Top 5 Tips for Undergraduate Mathematics Students

Trisha Sadhwani smiling

By Trisha Sadhwani, 2nd Year BSc Mathematics

As a second-year BSc Mathematics student at King’s College London, here are my top tips to make the most of your maths degree!

  1. Practise, practise, practise!

The best way to learn Mathematics is to solve problems. You do not fully understand a concept until you can solve problems on it and practise writing proofs. There are plenty of resources available to King’s students for problem-solving. A typical module has a problem sheet every week that tests your understanding of key ideas introduced. These sheets are discussed in a weekly interactive tutorial with a tutor and a small group of students – which I would highly recommend not missing! Lecturers also provide additional optional material and textbook recommendations. Most textbooks are available at King’s libraries for students to borrow.

  1. Interact with professors

It is common to not understand every single step of every mathematical argument presented in a lecture. Being confused is part of learning mathematics and it is important to ask questions. Your professors are leading academics in their fields of study – and interacting with them is a great resource to widen your knowledge. They usually hold office hours, both online and in person – during which you can get your doubts clarified and deepen your understanding of the subject. I would also recommend using the ‘padlet’ on module pages – a tool that allows you to ask questions anonymously.

  1. Interact with your peers

Sometimes it can be a lot less intimidating to ask a friend a question about something you don’t understand. The common study spaces on campus and group study rooms at King’s libraries are perfect for having discussions with other students on your course. My personal favourite is the NMES (Natural, Mathematical, and Engineering Sciences) common room on the fourth floor of the King’s building. A lot of learning can take place while talking about mathematics. Different people offer different perspectives on the same problem and that can be very useful in intuitively understanding what you are working on which brings me to my next point.

  1. Build intuition

Mathematics at university is very different from mathematics at school. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I write more letters than numbers. University maths is very proof and logic based and can be quite abstract – unlike anything you learn at school. The process of learning these abstract concepts can be made a lot more simple and more enjoyable by gaining an intuitive understanding of them. Some good ways to build intuition on mathematical ideas are to have as many discussions as you can, spend time understanding and internalising definitions, and not restrict your learning resources. Some textbooks might have explanations that resonate with you and complement your learning better than others. There are also really good YouTube channels that explain complex mathematical ideas in a simplified and interesting manner.

  1. Enjoy the process

My last tip is to enjoy the process of learning and be patient with it! Take time to find a system that works well for you. Managing your time and energy at university is important. Prioritise the methods of learning that work best for you. It is helpful to remember that the time you spend by yourself, trying to understand concepts, and making notes is very important – independent study is a significant part of your degree. Finally, remember to appreciate the beauty in mathematics. As the mathematician Bertrand Russel said, “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty.”

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