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School of Mathematics

School of Mathematics

Blog for the School of Mathematics community

What is like to read maths?

Photo of Jena

by Jena | from Vietnam | BSc Mathematics and Business | 1st Year (UG)

When it comes to university, I think the scariest part is it’s mostly about independent learning and of course, doing the readings! In my Introduction to Linear Algebra course, students are required to do the readings before each lecture, which is approximately 2 to 3 sections of a chapter in the textbook.  

By approaching Maths this way, it soon came clear to me that Maths now is not just about calculation and solving math problems but it’s about understanding its true nature. This approach also helps attending lectures become more efficient as it is a good way to study actively. 

Now everything may sound stressful because spending time reading something completely new and abstract to understand the lessons is definitely not easy.  

Reading Maths is not just reading and remembering the main points…

Yes, reading Maths is not just reading and remembering the key points, we need to understand and apply them, especially theorems. Studying Mathematics in University, it is crucial that we know how to write proofs.  

Undoubtedly, it is hard and overwhelming to me. I remember spending my whole day reading the materials and taking notes and still, on the day of the lecture, I forgot everything. So it is important to not neglect the reading as during lectures, the professors will assume that you already did the reading and only focus on the complicated parts of the topic and post quizzes through a learning platform called TopHat. Moreover, it is important that we can understand the materials of that week before going on with the next week. 

But I hope that doesn’t stop us from loving Maths! To me, from the very beginning, pursuing Maths is already a challenge. However, that’s also the main reason why my love for Maths is huge as challenges can be fun and rewarding.  

An effective way to read Maths

A way to make this work is that when we do the reading, especially when it comes to reading proofs, we try to prove it in the draft before reading the proofs inside the textbook. When we get stuck on any step of the proof, we can come back to the textbook and try to do it again. By doing this, it is much easier to remember and understand. 

Another recommendation is from one of my lecturers – Chris Sangwin, which I think is exciting and effective. His way of learning to read and understand proofs is use a ruler to cover line by line in the textbook while thinking of the next step. 

Overall, don’t forget that everyone is on the same boat and that we all feel the same way – it is okay to not fully understand what is inside the textbook and what is covered during lectures. Besides, there are many ways that can help us understand better. One of the materials that I find really helpful is short clips from weekly reading quizzes, which is recorded by the lecturers and is mainly about explanation on key points of the topic. Moreover, there is a platform called Piazza, in which we send our questions anonymously to classmates, tutors and professors. A great piece of advice is that you can note down all the questions and ask your tutor about it in the workshops. So don’t ever hesitate to ask questions when you get stuck!  




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