Every first year undergraduate has a graduate (or 4th year MMath) student as supervisor. Groups of undergraduates see their supervisor regularly in Terms 1 and 2 and for 5 weeks of Term 3. Supervision groups coincide with tutorial groups, and you should find out from your tutor on your first day here who are the other members of your group.
Aims of the supervision system: The main aims are
- to provide an opportunity for you to have written work marked and criticized, and thus get feedback on your progress;
- to give you a chance to discuss the difficulties you are having with the modules, and
- to put you in regular close contact with someone who handles on an everyday basis the mathematics you are learning.
How do students make contact with their supervisors? We will explain how to first meet your supervisor as part of your induction in Welcome Week, but it won't be until the first week of term.
When and where do supervisions take place? It is left to undergraduates to arrange with their supervisors a mutually convenient time and place for supervisions. There are a large number of small areas with blackboards dotted around and about the department, but supervisions can take place anywhere else on campus. Initially you should arrange your supervisions for week 2, and for each subsequent week of the term. To do this, you will need to have made some progress towards choosing the optional modules you will take this term, and thus to fixing your lecture timetable.
The structure of First Year supervisions. The weekly supervisions will focus on written homework for the core modules. This homework counts for 15% of your final mark in each of these modules. It will be marked by your supervisor in the week when you hand it in online, and marked as soon as your supervisor is able (we expect this to be within a week). You and your supervisor will then go over this work, and sort out the difficulties it brings to light. Supervisors should be ready to deal with difficulties raised by the undergraduates themselves; they can also ask their undergraduates to make short presentations at the blackboard, or stimulate discussion by asking questions in the supervisions. In Term 3, besides going over written homework, most supervisors will encourage their undergraduates to try their hand at past exam questions, and will go over their solutions with them.
What more is there to say? Mathematics is not a spectator sport. The key to learning is doing mathematics yourself. The written homework is designed to get you doing this; the benefit you will get from working hard on the homework is far greater than the 15% of your mark that it can contribute. The same goes for supervisions. Don't expect your supervisor to have all the ideas or to make all the running. Come with questions of your own (and bring lecture notes and textbooks for the modules whose content you wish to discuss). Get together with the other members of your supervision group outside supervisions and decide together what you'd like to do in your supervisions. Ask your supervisor the questions that are bothering you, even if you are afraid that they might be "silly'' questions. You will gain nothing by hiding your difficulties; they may not be as silly as you think.
Plagiarism: remember that although we encourage you to work together on your weekly assignments you MUST WRITE UP YOUR SOLUTIONS BY YOURSELF. If you copy your friends answers and hand them in, there is a strong possibility this will be noticed and the consequences could be severe (see Expected Behaviour).
However, as well as a possible penalty, if you cannot answer a question but copy it from a friend, your Supervisor will think that you understand it and will not then go through it with you in the Supervision! It is OK to hand in wrong answers, or half attempted ones... don't think you HAVE to hand in perfect solutions.
Finally, if there is any aspect of your supervisions that you are not happy with (and this goes for the marking of your written homework too), don't let matters slide; discuss it with your supervisor, your tutor, or, in the last instance, contact the academic responsible for supervisions and support classes, Richard Lissaman.