The design of a building relies on a clear understanding of shapes, lines and angles, which is why mathematics is an essential part of earning an architectural degree. To become a well-rounded and successful architect, you'll be required to take four primary areas of math study. Each of these core concepts will teach you the skills you need to design a building, but more importantly, to design a building that can be constructed properly by following that design.
Geometry is the study of shapes and how they interact with each other, as well as how the size of shapes relate in proportion to the space they take up. Because so much of designing the angles, corners and lines of a building rely on an understanding of shapes, geometry is a required course for any architectural degree. Students of architecture are required to take basic geometry, as well as more focused geometry courses, such as "The Anatomy of Buildings," required by the University of Illinois Architectural Studies degree program. Architectural geometry courses also include analytical geometry, which teaches how to create scale models and drawings of your designs.
Trigonometry is a specific type of mathematics that deals with the angles, sides and corners of triangles. This branch of math is essential for architects because it teaches how to include angles and corners in architectural designs. Like geometry, this course enables an architect to draw buildings to scale, so that when they are constructed, they are sturdy. For example, a clear understanding of trigonometry enables an architect to properly design load-bearing walls in the right places in a building so it doesn't collapse. Understanding trigonometry is also essential for designing weight-bearing foundations that don't sink or crack. The study of trigonometry also enables you to actually draw clear and concise designs so they can be used by construction workers as they turn your design into a finished product.
Calculus is the study of mathematical change. Architectural students are required to take many calculus classes because they teach building design based on a series of construction details, according to the College Board's "Book of Majors." More specifically, students are required to take engineering calculus courses to learn how to properly place electrical elements, ventilation and heating ducts, for example.
Finite math is the opposite of calculus in that it requires analytical thinking instead of a focus on mathematical change. Architectural students take a series of finite math courses to learn how to create mathematical models and calculate probability and statistical equations. You'll also take linear programming, which teaches about the relationship between a design and its construction, as well as its profit potential. Most importantly, finite math courses teach you how to fit every element of your designs into one cohesive product that can be turned into an actual structure.
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.