Wednesday, May 30, 2007

First year Analysis I

I'm sure none of you thought that I meant the module analysis, but in case you did then I'll clarify that I mean analysis of my first year! This post is about my thoughts on the first semester, what went wrong, right and my overall 'analysis' of it. I'm going to leave the second semester 'analysis' till after I get my results- don't want to tempt fate or anything!

It's common knowledge that I struggled to really get my head around things initially. The main problem might have been that I only was understanding Calculus from all the modules that I was taking. I really disliked stats and so my attitude towards it was unfortunately a bit like my initial reaction to sequences and series. However I didn't have my blog then, and so my hate for stats continued and I never really did find any motivation for it. We were asked to fill in a feedback form for semester one (overall feedback) and so I'm just summarising and expanding what I wrote on it. One reason for my not getting on with stats is because I didn't attend the example classes. Well I attended the first few but these had a negative effect on me. I didn't particularly find that they helped me (as opposed to the example class for the second semester) and they consisted of a lot of people. I confess to sitting there feeling 'thick' most of the times, and soon stopped going to them. My theory was that if I learnt the stuff in my own time and then attempted the questions I'd be better off. Obviously this was a theory which was never implemented!

However I do believe that the course was slightly 'disjoint' so to speak. We did about 10 distributions and I honestly think that if would have been more beneficial if we'd done, say five distributions but properly. I'm just glad that I passed the module! The questionnaire then went to ask which module we found the easiest, hardest and most rewarding. I don't think the term easy is correct, but I put down calculus mainly because up till vectors I had been ok with it and the lecturers notes were pretty good. When we got to double integrals and change of co-ordinates I slightly lost the plot, but with respect to the other modules this was 'nicer.' The hardest and the most interesting one was Numbers, Sets and Functions.

The reason being that the skills which I hopefully obtained from this module helped me with other aspects of maths. It gave me good foundations for starting my degree, and I learnt to appreciate proofs and came across maths that I liked. I actually came across a few other interesting topics but overall looking at my second semester, there were times when I felt that this module was useful and good. I also made sure that I wrote about the lecturer for the second half of this course. Especially the fact that Dr. C delivered the lectures to a high standard, making you want to explore the subject further. He made a huge effort, so you wanted to attend lectures. The main turning point in my first semester has to be when he started lecturing us. I have mentioned this before, and will say it again, he motivated me to continue with maths and stick with it. It's hard to describe how a person may motivate another, but throughout my life this motivation has been my driving force. It was there in college thanks to Mr. H (he was plain cool!) and in school obviously because of my maths teacher. Once I find this source of motivation I tend to stick with it since it's pretty crucial to me. (You could say this motivation buffers my attitude, like the chemistry pH buffers! When I'm negative etc, it puts me right and when I'm positive it just lets me be.)

I didn't have my blog in the first semester but even then I had been facing the same problem of people wanting me to change my course, but I'd say it was more horrible then since I wasn't positive about my maths. Thanks to Dr. C, I stuck with maths and he has continued to help me which I appreciate. Seriously his lecturing style is brilliant. (Oh and he's not paying me to say all this! :D) All I can conclude this paragraph with is the fact that I don't know how I would have done in my first year had Dr Coleman not taught me and further helped me in the example classes. If me and Milo are ever stuck, and have a problem with anything to do with maths or university (not always trivial problems!) we always tend to 'bug' him and he tends to help. :) Can't wait for Real Analysis.

So I've established that this module was useful and I'd say that I found the calculus one pretty 'OK' as well. (Up to the point I liked it!) The one thing I appreciated about the calculus one was the fact that we weren't allowed using a calculator (of any kind!) in our exam. Yes I appreciated this, because I was too darn dependent on my graphical calculator before university, and during the lectures when Prof. D used to sketch graphs from thin air we all used to sit back and watch in astonishment. (He's a cool lecturer as well and always has a smile!! :D I saw him the other other day, but unfortunately all I did was complain about my linear algebra exam since I'd just had it!) The only thing I use my calculator nowadays is to check that 1+1=2.... erm well not always- I just do that when I'm making sure that it's working! Although I still probably can't sketch graphs out of thin air, at least I don't tend to jump towards my calculator which is an improvement. The other positive thing about calculus was that once I revised for my exam, quite a few things made more sense. (which is always nice. )

It seems that my summary of the first semester has gone rather long and I have yet to comment on the workshop module! This module ran over two semesters and I think it has been pretty useful indeed. In the first semester I didn't fully 'appreciate' it one could say, but I didn't deny that it was interesting. It allowed us to see various areas of maths which was good, because this made me realise the areas I wouldn't mind avoiding! In the first semester I didn't particularly like the group work bit to it, since my group wasn't really a group. It just consisted of individuals with the attitude 'every bean for themselves'. I mean ultimately we had to go away and write our own reports, however when you're working with seven other people for two hours some interaction would be nice. I mean apart from 'this is *****', 'maths is *****', 'I can't believe we have to do **** reports'. Well you get what I mean. There was no positivity about that group and well it was obvious that everyone would rather be elsewhere.

One problem, which was resolved in the second semester, was the fact that we had an hour lecture on a topic (eg conics) and then the two hour group work session straight after. This didn't help us with the problems. You see I was pretty 'dumb' when it came to answering the questions (naturally) but I did used to attempt them. Well all the ones that didn't require proofs! I only never really did get the stuff we did on determinants, so I have my excuse for that. I might make my group out to be bad, but truth be told the group wasn't that bad. We were a bad group as in the concept of group work but I met quite a few good people from my course through this group. It's always nice knowing more people than say the Tweenies on a course, since the Tweenies are not always going to be around! The one who had a lot '***' in his conversations is changing course I believe. He never really wanted to be there and always used to complain about maths, so I wish him the best of luck on whatever he is transferring to. Also I think one was a student who was repeating his first year, so it's understandable that he didn't want to be there!

That's enough 'negativity' about the first semester group work! We had a cool supervisor which I suppose balanced stuff out nicely. (I'm not complaining as such, but I well ... like to talk I suppose and that's the element which I'm moaning about!) The group was hard working so thankfully we had a good group mark most of the time.

For the second semester it was pretty different. Actually very different. The previous feelings of dread associated with the group work bit were no longer apparent. My group was great. I honestly used to enjoy the two hours and not once did we finish early. We obviously all didn't like doing the problems (the ones which were really hard anyway) but none of us sat there complaining about not wanting to be there. I did get called a psycho (in the nicest way possible!) but adding the fact that our supervisor was awesome I'd say life had been good. I guess stats has to have a mention again, but even though I didn't learn much from the stats reports we did it was a welcome break from the normal routine of group problems, then report. Getting to know Matlab better was also a bonus. I mean I've probably forgotten how to use it (apart from the session diary thing!) but it is useful. Especially since it can work out the roots of a 20th order polynomial in a second!

On the whole I had a good first semester and the seed for my further interest in maths had been planted. By further I mean the stuff which we weren't doing. I think having met the Tweenies was another big positive. I shudder to think what it would have been like otherwise. You see before university started I'd convinced myself that it didn't matter if I was on my own. I have always done things which my friends and people might not do(eg further maths!), so I thought I'd be able to do the same during university. Obviously that wasn't the same case. I met Bella initially in the queue for registration, when suddenly I decided I was in the line with her! :o (It was a really long queue, and well that was the cue for our meeting!) Meeting Milo was different. We had an introductory lecture, where the head of maths and other people talked to us. (Yes I still remember bits of it!). Anyway it was in the Renold lecture theatre and I'd arrived early on my own. I happened to spot a group of people also sat there, so naturally I went in for the kill! I don't normally poke people when I initially (t=0) meet them, but I happened to 'accidentally' poke Milo as I sat behind him and promised not to do so during the lecture!

OK, I'm just amusing myself by remembering the 'good old days'. I bumped into Arthur at the end of that lecture (didn't know he was doing Maths) and so there were four of us. The next day in the stats lecture we became five when we met Fizz and then during the following week V joined us. There have been ups and downs, but they seem trivial compared to what difference having the tweenies has been. Sometimes I do try to 'suppress' my obsession for maths, but I think it's caught on now! (well they did buy me maths books for my 6.95th birthday). Well I still don't let on, but they at least know that I love maths!!! (Did I really say that loudly...).

It seems that this post has increased without a bound, but the holidays imply that I no longer have to be asleep by midnight. So that in turn means that I can start typing a post in the afternoon and finish it at sometime after midnight, which unfortunately means that I end up typing more!

During the first semester I missed two stats lectures (one due to an unfortunate problem, the other because of my stupidity). I also missed two calculus ones and it was the 9am one on both occasions! The first I overslept and the other wasn't my fault. Only missed one sets lecture and no workshop ones. (Hurrah) I think I attended all my supervisions apart from one for which I had a dentist appointment, but overall I think I didn't do too badly in terms of attendance. The thing is, in college it was drilled into us that 'attendance is related to performance and understanding', which I have to agree with now. If I'd at least attended the stats example classes it may have been different... After reading week I actually started putting the hours in as well, and found a routine which worked for me. (shame it didn't last!)

So to conclude (I'm sure I said that before!) I finished the first semester on a positive note - actually looking forward to the second semester! The general balance of good and evil was towards the good side. I met some really cool lecturers and became slightly more independent. The end of my Calculus exam signalled the 'birth' of this blog, and so I began semester two with a blog, two maths books (the beginning of my collection) and the Tweenies minus a member. (Thankfully not me). OK, I'll shut up now. Although I wouldn't mind posing the question: How many maths book do you think I have in my collection now?

Don't hold your breath about part II- results are probably going to be given in July sometime, so you have time to recover!

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