those models that are used to understand human interactions, societies, and economies.
  3. To gain practice in developing, testing, and revising mathematical models.