I am studying for a degree in a mathematical subject

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This guide is suitable for Students and is specific to Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research.

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What is the page about?

You may be studying or about to start studying a mathematical subject at university. This page will help you think about the skills you need, support you might ask about and the technology which might assist you.

Maths at university

You will have studied maths at school. At university some experience of studying maths will change and the best way to get things done might be different too. It is important to take time to explore approaches to find the one which works best for you.

Lectures and tutorials

You will meet new material for the first time in lectures. Lectures are typically much larger than classes at school or college. So, it can be hard to clarify your understanding in class. Lecturers will use fewer examples than you are used to and you will typically not work through any in the lecture. So you won't understand some of the maths until you look at it after the lecture in independent study. You will also have tutorials which will typically be smaller than classes at school or college. In these you might be expected to take a more active role and will have more chance to clarify your understanding.

Lectures and tutorials will not usually follow a textbook. So, you will need to take your own precise notes or, in some cases, you might annotate notes provided by the lecturer prior to class. This is less likely to be possible in tutorials as what happens may depend on the attendees. Lecturers and tutors will use a range of methods to communicate including speaking, using slides, writing on boards, writing on paper an image of which is projected and displaying interactive or dynamic visual resources. Since a good set of notes is vital it is important to plan how you will acquire these. This includes finding a resource format that your lecturers and you can use in which you can access the content effectively, annotate and create your own content.

Independent study

Far more of your learning will take place in independent study at university. You will no longer be taught a method, shown examples, work many examples, get feedback on how to improve perhaps including your teacher selecting more examples for you to try. You will need to work with your lecture notes and with textbooks to fully understand the content. You will need to take an active role in improving your problem solving and your writing of mathematics.

The study skills you have used for A level maths may not be as effective and you may need to find new ways of working.

Reading

Mathematics will use a rapidly increasing set of symbols, abstract concepts and complex formulae at university. Maths will also start to be written with a lot more English than you are used to and you will start to meet longer proofs and logical arguments which can be challenging to read. So you might need to learn new reading skills.

It is important that you find a resource format that your lecturers and you can use in which you can access the content effectively, annotate and create your own content.

Problem solving

Doing mathematics will form a vital part of your independent study. You will be working with a rapidly increasing set of symbols, abstract concepts and complex formulae. As mathematical problems increase in complexity and length there starts to be a separation between rough working, to support problem solving and the communication of a final solution.

It is important that you find a method of working which supports your mathematical thinking as you learn to solve more complex problems.

It is likely that you will need to use a computer and to produce programs to solve mathematical problems for the first time. So, you may need to learn new computer skills.

Writing

Learning to communicate mathematics clearly, writing up from rough working may be a new experience. You will be expected to produce clearly written English containing the mathematics and to structure proofs and logical arguments appropriately. You will also need to learn to use a rapidly increasing set of symbols and notations effectively. So you might need to learn new writing skills.

It is important that you find a method of structuring your work and writing work up which enables you to communicate clearly with your lecturers, tutors and other students. This might include learning to write mathematics on a computer, although this may not be taught on some degrees.

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