March 12th, 2015
[Note: This blog, written by Samantha Woodcock, was originally posted on http://www.topuniversities.com, and reposted here on Academic Exchange by permission from the author.]
Considering studying mathematics at university but not sure you fit the right mold? Think it’ll be too difficult, too nerdy, or won’t provide enough career options? Get ready to re-think your idea of the “typical” math student, and what’s involved in a mathematics degree…
1. Maths students are giant geeks.
Now there are the students out there that would remind you of the Sheldon Coopers of the world, but for the most part maths students are just normal people who have a passion for numbers. Not all of them wear glasses; they all don’t carry a calculator everywhere and they also don’t insist on wearing white shirts and plaid. Mathematics is also easy to combine with another subject, including art, all sciences, a language or a subject like history. So not everyone is the super geek you think they will be.
2. If you do a mathematics degree you can only teach after you’ve graduated.
This is a complete lie! Maths students are great problem-solvers, which means they can fit into any job in quite a lot of fields. Yes, you can teach or train to be an accountant, but you could also work for betting companies, running the program to calculate the live odds of the next footballer scoring in the big derby at the weekend. The possibilities are literally endless, so don’t be under the impression that you have to train to teach at the end of the three year degree.
3. All mathematics degrees are exactly the same, because numbers are just numbers.
Every mathematics degree is different. Some will have more real world applications (such as modelling waves in the sea) and others will be stuffed to the brim with algebra; there’s literally a course out there for everyone, whether you really like Excel and statistics or you’re more interested in the applied engineering and game theory side of things. Oh, and numbers are just the tip of the iceberg: hexadecimal values, the Greek alphabet and most of the English alphabet are used too, it’s not just x and y anymore!
4. Only guys do mathematics degrees.
According to The Guardian, 42% of all maths undergraduates in the UK in 2011-2012 were female. So while there still may be a fair few male mathematicians on your chosen course, there will also be a lot of female students equally as interested in all the number crunching and differential equations!
5. Maths students are amazing at mental maths.
Some people just have that knack for working things out in their heads really quickly, but I don’t think you’ll be able to find many people, even maths students, who can tell you what 6432 ÷ 17 is off the top of their heads in under 10 seconds (it’s 378.353 for reference). Maths students are normal humans, who too rely on calculators for sums. They aren’t all wizards who can do the 27 times table from memory!
6. A mathematics degree is far too hard for me.
If you have an interest in numbers, statistics, algebra or really enjoyed A-Level standard mathematics, then you shouldn’t be put off. No degree is a walk in the park, but everything you learn either teaches you new skills or builds on existing knowledge. Don’t be scared of a little bit of maths; it doesn’t bite after all!
Samantha Woodcock is a mathematics graduate of the University of Chester (North West England), Sam is currently working for a finance team in a tourist attraction. She has a giant passion for Excel and when not number-crunching she loves blogging or cooking up a recent recipe find from Pinterest! You can follow her on Twitter (@samcantfindit) and read her blog here https://diaryofamathsstudent.wordpress.com/