University mathematics is very different to A'level or equivalent, in both material and how it is taught. As first year students begin their University career it can be quite a leap from sitting in a classroom of 20 students to suddenly spending most of their "contact time" with lecturers in theatres of 300 students or more. For this reason we provide additional support during the first year in the form of Supervisions. But by the time you graduate, we have gradually reduced this level of support and you should all have become more independent learners, if there is something you don't understand then you have learnt the tools to find resources to help, and to tackle the problem in a systematic manner.
To this end, the first years receive the most support, mainly through the Analysis I classes in the first term, twice weekly meetings with Supervisors in groups of 5, and compulsory weekly assignments. In the second year these supervisions are reduced to only 8 in term 1, and in term 2 students must sign up for them to continue receiving another 6 in term 2. At the same time core modules now only have fortnightly compulsory assignments and support classes are introduced for these core modules (classes of approximately 30 to 50 students given by postgraduates). By the third year there are no longer supervisions, and most modules will have only support classes. Fourth year modules will also sometimes have support classes, but it is not always the case.
Throughout this time your Personal Tutor will also be there to help you, although once you reach the third year they will be less familiar with specific modules if they are not in their own research areas. This, of course, becomes worse for year 4 modules since many of them are at the cutting edge of current research and so the lecturer or support class TA are often the only port of call for queries. We try to keep you with the same Personal Tutor throughout your degree if we can, but this is often not possible if the tutor takes research leave, for example.
During all this time you will be receiving feedback on your work and understanding of the material. This comes in many forms, feedback is not just written comments on a piece of work. For example:
- Assignment sheets marked by your supervisor will have written comments on as well as the mark, and your supervisions will be crucial to aiding your understanding of the work and where you could improve.
- Assignment sheets marked by Support Class TAs will often have less written feedback on due to the number they have to mark in a short time so they can get it back to you as soon as possible. However, the marks you receive for each question, or part of question, will tell you how you have done and the Support Classes will often highlight common mistakes. These classes are also the opportunity to ask questions, don't be shy.
- Any mark you get is feedback. If you get a bad mark then try to understand why you got that mark, don't just bury the piece of work until you start revising for exams.
- In the first year you will have some multiple choice tests for MA132 Foundations, for which you are given the solutions as you leave. This is instant feedback, and although it may take a few days to get the result of the tests, you know straight away if you understood the material you were being tested on.
- For the second year essay (core), third year essay (option) and fourth year project there is ample opportunity to get feedback, although don't expect to have someone looking over your shoulder. To get feedback you need to produce some work and hand it in to the supervisor of that module (your Personal Tutor for the 2nd year essay).
More information on each of these headings is below:
Text Books and the University library
In the Student Reference Collection (SRC) you will find copies of the most useful textbooks for undergraduate study, with very restricted borrowing to make sure that they are available to the largest possible number of people.
In the main part of the University Library is an excellent wider collection of mathematics books. Get into the habit of browsing - books contain all sorts of interesting things! If you don't understand part of a module, try to find the material in a book. Learn how to track down books on a particular topic by browsing, using the library online catalogues and the review journals, guessing, and, when all else fails, searching physically through large numbers of books. You can't be a serious academic or scientist without detective work in libraries, and although resources available on the Internet are easier to locate there is still no substitute for browsing books.
During your first week at Warwick you should make yourself familiar with the Central Campus Library, there are excellent resources on their website to introduce you to the facilities available. If you need further help during your course, ask at the Enquiry Desk on Floor 1 during office hours, consult the printed guides and leaflets available on each floor or contact the Library's Science Team. Helen Ireland (email: H.Ireland@warwick.ac.uk) is the Subject Librarian for Mathematics and the departmental library representative is Karen McKinley. Contact either of them about any books which you feel ought to be in the Library, or if there are not enough copies of key texts. (Library matters can also be raised at SSLC meetings.)
You can also find books in the University bookshop as well as well-known online retailers! We do not expect you to buy your own copies of textbooks, but for some modules you may find it useful to do so, especially modules that you may find yourself struggling on. Standard maths textbooks will typically be around 40 pounds to buy from new, but cheaper copies can be found online second-hand (Amazon is good for this), or sometimes you can find students from higher years selling their old copies through the Student Union.