As the new freshers are moving in and having a great first weekend. I thought I’d throw my two cents into how to manage the early days of a maths based degree and not feel like it’s going over your head.
Your first few weeks are very daunting when going to the lectures; everyone has come from different places and learnt different things. The lecturers are trying to bring everybody up to the same place and will quite often take time with things you may find obvious just to make sure everyone understands. The courses have been designed as introductory but quite often they aren’t obvious. The course I am thinking of inparticular is mathematical analysis, I remember my first 2 hours on the first Thursday evening of term – I left mindblown. The best thing you can do is take an hour after each lecture just to dissect what’s been happening. It makes the next lecture much easier and you can follow the topic closer; at the start you may get lost even if you’ve done a lot of the work because the ideas behind the maths are nothing like you have experienced before.
One thing I have always struggled with is taking the initiative to ask. Putting your hand up to clarify something is daunting but it could mean the difference between you understanding and not! Also quite often you’ll find that half of the audience will be thanking you under their breath because they were struggling with the same thing.
If you are struggling there are a million places to go some of which I’ve really not taken advantage of over my time here. You can visit the lecturer in their office hours; they are going to be very understanding particularly at first if there’s some area you are really stuck with. You also have a maths supervisor that will be able to answer any of your questions; you will be spending at least an hour with these people each week and they will focus on you understanding the proof side of maths. There’s also your personal tutor who will be in the department. For most introductory modules there are lecture notes online or provided by the MORSE society. There’s also a million textbooks in the library – often just a different set of words explaining can make the difference.