This post was inspired by Isabelle, whom I met at the Study Abroad Fair on Tuesday. Like me, she’s on the BSc Maths with a year in the USA course and was full of questions regarding what Maths is like in 1st year. The ultimate question she had was “How hard is it?”. This is a difficult one to answer since everyone is different and coming into the degree with varied abilities (some students may have taken a gap year and forgotten about A Level Maths, some may have taken Further Maths and others may not have). But I’m going to try and answer it as best as I can in this post.
Adjusting to degree Maths
As mentioned in a previous post, I remember coming out of my first Calculus and Analysis lecture confused and worried about what I had gotten myself into. And I’m sure many of you have experienced exactly what I did. Degree life is different to that of College or Sixth Form because it’s much more fast paced and requires a lot more independent study. You may find yourself not understanding anything in the lecture, but when you go through the lecture notes, more often than not, you begin to make connections (I still have ‘lightbulb’ moments when something I learn now connects to something I learnt in first or second year).
So how hard is it?
Well putting it simply, it’s not as hard as you think it is. Of course Maths is NOT the easiest subject to study, especially at degree level. But you chose it for a reason and you got onto the course, so you must be at a good starting level. Do you remember when you first learnt about Surds in A Level? If you’re like me, you didn’t initially understand what they were, but you knew how to calculate and manipulate them to get the answer. This is how I would describe your first year, or a least semester, on a Maths degree: you won’t initially understand everything, but with practice you’ll be able to do the calculations and manipulate what you’ve learnt to get the answer you need. And perhaps by the end of the year, you’ll understand concepts which initially seemed confusing.
By the end of the term you’ll be amazed with yourself. Mostly because by then the calculations you can’t even begin to understand now, will come much easier to you. That being said, you have to put the work in. Even if you take 45mins looking over the previous lecture and trying to understand what the professor was doing, you’ll find life easier when it comes to exam period.
I hope this post has settled some of your worries about studying Maths. And to make you feel even better here’s the song that the title of this post was inspired by. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below!