Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Second Year Course Options...

... and other snippets of course!

At exactly 13:50 on Friday 25th May, we were sent the following email:

To all first year students in the School of Mathematics

Please find attached information about next year's second year
programme. You should make a provisional choice of course units
before the end of term (8 June) and submit a pre-registration form to
the Student Support Office in Lamb. Forms are available outside the
office. Information about registration in September will be sent out
over the summer.

Now this was the Friday before my last exam, and naturally this sent me into a mild panic! I recall spending the rest of my Friday, 'mulling' over which modules to choose. As you've probably guessed I'm still mulling. Since I'm doing straight maths (single honours-G100) I thankfully have no choice for my first semester modules (woohooo). However the problem lies for the second semester. As it stands, in the first semester I'll hopefully be doing the following modules:
  • Real and Complex Analysis
  • Partial Differential Equations and Vector Calculus A
  • Algebraic Structures 1
  • Probability and Statistics 2
The vector calculus seems 'dodgy' since I happen to have a good reason to believe that vectors don't like me! If it's all that div, grad and curl business then it definitely is going to be dodgy! I liked PDEs with two variables, since I learnt a nice way of doing the chain rule (you have to draw a tree thing) so that should be good. Algebraic structures and Real Analysis, I'm looking forward to. They're probably going to be tough (I've heard Real Analysis tends to leave students scarred for life!), however we're going to have two awesome lecturers teaching us which is a brilliant positive. (Gosh- I need to get a life don't I! I'm already looking forward to attending them lectures. :/) Last but not least it's stats! Funnily enough, I've yet to think 'Oh dear oh dear', as I am known to do so. I think it's important to look at this with a 'neutral' attitude, and well I'm going to make an effort to understand that course (I hope so anyway- no promises :D).

So I'm 'OK' with doing them modules, well the complex analysis is going to be complex but I'm not going to think about that for now! (Bad experience with complex numbers in the ODE exam!) So what remains to be discussed is the second semester modules. The available options are as follows:
What's the big deal you ask? Well if you asked that then it's a very silly question indeed. :p The boxes with the grey dots are the stats module. Am I 'conflicted' about choosing them? Well you see I've been discussing these options with a few people. Two second year students told me that 'stats is the the easiest modules I could choose, and one is 100% coursework!'. Another told me that stats might be easy but it's 'boring'. Now do I go for something which I don't like but is 'easy'? Most definitely not. The whole module becomes harder for me because I don't like it! So easy has gone out of the window. I think it's safe to deduce that I will NOT be choosing any stats modules. Not a single one. For a second I did think whether this is a wise choice, and I can't but help thing again!

Why do I feel that by not taking a stats module I may be 'restricting' my choices in for the third year? Actually I've realised that I'm being stupid. I'm not going to do any stats in my third year. It's just that stuff like 'Markov Process' does sound interesting! OK, enough of that. Using the process of elimination it's bye bye stats. I'm also definitely not going to be doing History of Mathematics. It is interesting, but why pick that when you've got all the other maths modules to choose from? I got the book Numbers by John McLeish today (£3.25!), which should enlighten me to some history and I believe other books exist. So that's 5 modules out of the picture. Make that six. 'Introduction to Financial Mathematics, you are the weakest link- goodbye!'. Once again, I say bye bye, with a fifty fifty heart. My interests lie elsewhere it seems. :(

The question that remains to be asked, is exactly what are my interests? At the moment I'd say that Number Theory (the stuff that we did!), algebra\{Linear transformations} and sequences and series are somethings which I like. Not necessarily areas which I'm good at, but I enjoy struggling with them! Obviously some less than others and I do realise that linear transformations were very important, but since my revision of them was rushed and not proper I'm not on speaking terms with them. So which modules would I enjoy and which modules allow me to do more of the things that interest me?

Like I said I've been consulting people, and two modules that I'm definitely taking are Metric Spaces and Algebraic Structures 2. What remains to be decided is the other four! On the Friday that I received this email, I hadn't realised that these are provisional choices. Why we have to do this, I don't know- but we do. However I gather that although they claim it is easy to swap later, it may not be as easy.

The reason why having to choose is driving me crazy is because I don't 'not' want to do some modules. Why only six is the question I've been asking. :( I realise that I'm not going anywhere far, so I'm 70% sure of doing Discrete maths. Not really sure why to be honest, but apart from metric spaces and algeb. structures I'm not sure about anything. So since this is provisional I might as well stick discrete maths down for now. (I didn't particularly like the project we had to do on graph theory but I believe that discrete maths isn't entirely about that!)

Now it's down to the 'big three'. Calc. of several variables, propositional logic and intro. to geometry. You've probably realised that I haven't selected any applied modules. This is where the debate warms up. Fluid mechanics seems to have caught my attention (I read arteries and thought hmmm, nice module!). Actually it's to do with planes, footballs etc. (to be vague) and it looks interesting. The problem is that I stink at mechanics, but want to 'know' about this stuff. A second year student also told me that calc. of several variables is okayish. The 'problem' is that our first year didn't count towards anything but the second and third year does. Would I foolishly choose mechanics, a module which I know that I won't do good in, just because it seems interesting? The answer to this question seems to be no. That's my head answering not my heart. (I have to listen to my head though, since I'm reminded of AS Biology. Had I continued with it and done four A Levels, I would probably have done badly!)

I do seem to have the unique ability of 'dragging' out a decision. I'm indecisive because like I said I want to do fluid mechanics, the big three and numerical analysis as well. But that's eight module which means two have 'got to go'. Why numerical analysis? Why indeed. I'll have to put my hands up and humbly take back any nasty comments I said about the perturbation method. Numerical analysis is important. I want to know about it. But I don't want to sit an exam for it. :( Sigh. As you can tell I'm pretty conflicted about which modules to choose. The 'embarrassing' thing is that one day I hope to do a *** (can't write it since then it makes me feel stupid!) and I'm considering a fourth year at the moment. It's not going to happen for many different reasons, but sadly that 1% hope is making me wonder whether the modules I choose now will affect me later.

A change of topic for a few minutes if I may. I have been writing about my agendas for the holiday and unfortunately agenda 1 is sorting my room out. My mum is the ultimate interior designer, and she was too eager. :( I miss my old room already. The bare walls and emptiness is creepy. I'm lucky to be left with the computer. It's been a battle today, and my room came out worse. The bed has finally been thrown out. Hurrah. Alas with my bed, all my folders and maths books have also gone! Don't worry, they've been put in boxes for storage. So that means that my agenda to read the many books I've been collecting has been postponed. The only book which I managed to rescue was the Polya one! (The library collection has gone into another box, but I will have to sort through them tomorrow to decide which to take back on Wednesday.)

Agenda 1: Room (Humbug)
Agenda 1.5: Sort forum out*
Agenda 2: Read maths books
Agenda 2.5: Hopefully do some maths!
Agenda 3: ??? (The question marks are for undecided things-don't want to make too many plans at the moment, going to keep the agenda nice and small!)

Did I actually write 2.5 down?? Well I think that with the PASS sessions in mind, I'm going to 'review' the sets bit of the first semester. I didn't really get the whole business about countable sets, uncountable sets and the pigeon hole principle amongst many other things. I'm not sure whether or not to actually look at the modules which I will be doing next year, but first it's important for me to be able to understand this years stuff so that I'm able to be an ok pass person. I will now 'mysteriously' write MF and will expand on this another day, however I think I might be 'slowly' overcoming this. Slowly does it, but rather than first semester stuff I think I'll probably look into prop. logic to see whether or not I'm in the minority of those this modules clicks. (Rather than writing new posts, I should think of completing the drafts I have! :o)

Propositional logic looks scary but interesting at the same time. Ive been told that once this module 'clicks' then you'll do fine, however if it doesn't then you're doomed. I'm pretty sure that there is not in between in this module. And I have no idea what geometry really is about. Is it really pure? I mean I believe contours, div etc crop up but I've been told it's a good module. I've also been told that the lecturer is pretty enthusiastic, so is that a good thing to base my decision on? The calculus module would be the only one of that kind which is a good enough reason for choosing it!

So if it was 8th June today, I'd probably 'eventually' put down: Metric spaces, Algebraic Structures 2, Discrete Mathematics, Propositional Logic (!), Calc. of Several Variables and Introduction to Geometry. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on that combination- do you think it's a good combination for the field I want to go in? Which six would you choose and why? Sorry for the questions, but I'm 'desperate' on thoughts of this. I've never really had to choose what type of maths I want to do which is possibly the reason I'm uneasy about making the wrong choice. I would really prefer not having to make a choice and doing the 8 I want, but alas that's not to be.

I'm not making my choices based on what the Tweenies are doing. That seems to be a good thing since they all seem to want to do one module which is not maths! (Bella, Arthur and Milo are thinking of doing a finance external module and Fizz is not sure which external module to choose). And here I am wanting to do more maths modules! NEWS FLASH BEANS: This is only provisional! (I could always attend the fluid mechanics and numerical analysis lectures...)


*Rest assured that I don't intend to stay up till 5am tinkering with that forum. Anon made a valid point in the comments, which has given me food for thought. I have been 'playing around' with it and have realised that admin can see email addresses before activation of the account. However working with the maths department would make things much better, since I'm just full of ideas at the moment. So the revised plan is to finish tinkering around with the forum i.e. create all sub forums etc and then devise a plan of what exactly I want to achieve by it. You see this is me thinking loudly, so feel free to stop/correct my thoughts, but I'm 'hoping' of trying to do something about getting an undergrad lecture organized for the first years in the first week of term. In that week we had to attend a lecture by the head of departments etc, however maybe a lecturer could do a lecture in that week to bring everyone down to earth? Nothing to heavy, but ....this is where my 'thinking loudly' wants to crawl into the nearest hole and hide for ever. It's just a thought, but am I making the mistake of thinking that the undergrad students would want what I want? I mean this lecture could be incorporated into the welcome address .... OK I'll shut up now.


Jake said...

My choice of six would be:

Metric Spaces
Algebraic Structures 2
Propositional Logic
Introduction to Geometry
Calculus of Several Variables and
Discrete Mathematics.

As to the why; They are just the things that interest me the most out of the options. I don't think I would fancy any of the stats or applied math courses so it is a bit of a Pure selection. It covers quite a varied range of topics too. Algebra is my favourite part of maths (especially Group and Ring Theory) so I would definately do the algebra course, you have a bit of analysis in there too with metric spaces, logic is something that has always interested me (and of course Manchester Uni is world renowned for it). Geometry sounds fun too.

It is easier for me at my uni; we don't really have any choice until third year (unless you choose to do things like financial maths or physics courses etc.) so in my second year I am doing: Real Analysis, Complex Analysis, Linear Algebra, Group Theory, Ring Theory, Project skills and compulsary Probability and Stats unfortunately. I think I would much rather ditch Probability and Stats for, say, your Geography and Propositional Logic. We don't really have the option to do much geometry at my uni - Euclid would have a fit! There is some decent choice in the third year however.

Ben said...

Jakes choices sound the best to be too, that will give you a good choice of modules in your 3rd and possibly 4th years.

Introduction to geometry is a cut down version of a course I did a few years ago when I was in my 3rd year - its a very interesting module, tought by a crazy Armenian guy who is very talented.

I demonstrated for propositional logic this year and its a pretty easy module, and means you can do some really cool modules in your 4th year like Godel's Incompleteness theorems! The whole propositional logic course is aimed at proving the completeness theorem , which is fairly interesting in its own right. Well worth taking.

I have a friend who did discrete mathematics this year and enjoyed it - I think there is some graph theory in there, and everybody loves graph theory!

To go through a maths degree without doing a course on metric spaces would be silly! Make sure you take it, otherwise you'll strugle in the 3rd year, as you cant do modules like Topology, which is well cool.

I never really liked calculus very much, but Calculus of Several Variables could be useful anyway - it could help if you were very do to any Differential topology!

And finally Algebraic structures.... if you dont do this module you'll be screwed in your 4th year (and possibly 3rd) and will probably be forsed to do applied stuff! I'm a group theorist anyway, so I think the more algebra the better!

If you have any questions about any other modules ask away! either on here or in my office (Q11 MSS)

- Ben

beans said...


'High five':D ahem, anyway I've also decided that stats is a big no! I spoke to Milo today and he did try to persuade me otherwise, but I just don't find stats as 'interesting' as the others. (I didn't know about Manchester's rep for logic, but yes logic is interesting). My problem with the applied modules is that they're damn interesting!! But like stats I think I might have to just admire the content from a distance. (Especially fluid mechanics).

I'm quite ignorant of what the third year modules actually consist of which was another reason why I'm worried about the modules that I choose. Are your modules ran across both semesters? (I have to do a compulsory stats module in the first semester as well. :/) Choice is good but for a fool like me, it can be confusing.

beans said...

Hi Ben,

Thanks a lot for your comments. They have defintely helped me to confirm my choices. :)

I've heard about Prof. K :D Sounds like an interesting guy! (I think he was the person in the audience in the Ollernshaw lecture who spotted the mistake!)

If you're demonstrating again next year, then ....!! lol. I can't comment on the easiness until I've struggled with it, but thanks for the reassurance. I'm definitely going to be taking it now!

I like graph theory apart from the proofs! Quite a few people seem to enjoy discrete maths and it's something 'different' which is why I want to do it.

Yes, I was advised to definitely take Metric spaces and algebraic structures 2. (Topology cool?! It sounds pretty scary to me!) What exactly do you research?

I'm fifty fifty on calculus but I don't mind it. I enjoyed it in the first semester, and I heard it's just more of that.

Hmm, you've given me food for thought. :) What's your opinion on numerical analysis? Will I be missing out on much by not doing it? (I'd rather ask the questins here :D)

Once again, thanks for your insight. It has really helped me to make a concrete decision regarding certain modules. :)

Jake said...

(I didn't know about Manchester's rep for logic, but yes logic is interesting).

Well, Alan Turing was at Manchester for a while and he is probably one of the more famous logicians.

I'm quite ignorant of what the third year modules actually consist of which was another reason why I'm worried about the modules that I choose. Are your modules ran across both semesters?

I would go on the Manchester website and see if there is any information about the third year modules just so you can make sure that if there are any that interest you, you can make sure that you are doing the pre-requisite courses this year. I am sure that there are tutors lecturers and other faculty that you can speak with to help you make your decisions as well; I know at my university, we have lecturers responsible for enrollment with whom one can discuss the options with.

Yes, our modules are split over the two terms. Three run up until christmas and then the other three run after that. The project skills course is actually for 5 weeks after the exams, they teach us how to use LaTeX and a bit about writing and then we go off and do some little projects and then also, unfortunately, a group* project.

*Maybe I could be cheeky and do it on my own claiming that I am the one element group consisting solely of the identity element, e ;)

beans said...

I'd heard he was at Manchester, but the only thing I recalled about him was that he died young. (And something to do with the Turing Machine).

I hadn't done that about third year modules (didn't think!), thanks. It seems that I'll definitely be doing all pure modules in my third year and they look pretty interesting- especially the stuff on hyperbolics. (Also the reiman zeta function in number theroy looks cool).

Yes I've spoken to a lecturer, and he did give me some insight and an overall picture of the courses available. (I.e. convinced me that metric spaces and algeb. structures were good modules to choose). I was hoping to catch my personal tutor today, but didn't see him. (we're supposed to discuss this with them). However I have made my decision now, so it's ok. I think Ben's reply about what the courses were actually like was ultimately what I needed. Since the lecturers overview is somewhat different than a students overview. (Cheers Ben!)

We can do projects in the third year (might do so as well!), but I don't think that we're taught about project skills. But I guess you could say that we've had the project skills course in the first year, through the workshop module. (which consisted of writing reports and group work as well :D)

Lol, you could try that. You tutor might even consider it. ;) Group work has it's positives but, it all depends on whether your group 'click'.

steve said...

I'd heard he was at Manchester, but the only thing I recalled about him was that he died young. (And something to do with the Turing Machine).

Where can I start? He, along with Max Newman, another Manchester mathematician, can be considered to have invented the computer. Turing's work on the Enigma code, according to Winston Churchill, shortened the Second World War by 2 years, thus saving countless lives. He was a genius and there was even a play about him in London and on TV.

The Turing test is a test of artificial intelligence and there's a prize waiting for anyone who constructs a machine that passes the test.

We should be very proud of him and you can learn more about him at The Alan Turing Home Page.

Jake said...

In addition to what Steve just said, I can recommend a very good book I have called 'The Essential Turing' edited by B. Jack Copeland. It is a collection of various writings by Turing or about his work, most of which are accessible to a lay audience. It includes sections on computability, Enigma/Bletchley Park and Artifical Intelligence/Life

Group work has it's positives but, it all depends on whether your group 'click'

Well, I haven't had much luck 'clicking' with my collegues as of yet, most think I am wierd for taking an interest...I normally have the front rows to myself.

I think I would struggle to work on a project with other people if they weren't prepared to put as much effort into a project as I am, especially when the mark will count towards my degree.

It seems like my collegues are a pretty apathetic bunch; I don't think anybody really gives a damn, which is pretty sad. University hasn't turned out like I expected - I thought that there would be group discussion and people gathering round to go through problems and revise together but the only time I have witnessed anything like this is when I see people openly copying each others coursework.

At the moment my impression of university is that it is treated by many as a state subsidised youth club.

beans said...


Yes, I believe the Newman building was named after Max Newman (and the Brian Hartley room after Brian Hartley :D). He was born in June as well I notice.

I never really knew that much about him, as I said above, and once again that wiki page was indeed a good read. It reminds me of I-Robot (the movie with Will Smith). I personally don't think that machines/robots will ever be on par with humans.

Wow- is all I can say having read some more information about him! Genius indeed.

beans said...


Thanks for the recommendation- I'll try to get my hands on it.

I understand what you mean. Sometimes I use the excuse of my eyes for us to sit at the front(!), but I feel that's the best place one can sit. (However in some lecture halls I sit at the back, but that's because the back isn't really 'back'). You should come to Manchester some time... :D Also if you do 'zone' out, you always come back sooner when sat at the front!

Maybe in your second year the students which stay on, will have different attitudes? What exactly do the projects consist of? Is it similar to our group work ones where you have a bunch of problems to work on in a group, and then you have to write your own reports up?

I don't really know what I expected from University, but I know it has given me a lot. The thing you mention about there being a mathematical community as such, is something which I think was missing here as well. I think group discussions happened amongst friends (i.e the tweenies and other groups) but most times all I found was students talking about the 'latest pub crawl' etc that they'd ventured on. I don't mind this, but it gets rather boring hearing this after some point. (I can only name about 10 people with whom I can talk to about maths!)

I prefer revising on my own, but if we're doing a maths degree there shouldn't be a problem discussing maths! I hate the fact that you're automatically seen as a 'geek'/'genius'/nerd etc just because you have an interest in maths and talk about it. Maths students actually do this as well.

As we've discussed on your blog, university has now become and 'expereince' in my opinion, as opposed to an instituion for learning. That's a shame, however I will always value education and I'm just grateful that my 'intense thinking' about maths is buffered by the Tweenies.

(BTW are your exmas over now?)

steve said...

Yes, I believe the Newman building was named after Max Newman (and the Brian Hartley room after Brian Hartley :D)

Oh, I can boast now! Brian Hartley was at Warwick when I was there and I knew him well. I went to his lectures, he was my friend's superviser and he was a really nice chap.

Also, as it says in Max Newman's biography I linked to above, he taught a course at Warwick when I was there. It was a 3rd year course called Geometric Topology. Needless to say I didn't realise how famous he was when I was at his lectures.

beans said...

Now when I sit in that room, I can at least say that I know someone who knew Brian Hartley! Actually it seems a lecturer at the maths department also knew him (having read the page about Brian Hartley from that site).

(I should start getting my lecturers autographs just in case...! I actually have my personal tutors signature (he had to sign this form) and we discussed me keeping it for the future!)

steve said...

In that biography it mentions that
His only book Rings, modules and linear algebra (written with T O Hawkes) is a widely used undergraduate text.
T O Hawkes (=Trevor Hawkes) is the lecturer struggling with the books in G103 and who ends up eating chalk in the G103 video.

beans said...

So actual staff participated in that video! Cool. (I hope he's feeling better now. ;) )

Small world eh? (did you know him as well?)

steve said...

Yes I did know him, went to lots of his excellent lectures, the best being his MSc course on Finite Groups.

beans said...

Sorry for the many questions, but did you find doing 4 years useful? (How do you look back on your undergrad days?)

steve said...

There weren't any 4 year courses then, MMath is a recent innovation. I did the usual 3 years undergraduate followed by a year for the MSc and then 2 years for a PhD.

I enjoyed the undergraduate course, concentrating on pure maths, and enjoyed the 3 years as a postgrad even more. They were very good days.

beans said...

Thanks. :) Maybe the fourth year is needed nowadays, and wasn't required then. Ah, seven years of studying maths does sound fun. :(

(I'm debating on whether or not to do a fourth year. Still early days, but I'm not really sure).

Jake said...

Maybe the fourth year is needed nowadays, and wasn't required then.

The reason for four year degrees is purely for funding reasons.

Local educational authorities will pay grants and give loans for upto four years of undergraduate study but they won't pay for three years of undergrad and a one year masters.

So universities started doing four year degrees so that people who can't afford to do a masters can do a year of (normally) pretty much the same courses and still get funded for it by their LEA.

Of course there normally are differences between the fourth year of an MMath and a one year masters - the masters normally has a larger dissertation element.

As far as I am aware; funding used to be available for students to do masters degrees and it is only fairly recently that this was changed.

beans said...

Gosh, you've just remineded me- I have to apply for my tuition fee loans!

Thanks for the information about the funding- so I guess if I was to do a fourth year, it'd be best to transfer some time soon...