Celebrating maths: our stories

October 04, 2017

We spoke to some of our amazing staff members to find out what inspired them to study maths at university. Here, Assistant Director Laura Beal from our Hampton centre, shares her story…

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So, you studied maths at university. What was it that attracted you?

I have always loved to problem solve and the satisfaction and achievement of solving a problem or working out a maths question was what appealed to me the most. By doing a maths degree I could have that feeling and enjoy what I would be doing every day of the week. Whilst I enjoyed maths at A level, I was also enjoying more creative studies such as media and English.

I had to choose between a media degree or a maths degree. I loved both, but what decided it for me were two important factors:

  1. What would energise me the most and keep me motivated? Maths is extremely rewarding and most topics follow a structure. The thought of learning a new methodology, applying it and solving real life problems in day to day uni life sounded exciting. Plus, maths degrees don’t involve writing essays!
  2. What opportunities would it give me? Like many others, growing up I did not know what I wanted to do as a job. What I soon learnt was that a maths degree can provide someone with a vast amount of opportunities that you may not even realise! Maths is a core subject and so a degree in it is highly regarded across a range of job areas, not just ‘mathsy’ ones! Having a maths degree can help you get into business, science, even television(!) as well as the more commonly associated jobs such as teaching and finance. There is a whole world of exciting jobs who regard maths highly!

Why would you recommend studying maths at university? 

You can apply the skills you learn in a maths degree to a number of every day life situations, as well as different kinds of jobs. You get taught not just how to problem solve but how to approach different scenarios that are related to your interests. One lesson, I was taught how to predict how many tigers there will be in the world in two, five and 10 years time and inform a charity to help them save the tigers. Sometimes you can choose your own topics so you can choose something that interests you more than others. Also, the future opportunities are really valuable as there are so many jobs out there I hadn’t even heard of that you can try. Throughout university you get to learn new skills that you can apply to real life and have the satisfaction that you worked out the right answer to a complicated question and impress your friends with such skills!

What did you have to achieve to get in?

I needed to do maths at A level and get a C minimum at GCSE (although some universities require a B minimum). What was good was that I didn’t need to have any other subject related to maths e.g. further maths. Further maths at A level gets covered in your first year at uni so you don’t need to feel like you need to do lots of maths at A level. My other subjects at A level were all so different (English and media) so you can keep your options open.

Can you give us a snapshot of what studying maths at university is like?

A third of your time will be ‘lecture’ based which means you will be in a big class and a teacher will show you a new method or technique. They make it fun by giving you real life examples as well as teach you step by step what to do. Another a third of your uni time will be self-study where you take the method you have learnt and apply it to lots of different questions and do it yourself or in teams. What is great fun about maths is that you can hang out with your friends and all work together to problem solve and work out the answers. (The exams/tests you will need to do by yourself, of course!) The rest of your time will be coursework or exams that are dotted throughout the year. Some universities make this computer based, others will let you take worksheets home to complete. Do note that every uni approaches this differently but there will always generally be lectures, self study and coursework involved.

What was the best thing you learnt?

The best thing I learnt was to forecast and code; two things I had never done before and didn’t even realise were covered in a maths degree. They were both optional so some universities may vary on topics they cover but you can check with each uni what they do over the three years. Forecasting is where you use data and real life figures to predict the future! This can be anything from using weather data to predict the weather or looking at how many fidget spinners have been sold in a shop over the last year and how many they are likely to sell in the next year. Coding is super cool as it’s computer based and you use a special language to tell a computer what to do. Businesses use ‘coders’ (people who can code) to get information from their business to see things, like how much money did they earn in one year, or what was their most popular selling item.

Who inspired you in maths when you were younger?

I had a tutor from the age of 12 and it changed my perspective on maths. Until then I was finding maths ‘ok’ but when I had a tutor, she explained everything in a way that made sense to me and so I fell in love with maths. I realised it wasn’t as scary or as complicated as it can appear to be. I continued having that extra help and having someone to explain something complicated in a different way made a huge difference in my maths work.

Why is maths important?

Maths is super important as we use it in our everyday lives without realising it. Whether it is money related (like shopping), work related (in your job), or in a fun activity (like cooking) we use maths to help us get things right, maximise our time and also help other people. As we get older we have lots of responsibilities, such as paying bills and earning money! Having maths skills can make our lives that little bit easier by making sure we are paying and earning the right money and budgeting for the future.

What would you say to someone who finds maths challenging?

Try not to give up and think you ‘can’t do’ maths. Maths is all about problem solving and figuring things out and normally it will take a while to understand – if you keep trying and try different ways of working something out, you will soon have that amazing ‘eureka’ feeling!

We love helping children to develop a love of maths, and challenge those who already have a passion for the subject to progress even further! Speak to your local centre team to find out how we could support your family.

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