Orthogonal Polynomials and Special Functions - MAST7026

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Spring Term 7 15 (7.5) Ana F. Loureiro checkmark-circle


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

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 7 module students will be able to:
1 demonstrate systematic understanding of: orthogonal polynomial sequences and in particular classical polynomials, special functions and their properties, including
elliptic functions;
2 demonstrate the capability to solve complex problems using a very good level of skill in calculation and manipulation of the material in the following areas: analysis of
solutions to differential equations with polynomial coefficients which includes their asymptotic behaviour; approximation theory; numerical analysis techniques;
mathematical physics problems; probability theory;
3 apply a range of concepts and principles in orthogonal polynomials and special functions in loosely defined contexts, showing good judgment in the selection and
application of tools and techniques;
4 make effective and well-considered use of Maple as a symbolic computational language.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the level 7 module students will be able to:
1 work competently and independently, be aware of their own strengths and understand when help is needed;
2 demonstrate a high level of capability in developing and evaluating logical arguments;
3 communicate arguments confidently with the effective and accurate conveyance of conclusions;
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 effective use of information technology skills such as online resources (Moodle), internet communication;
7 communicate technical material effectively;
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. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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