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Maths & numeracy: Introduction to studying mathematics at university

Studying maths is different from studying other subjects. A very important part of learning maths is doing problems. Do the work set in good time; don’t leave it until the last minute when there is no time to get help or you may rush and make careless mistakes. The problems help you learn the formulas and techniques you do need to know, as well as improve your problem-solving prowess.

You will probably find modules will overlap to a certain extent. Many of the ideas hang together. Identifying and learning the key concepts mean you don't have to memorise as much.

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Make sure you keep up!

Most modules build throughout the semester. You must keep up with the work, falling a day or two behind puts you at a disadvantage. Falling a week behind puts you in deep trouble. If you miss a lecture for any reason make sure you get the notes as soon as possibleand get help if you need it.

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Study time

You may know a rule of thumb about maths (and other) classes - at least 2 hours of study time per lecture hour. But this may not be enough!

  • Take as much time as you need to do all the work set to get complete understanding of the material. You may find it helpful to find similar examples in textbooks to practice on.
  • Work with your friends in an informal study group. You may find it helpful to meet at a regular time each week. Go over problems you've had trouble with. Either someone else in the group will help you, or you will discover you're all stuck on the same problems.
  • If you are still struggling, it is time to get help from elsewhere such as your lecturer or from the Skills Team.
  • The more challenging the material, the more time you should spend on it.
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University maths

University maths is different from school/college maths. At university you will cover material at a much faster pace than you did at school/college. In pre-university courses a topic is developed and then usually followed by a period of practice, with your teacher present, to consolidate the learning.  Although most university classes have tutorials between lectures, each successive lecture will go on to new material.  You are expected to absorb new material much more quickly and may not have set work checked in such detail as you had at school/college.

  • Take responsibility for keeping up with all your work. Make sure you find out how to do it. Don’t ignore problems, they will get worse.
  • You probably need to spend more time studying per week - you do more of the learning outside class than before.
  • Exams may seem harder just because they cover more material.