First year of Discrete Maths: What to expect?
- “Discrete Maths? What’s that?” “Is that maths you can’t see?” “Maths you do in secret?” “Maths, SHHHHHH” *Looks of horror/fear/sympathy/concern*. Just take the hit and start calling it Maths and Computer Science now if you’re wanting to cut the inevitable flurry of dad jokes and/or mild confusion. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve desperately had to explain the course over the last two years, and I’m fully expecting the same in the next year.
- If the course is still roughly the same as it was when I started then you will most likely have this as a core module (if not, ignore this part, and also- lucky you). It’s a maths module, and is probably up there with the hardest module I’ve had to do so far. There were two exams for it in my first year- one in January (what a lovely Wednesday afternoon that was) and then another in the summer, and they are TOUGH. They don’t do anything by halves over in the maths department, and this module well and truly throws you in at the deep end. But don’t panic yourself just yet- it IS doable (I promise). My advice for this is simple: make friends who also do the module (even if they aren’t on DM- any joint maths degree will most likely also have it as a core so rope those MORSE and Maths/Stats people in too if you must). Knowing people well in the module will mean that you have someone to work on the assignments with (these assignments are not a solitary undertaking I assure you, AND not ones that you can do the night before- please don’t take that as a challenge). Also having friends in the module mean that if you miss a lecture you can catch up with them. Speaking of which, make sure you take notes!! Having a comprehensive set of notes will be a life saver when you start revising for that January exam, so if there’s any lecture you actually pay attention in, let it be this one.
- . These are basically the most important part of the first year of the DM degree- especially when it comes to the maths modules (though most modules had some kind of support class). In my first year, the supervisions were set up by the maths department- we were put into small groups (of about 5) and each of these groups were then allocated an older pure maths student who became our supervisor. This supervisor ran one-hour sessions each week and these hours quite literally SAVED MY LIFE. The supervisors marked our assignments, went through the mark schemes, and generally offered advice on how to answer questions we were stuck on- the analysis assignments were especially tough (as I mentioned before). The most important advice about these supervisions I can give you is USE THEM! If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask your supervisor. THAT’S LITERALLY WHAT THEY ARE FOR. They know exactly what you’re going through (as old as they seem, it wasn’t THAT long ago that they were in your shoes) and are more often than not totally happy to help you out! It took me months in first year to realise that it didn’t matter if I asked stupid questions- if it meant I did better in the assignments it was worth the potential embarrassment of asking the analysis equivalent of “what is 2+2?”. The same goes for seminars- they are the perfect opportunity to make sure you’ve actually taken in what you’ve learned in the lectures and for you to ask questions to clarify anything you didn’t understand (just make sure you’ve caught up on anything you’ve missed from the lectures beforehand, otherwise a lot of it will go straight over your head). Not to mention the computer science modules usually have designated lab time to put into practise what you’re learning with tutors around to ask if you get stuck, rather than spending the next hour staring blankly at an error you have absolutely no idea how to fix. The layers of support here at Warwick can be great, and really do help out in first year when the jump from A-Level is pretty huge, so make sure you use every resource you have to make your year at least a little easier!
- . In first year, I had more than 20 hours each week which, on top of the assignments and coursework meant there was always a lot of work to be doing. I had a friend in first year who had less timetabled hours in a week than I had on a Tuesday, and to be honest yeah, I was totally bitter about it. I felt like I’d gotten such a rough deal, dragging myself to 9ams when my friends had the whole day off, but in hindsight it was definitely better to have more seminar hours and supervisions than it would have been to try and struggle through the assignments alone. No, you won’t get a reading week either (which, if you’re like anything like me, will annoy you significantly more than it reasonably should), but at least you probably won’t have hundreds of pages of required reading to do, so y’know, you win some you lose some.
- If you’re in the same position as I was, you’re starting this degree with absolutely no computer science experience (if you aren’t, then you’re one of the lucky ones!) So basically, you need to be prepared for some serious quick-fire learning- there is no easing into computer science at Warwick. Within my first term we were already expected to be producing pieces of coursework and to be honest I was completely intimidated! I had no idea what a terminal was, never mind how to actually use it, and that was just the start of my problems- I barely even know what I didn’t know. But again, don’t panic. Like I mentioned before, most of the students on Discrete Maths were in the same boat as me, so we were all just as lost as each other, and we soon started to pick it up together, teaching each other new revelations as we discovered them, and I’m sure it will be very similar for you over the next few months. Also, (for fear of repeating myself again) use your seminars to the full! The lab supervisors for computer science modules may seem terrifying, but they will most likely be happy to answer your questions and help you get to grips with the ins and outs of programming, even if they can’t directly help with your coursework specifically. Also if you’re still struggling after all of that, try and hunt down some older DM students (myself included) and I’m sure we’ll be able to nudge you in the right direction if you’re struggling- we were in your shoes once after all!