Monday, June 04, 2007

Maths societies and when you know it's bedtime.

It seems old and bad habits die hard. Yes I'm still awake and have yet to sleep. I tend to stay awake during the night and wake up, well late! That is during the holidays. I realise that this isn't a particularly good habit and pattern, but I can't help it. I just don't feel tired, but yet I know that as soon as my head hits the pillow I'll be fast asleep.

You know it's bedtime when you look to your right and notice a bright light behind your curtains. Pulling them back you realise that the sun is rising and the birds are singing! Anyway, before you all shake your heads and wonder what is to come of this bean, I have a perfectly good reason as to why I'm awake.

Steve's post mentioned another maths video called 'Maths Club'. I thought of googling it since I liked the sound of it. Upon googling or something of that kind (!) I came across the Warwick Maths Society. Further exploring the page, a felt a longing of some sort. I longed to be 'included' in that society. I don't know- something about the way that society is ran and what it is about appealed to me. Just now I've realised that the society is partially due to Warwick's student union. However, there exists a maths community for students. That's the important thing. When we discuss mathematical culture, which isn't apparent when we leave college, do we just resign ourselves in defeat and discuss the 'good old days'? Something has to be done to try to recover the situation and I think that society is the answer.

I believe that's not the only maths society around, but the time is such that I can't really be bothered looking through my history, to link other sites. You see that society exists for the students and I believe it creates and environment where mathematical culture can grown. You see I felt that longing for two reasons, which I will elaborate on.

1) we don't have a maths society quite like that at Manchester
2) Them students are not seen as 'weirdos' by their peers because they like maths.

Well actually the University of Manchester's maths department does have a 'Mathsoc'. As you can see it's quite 'mathsy'. Naturally I disagree with the claim that the society is for 'maths-type people'. During registration I paid about £15 for a three year membership of that society. Why? Well I thought- 'Hey, why not? I can get helped with problems which I'll definitely be having and for three years that's cheap.' I wasn't the only one who thought that! However my hopes were soon to be dashed. Upon collecting my card I was able to talk to the people in charge. Well I spoke to one girl if I remember correctly and I think we were discussing maths. (Sorry about vagueness- this was in September!). Anyway, at this moment some other girl said something which gave me the impression that the society wasn't really about maths in the way I have assumed it to be.

From that link you've probably gathered that this society is more to do with the social side of 'maths undergraduates'. My social life is limited to maths, movies, football and computer games possibly. (Well if I'm being awfully blunt!) Them kind of socials are not the scene for a bean like me, and so my £15 has effectively been wasted. Not that I really mind, but when you think about the maths book I could have bought with that money, then it's a different story! :D The society did sell past papers towards the end of year exams, but can it really be called a maths society? I mean to be a maths society it has to have an elements of maths. OK maybe they do integrate in parties (cough) but it's like any other society. Basically I wouldn't classify it as a Mathsoc, but that's my opinion at the end of the day. Students do need to let of steam and party, but I'm just not happy that that is the only thing done by the mathsoc.

The other option of course is for me to go for leadership next year. That to me sounds like a possible solution, however I don't think that will happen. In college and school I did all this student union stuff and said that I wouldn't do anything like that in university. You see I enjoy stuff like that and so become absorbed by it. The nasty consequences would be that I'll start neglecting my studies. I speak from experience and my time management isn't great (look at the time now!!) so that's not a possibility. There is a second option which I will mention at the end.

For my second point. Maybe it's all in my head, but I believe that was my blog to be discovered by fellow first years, then a majority would hopefully not read it and the other lot would say 'weirdo'. That is not my problem. My problem is that the first years will know who I am. This is definitely possible, and more worrying for me. Now on the Warwick math soc page, you have a community of undergrad students who all enjoy maths. They're not seen differently for this and I liked that a lot. I mean once again, it's probably in my head, but I know people who are doing a maths degree but are not really fascinated by stuff in the way I may be. I do at times say 'maths is boo hoo this and boo hoo that' to go with conversations at times. Sadly. Anyway, the point is that this attitude amongst undergrad students is one which is having a negative effect on the possible mathematical culture in Manchester. (or so I believe)

I admit that their are students who are not like this, but overall I feel this is the case. Especially first year students. Maybe that's a bad group to look at, since next year the group will probably have reduced in size. Gah- I don't know what I'm getting at. It's just that the society in Warwick organizes maths events. Yes the social events do exist but so do the maths ones. Other maths societies also do the same. The undergrad lecture on knots which I went to (in Manchester) was attended by about 10/15 people I'd say. But only about two/three of these lectures happened throughout the year! Shouldn't the mathsoc work with the maths department to get more organized? Is this just me venting my frustrations?

Anyway, the societies exist and sadly Manchester doesn't have one. Now this is when I had an idea. Steve mentioned to me 'once upon a time' to get a maths forum of some sort set up. Yes, you've guessed it- I'm awake at 5am since I've been trying to sort a forum out. Here is the link if I may shamelessly 'advertise it'. It's not finished yet, since I'm well... tired would be the right word I suppose! Anyway, I aim to give the link to first year maths students when I start the PASS sessions. Lots of things might change from today and September, but it's a start I suppose. As always I tend to have lots of ideas, but we shall see which I implement. I've actually been learning everything as I've been doing it, but I'm going to see if I can get LaTeX working there and add guides etc. (Ignore the amateur logo- I only had paint to use!)

I do intend to add extra forums for fun stuff, and other things which will hopefully be useful to maths students in general I suppose. Possibly a section for prospective students at the university. Suggestions are welcome.

Agenda 2 for the summer holidays I suppose! However, now I must rest my battered and bruised body from todays adventures, and hope that I don't wake up any time soon! :o Also please excuse any errors etc. although I don't deserved to be forgiven! Good night. :o


steve said...

I hope your new forum goes well. Email me privately if you need help with LaTeX input. Warwick University too has a forum which for a while was completely public and students often helped each other with maths problems. However, due to malicious use it had to restrict access, even to read it, to Warwick students. Hopefully, your restrictions means that that won't happen to your forum.

One suggestion you might like to think about, which we used to do when I was a student at Warwick long ago, is to ask lecturers (particularly visiting lecturers) if they would be willing to give talks to fellow students. It would be much less formal than a lecture and cover some interesting aspect of maths that wouldn't be in formal courses.

My experience is that lecturers are only too keen to give such talks and have a wealth of experience to talk about, and if you get a friendly lecturer to help ask around, you'd be off to a flying start.

beans said...

I hope so to. I'm not really concerened whether or not it's 'that' successful, but at least one exists. Thanks, and I probably will be emailing you about LaTeX. (I'm seeing many more sleepless nights in store for me! Working on it at this time doesn't have the same vibe. :/)

You see on the maths department homepage, to access some material you have to enter your username and password. I don't think I can get that setup here, but I've been playing around with what certain users can access.

Thanks a lot for another great idea. :) I might just do that next semester. I know quite a few friendly lecturers (:D), and I'll see what I can do. Lecturers from the universtiy have given lectures but not when I've been around. I mean the stuff they include in the appendixes for lecture notes can always be a topic idea?

The other problem is the attendance. From my experience from the student council I know ways and means to advertise such events, but a poor turnout might not seem appealing to lecturers and they may be put of by doing such things in future. Hmmm, maybe this is going to be a challenging task indeed- damn my nature but I'm looking forward to doing such things indeed! (I just hope that I'm able to balance things nicely).

Yes, one thing I like about the lecturers I know is that they enjoy lecturing. Maybe I'm being too optimistic about things, but sadly that is another thing which I tend to do. Might email around for a lecture at the start of the semester for first years (nothing to hard)! :o

Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

It might be a good idea to run this by someone in the School of Mathematics. Perhaps the school's IS manager or Director of Undergraduate Studies. It sounds like a good idea, but the University might have concerns about 'branding' and its name being used without consent. Who knows, the University might even be able to provide a forum server without the currently annoying adverts if it supports the idea.

I imagine there will also be issues with forum spam and the potential for libel. The forum would have to be very closely monitored.

beans said...

'IS manager'? Would you know who that might be (and what that might be!:o).

I was thinking about speaking to Dr. Walker about it, since she tends to organize/let us know about undergraduate lectures amongst many things.

I was concerned about using the university logo, hence my rubbish attmept at one in paint! The university might also be able to provide someone who knows more about running forums as well (wishful thinking!)! :D

At the moment I can't imagine the forum being a success as such, but I understand your concern. Only admins can approve new user accounts, and so maybe that'll stop bogus accounts being made. One could say that this forum has potential, but where it's going I'm not too sure. I just think that through the forum we might be able to organize 'maths' events for students, and basically create an undergraduate 'maths community' at Manchester.

There will definitely be a forum Mk II!(and possibly more!)