Orthogonal Polynomials and Special Functions - MAST5680

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2022 to 2023.


This module provides an introduction to the study of orthogonal polynomials and special functions. They are essentially useful mathematical functions with remarkable properties and applications in mathematical physics and other branches of mathematics. Closely related to many branches of analysis, orthogonal polynomials and special functions are related to important problems in approximation theory of functions, the theory of differential, difference and integral equations, whilst having important applications to recent problems in quantum mechanics, mathematical statistics, combinatorics and number theory. The emphasis will be on developing an understanding of the structural, analytical and geometrical properties of orthogonal polynomials and special functions. The module will utilise physical, combinatorial and number theory problems to illustrate the theory and give an insight into a plank of applications, whilst including some recent developments in this field. The development will bring aspects of mathematics as well as computation through the use of MAPLE. The topics covered will include: The hypergeometric functions, the parabolic cylinder functions, the confluent hypergeometric functions (Kummer and Whittaker) explored from their series expansions, analytical and geometrical properties, functional and differential equations; sequences of orthogonal polynomials and their weight functions; study of the classical polynomials and their applications as well as other hypergeometric type polynomials.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 42
Private study hours: 108
Total study hours: 150

Method of assessment

80% Examination, 20% Coursework

Indicative reading

The module does not follow a specific text. However, the following texts cover the material.
R. Askey, Orthogonal Polynomials and Special Functions, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Philadelphia, PA, 1975
R. Beals and R. Wong, Special Functions – A Graduate Text, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010
T.S. Chihara, An Introduction to Orthogonal Polynomials, Dover Publ., Mineola, N.Y., 2011
M. Ismail, Classical and Quantum Orthogonal Polynomials in One Variable, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005
F.W.J. Olver, D.W. Lozier, C.W. Clark,R.F. Boisvert, Digital Library of Mathematical Functions, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, U.S.A., 2010 (http://dlmf.nist.gov)
I.N. Sneddon, Special Functions of Mathematical Physics and Chemistry, 3rd Edition, Longman, London, 1980
G. Szego, Orthogonal Polynomials, 4th Ed., American Mathematical Society, Providence, RI, 1975

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the level 6 module students will be able to:

1 demonstrate systematic understanding of key aspects of orthogonal polynomial sequences and in particular classical polynomials, special functions and their properties;
2 demonstrate the capability to deploy established approaches accurately to analyse and solve problems using a reasonable level of skill in calculation and manipulation of the
material in the following areas: analysis of solutions to linear differential equations with polynomial coefficients which includes their asymptotic behaviour; approximation
theory; numerical analysis techniques; mathematical physics problems; probability theory;
3 apply key aspects of orthogonal polynomials and special functions in well-defined contexts, showing judgement in the selection and application of tools and techniques;
4 show judgement in the selection and application of Maple as appropriate.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the level 6 module students will be able to:

1 manage their own learning and make use of appropriate resources;
2 understand logical arguments, identifying the assumptions made and the conclusions drawn;
3 communicate straightforward arguments and conclusions reasonably accurately and clearly;
4 manage their time and use their organisational skills to plan and implement efficient and effective modes of working;
5 solve problems relating to qualitative and quantitative information;
6 make competent use of information technology skills such online resources (Moodle), internet communication);
7 communicate technical material competently;
8 demonstrate an increased level of skill in numeracy and computation;
9 demonstrate the acquisition of the study skills needed for continuing professional development.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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