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How to Study for a Mathematics Degree [Paperback]

Lara Alcock
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Dec 2012 0199661324 978-0199661329
Every year, thousands of students go to university to study mathematics (single honours or combined with another subject). Many of these students are extremely intelligent and hardworking, but even the best will, at some point, struggle with the demands of making the transition to advanced mathematics. Some have difficulty adjusting to independent study and to learning from lectures. Other struggles, however, are more fundamental: the mathematics shifts in focus from calculation to proof, so students are expected to interact with it in different ways. These changes need not be mysterious - mathematics education research has revealed many insights into the adjustments that are necessary - but they are not obvious and they do need explaining.

This no-nonsense book translates these research-based insights into practical advice for a student audience. It covers every aspect of studying for a mathematics degree, from the most abstract intellectual challenges to the everyday business of interacting with lecturers and making good use of study time. Part 1 provides an in-depth discussion of advanced mathematical thinking, and explains how a student will need to adapt and extend their existing skills in order to develop a good understanding of undergraduate mathematics. Part 2 covers study skills as these relate to the demands of a mathematics degree. It suggests practical approaches to learning from lectures and to studying for examinations while also allowing time for a fulfilling all-round university experience.

The first subject-specific guide for students, this friendly, practical text will be essential reading for anyone studying mathematics at university.

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How to Study for a Mathematics Degree + How to Think Like a Mathematician: A Companion to Undergraduate Mathematics + Bridging the Gap to University Mathematics
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (12 Dec 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199661324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199661329
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Alcock's work will definitely join my list of recommended books for maths undergraduates during their first year. (Noel-Ann Bradshaw, Times Higher Education)

I do recommend this book - it is an excellent source of information and advice for new and existing students about what to expect from a typical mathematics degree, and how and why they should be prepared. (Ken P. O'Neill AMIMA, Mathematics Today)

I suspect anyone reviewing this book will say they wished it had been available back in their day (indeed, the two quotes on the cover of my copy do exactly that). I, however, will go slightly further and say that not only do I wish this book had been available ten years ago, I also wish I would have had the sense to read it. The time between finishing school and starting university is short, and in all the excitement of buying your own kettle and secretly thinking how much you'll miss your old bedroom, it's easy to forget the main reason you're going. Reading one maths book won't ruin your whole summer (I hope!), and (Michael Wallace, Significance)

is a fairly short and rather enjoyable read which could give you a head-start in university life that pays off for years to come.

I wish I had a book like this 20 years ago. It would have helped me manage my time and learn a lot more than I did at that age! (Dr Magdalena D. Toda, Director of Undergraduate Studies Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics, Texas Tech University, USA)

This is an excellent book, which will be of great value to any sixth-former intending to embark on a mathematics-related university course, as well as to undergraduates already doing so. I cannot imagine a better book than this one for helping students to bridge the school-university gap. It would make an excellent gift for anyone thinking of studying mathematics at university and it belongs on every university reading list and in every school and university library. (Colin Foster, July Mathematical Gazette)

Making the transition from school-level to University-level mathematics is hard, in terms of the complexity of the subject matter, the rigour of thought, and the need to be able to study much more independently. This excellent and wide-ranging book engages with all these issues and more, giving a very helpful insight into what is coming for beginning undergraduates in mathematics or mathematics-related disciplines. I just wish this book had been available in my day! (Dr Geoff Tennant, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education, Institute of Education, University of Reading, UK)

About the Author

Great advice for students who want to study math. Actually, good advice for all students. And, good advice for adults and professionals too. Alcock's straightforward writing style and practical tips make the tallest mountains seem climbable with small steps. (Matthew Leingang, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is a book that every potential undergraduate student of mathematics should purchase. It has a very thorough description of what is involved with being an undergraduate in mathematics at university.
Alcock has succeeded in writing a relevant, interesting and beneficial account of what it is like to be a maths undergraduate. She highlights the differences between pure and applicable mathematics and what skills are needed to flourish in these. However the emphasis is on pure mathematics throughout the book.
Additionally the author does not shy away from doing some serious mathematics even though the book is written for the layman. The technical mathematics is described in simple terms that all sixth formers will understand.
The book is very well organised and has good quality writing style - well expressed, clarity, coherence etc. It is split into two - mathematics and study skills.
My only reservation is the lack of illustrations. Including these would have more of an impact but it is not a serious omission.
I would recommend this book to any student or teacher of mathematics.
Kuldeep Singh
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clearly set out and well written 16 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although I have not finished this book yet, it was recommended to me by 2 different lecturers and so far I have found it to be:

Easy to read - for a maths book, which I usually cant read for longer than about 5 minutes at a time

Clear in describing the differences the way you are expected to learn

And useful in the content - it gives information about alot more of university Mathematics degree than the changes to dependence of learning
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant advice for all mathematics students 10 Mar 2013
By Heather
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I started reading this book as I know Lara Alcock, I carried on as it is a great read with lots of useful advice. Not only will following the tips in "How to Study for a Mathematics Degree" improve your degree results, it will help you progress in your career.

Many of the areas that mathematics graduates struggle with when they start work, and some carry on struggling with, are clearly and helpfully dealt with. Working in the way that Lara suggests during your degree will enable you to start work a few steps ahead of the typical mathematics graduate and carry on that way.

Although I graduated many years ago, I will certainly be using much of the advice going forward, including that on dealing with a panic situation!

Enjoy the read

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Should this book be needed? 9 Nov 2013
An excellent support by Lara Alcock for those undertaking a degree in mathematics, indicating snags students typically encounter. However she is less critical than I believe she ought to be about many, if not most degree courses in mathematics.

In particular, the standard mathematics `lecture' is inappropriate for such a symbolically-rich subject. Often little more than a dictation class lectures are pedagogically ineffective. The material is delivered quickly and uniformly, but learning in contrast takes place in fits-and-starts, over time. So mathematics lectures are not learning events: an inefficient use of 12 hr a week.

In such a lecture-centred regime, mathematics degree courses suit well only those students who don't need teaching.

If degree courses were better pedagogically informed would Lara Alcock's book be necessary?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real good read 6 Dec 2013
By Skeets
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It was as good as I thought - just a little patronising in places but a good read and worth the spend.
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