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Unit information: Fields, Forms and Flows in 2021/22

Unit name Fields, Forms and Flows
Unit code MATHM0033
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Sieber
Open unit status Not open

MATH20100 Ordinary Differential Equations 2 plus either plus either MATH20901 Multivariable Calculus or MATH20006 Metric Spaces.



School/department School of Mathematics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

Unit Aims

To introduce the main tools of the theory of vector fields, differential forms and flows.

Unit Description

A differentiable manifold is a space which looks locally like Euclidean space but which globally may not. Familiar examples include spheres, tori, regular level sets of functions f(x) on Rn , the group of invertible n x n matrices.

In the unit we develop the theory of vector fields, flows and differential forms mainly for Rn but with a view towards manifolds, in particular surfaces in R3.

The theory of differentiable manifolds extends ideas of calculus and analysis on Rn to these non-Euclidean spaces. An extensive subject in its own right, the theory is also basic to many areas of mathematics (eg, differential geometry, Lie groups, differential topology, algebraic geometry) and theoretical physics and applied mathematics (eg, general relativity, string theory, dynamical systems). It is one of the cornerstones of modern mathematical science.

Important elements in the theory are i)vector fields and flows, which provide a geometrical framework for systems of ordinary equations and generalise notions of linear algebra, and ii) differential forms and the exterior derivative. Differential forms generalise the line, area and volume elements of vector calculus, while the exterior derivative generalises the operations of grad, curl and divergence. The calculus of differential forms generalises and unifies a number of basic results (eg, multidimensional generalisations of the fundamental theorem of calculus: Green's theorem, Stokes' theorem, Gauss's theorem) whilst at the same time bringing to light their geometrical aspect.

Relation to Other Units

This unit is a more advanced version of the Level 6 unit Fields, Forms and Flows. The lectures for both levels are the same, but the problem sheets and examination questions for Level 7 are more challenging. Students may NOT take both units.

The material on Stokes' theorem is relevant to simplicial homology, which is treated in Algebraic Topology from a different point of view. The unit complements material in Introduction to Geometry. Topics in Modern Geometry 34 and Lie groups, Lie Algebras and Their Representations.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Learning Objectives

At the end of the unit students should:

Know and understand the definition of vector fields and flows; be able to calculate flows for simple examples. Know and understand the definition of the Jacobi bracket, be able to derive its properties and compute it in examples. Know and understand Frobenius integrability theorem and its proof, and be able to apply it to systems for first order PDE's Have facility with exterior algebra or forms, including the wedge product. Have facility with the calculus of differential forms, including the wedge product and exterior derivative Know and understand the Poincaré lemma and its proof, and be able to apply it Know and understand Stokes' theorem for singular cells and its proof; be able to apply it; be familiar with its extension to manifolds. Be able to apply the material in the unit to unseen situations Transferable Skills

Mathematical skills: Knowledge of differentiable manifolds; facility with differential forms, tensor calculus, connections; geometrical reasoning

General skills: Problem solving and logical analysis; Assimilation and use of complex and novel ideas

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • synchronous online and, if subsequently possible, face-to-face lectures
  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • guided asynchronous independent activities such as problem sheets and/or other exercises
  • synchronous weekly group problem/example classes, workshops and/or tutorials
  • synchronous weekly group tutorials
  • synchronous weekly office hours

Assessment Information

90% Timed, open-book examination 10% Coursework

Raw scores on the examinations will be determined according to the marking scheme written on the examination paper. The marking scheme, indicating the maximum score per question, is a guide to the relative weighting of the questions. Raw scores are moderated as described in the Undergraduate Handbook.

If you fail this unit and are required to resit, reassessment is by a written examination in the August/September Resit and Supplementary exam period.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. MATHM0033).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.