A guide to studying Mathematics at university - including what to expect, reasons to consider the subject area, application tips and a careers overview.
Why consider studying Maths at university?
Maths is a challenging, but enjoyable and deeply satisfying subject. Mathematics graduates also have the potential to earn a high salary - a report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies stated that Maths graduates achieve the third highest salary, behind Medicine & Dentistry and Economics graduates.
The heart of Mathematics is problem solving and Mathematics students will acquire skills in logical thought processes, problem formulations and presenting complex arguments through spoken and written mathematical language.
Careers that mathematics graduates have progressed to include actuarial work, accountancy, financial analysis, statistics, operational research, software development, resource management, information services, teaching and academia. Watch this section on the video from 00:39 to 05:49
What are the course options when studying Maths at University?
There are many good mathematics degree courses available in the UK (and Europe in general) and entry requirements vary. Students need to investigate which university will suit them best, for example, whether the university is in a busy city or more rural location and how large the cohort of mathematics students is likely to be. It is beneficial to attend open days, either virtual or actual to get a ‘feel’ for the university and talk to current students and staff.
Many universities offer:
- MSCi Mathematics (4-year course)
- BSc Mathematics (3-year course)
These two options can be interchanged during the first two years at most universities. Many universities also offer one year foundation courses.
Combined mathematics courses are also available, for example, Mathematics with Languages, Management, Music, Computer Science, Economics, Physics or Music. A course which includes ‘with’ in the title indicates emphasis on the first named subject – usually a 70/30 split; a course which includes ‘and’ in the title will be a 50-50 split which studies both subjects equally. Watch this section on the video from 05:51 to 10:49
What to expect if you study Maths at university?
Mathematics courses typically consist of lectures, workshops, seminars and tutorials.
- Lectures can be attended by between 20 and 150 or more students, they are intense and convey a lot of information, these may be pre-recorded or online as well as in a lecture hall.
- Students are given problems to solve in problem solving workshops, where they are able to practice their skills, both individually and as group exercises.
- Students attend seminars to discuss work they have done, and practical components may also be undertaken.
- Tutorials are small groups of three to five students with a member of staff, where students can ask questions, reinforce their understanding of course material, discuss problems and exchange ideas.
There are also ‘office hours’ where students can have individual support and ask questions about lecture material, homework, their course choices and any feedback they have received.
There are also computer-based courses – mainly provided for statistic courses, but many maths courses also have a programming element. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic the virtual learning environment has expanded, with the provision of on-line material such as course information, problem sheets and solutions, lecture notes, videos and discussion forums.Watch this section on the video from to 10:49 to 15:22
Application tips for Maths courses at university
Most universities will require achievement of A level Mathematics – if students have enjoyed and achieved A level Maths, there will be a Mathematics course available for them. Further Mathematics at A level is also beneficial but is not required by all universities.
There are websites available with information and mathematical problems that prospective students could practice, such as NRich from the University of Cambridge, Maths Explorer Club and the Mathematical Association.
Beneficial books to read include ‘How to Think Like a Mathematician: a Companion to Undergraduate Mathematics by Kevin Houston or How to Study for a Mathematics Degree by Laura Alcock.
The YouTube channel Numberphile also has good videos and ‘snippets’ about Mathematics.
It is extremely beneficial to attend taster days, either virtual or actual, and open lectures to talk to staff and current students about the courses. Watch this section on the video from 15:22 to 16:50
With thanks to the event speaker:
Professor Stefanie Gerke, Royal Holloway, University of London
Jon Cheek, Founder and Director, UniTasterDays.com