Today I ran across this text which I don’t understand but would like to. According to this blog post that links to it, it describes a “mathematical model for trail formation” similar to the urban legend about college campuses where sidewalks are put in only after students have worn pathways through the grass.

I’m not asking exactly what the equations mean in this instance (though I’ll thank anyone who feels like explaining that). What I’m after is this: Which subdisciplines of mathematics would I need to know about, or which university curriculum would I need to follow, in order to be able to understand this “mathematical model” on my own?

Sidenote: It occurs to me that maybe the example I’ve linked here is total nonsense, the author is a boob, and the math is totally inappropriate for the subject matter. If so, I’d still like to know what kind of math I’d need to know so I could have figured that out on my own.

I hope my question makes sense. My liberal-arts education was a fine thing, but it’s ill prepared me for topics like this.

Thanks in advance,

E.