September 06, 2006

Picking My 3rd Year Maths Modules

Ok, it’s a little scary to be honest, sitting here, looking through the PYDC online and choosing modules for this coming year. 2 months ago when I got the results of my resits (a pass, not what I wanted but better than a fail), and found out I would be coming back but only on the pass degree I was a bit all-over the place. I was happy to have passed but a bit wary of what being on the pass degree entailed. I know I have to do the Consolidation Module, which is 15 CATS but I’m now lost as to what else I should choose which will best help me acheive my goal of getting an honours degree, preferably a 2.2 if I can get it.

I like the look of:

MA241 – Combinatorics
MA228 – Numerical Analysis
MA245 – Algebra II (although I’m not sure of this one as I had to resit Algebra I)

and so far:

MA3E2 – Group Theory (although again I didn’t do well in Algebra I)
MA3E5 – History of Maths (which gets me out of an exam)

but as to the remaining 45 CATS I have no idea, does anyone have any tips for me? Anything I should avoid like the plague or embrace with open arms? (ok, I know I’m talking about maths modules but if I don’t start to show enthusiasm I may as well not bother)

Come on people! I need help!


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  1. Sarah Chandler

    I did Measure Theory last year, and it was my worst exam. Unless they have changed the lecturer, I would suggest against taking this module. It may just have been me, but I know other friends who found this a particularly nasty exam and hence wouldn’t suggest it.

    If you are into programming PX270 C Programming is a nice easy module. You have to do it as an unusual option, but it still makes it a very easy 7.5 CATS and no exam. I managed 98% with no previous programming experience so that can’t be bad

    I too enjoyed Knot Theory, and the lecturer is very good. Topics in Mathematical Biology is also quite a good course. You can do it without the 2nd year Intro to Math Bio course, as that is covered in the first few lectures, and is fairly straight forward, and the exams tend to be pretty similar from year to year, so its an easy one to revise for.

    Another suggestion from Physics would be Math Methods II if it is still running. Again, as a third year you will need an unusual option form, but it is all on Fourier Transforms, so is another one that is quite easy to get a pretty good mark in.

    Hope that helps, good luck :-)

    06 Sep 2006, 22:19

  2. Hey, I took Algebra 2 last year and it was very difficult, the course material probably wasnt that bad but I really didnt think it was taught well, if you struggled on Albebra 1 then you probably will on 2. Thats my experience anyway, with me just passing both.

    06 Sep 2006, 22:37

  3. My advise: steer clear of Combinatorics. Seems innocent enough from the outside, but not worth it. As far as Alg II goes, you may not understand a word of what’s going on, but they scale the exam up so much that you don’t need to – I got more marks than I answered questions. And the questions I did answer, I answered badly.

    07 Sep 2006, 01:35

  4. *advice

    07 Sep 2006, 01:35

  5. DO consider taking:
    - MA3F2 Knot Theory
    - MA390 Topics in Mathematical Biology (I’m assuming last year’s lecturer won’t be teaching it; it seems quite a nice module if it’s actually taught properly, although it wasn’t for us.)
    - MA3E5 History Of Maths (Jeremy Gray is a legend. And as you say, it’s all assessed and a pretty nice course if you do the work consistently.)
    - For a bit of variation, have a look what modules WBS has to offer. There are some nice ones there. Although don’t be deceived by Principles Of Finance – it’s much harder than it sounds at first. If you fancy something a little different not involving any maths at all, I highly recommend IB227 Industrial Relations (24 CATS) or IB228 Understanding Enterprise (6 CATS, one piece of coursework, fairly easy.)

    I’d advise you DON’T take:
    - MA3D5 Galois Theory. I think my mathematical knowledge and ability took a step back after taking this course. I haven’t a clue what was going on, and in my opinion the exam paper took the piss.
    - MA3E2 Group Theory – this was an absolute bitch of a module according to most people I knew who did it. By all means go and see what it’s like, but it’s apparently not nice at all. Particularly if you didn’t do so well in Algebra 1, which IIRC is a prerequisite.
    - MA245 Algebra II – for the same reasons listed above. I heard various people talking about the lecturer (who will almost certainly be doing it again this year) in a less than complimentary manner, should we say.

    Basically, you have so many options in third year (including others from other parts of the University… 24 CAT 1st year module in Film Studies, anyone?) that the best thing to do would be to go to loads of different ones and see which ones you do or don’t like. If you go to a maths one and get stuck in then decide you don’t like it after a while, you won’t have anything to fall back on. This is where some of the WBS modules saved me – I ended up doing 54 of my 126 CATS there.

    07 Sep 2006, 12:15

  6. David Moxey

    I would highly, highly suggest that you do not take Measure Theory – see my blog for the reaction to that particular exam. Somehow I scraped 44% even with a fairly large amount of revision. The lecturer hasn’t changed since last year which (I think) means it’ll be another hard year.

    Don’t take Rings and Modules unless you enjoy beating your head off of a wall. Topics in Mathematical Biology is an excellent course to take but requires quite a bit of work. Combinatorics is a great course up until the exam. The assignments are reasonably challenging but spending 3-4 hours on them will crack the majority of it. However the exam is really quite difficult – the style of question is very tricky, and the idea of it is spotting the correct method to use for a particular question. It’s very easy to go into the exam having not revised, get lucky and get 90%. But it’s equally easy to go into the exam having revised an awful lot and get 40%. So I would probably advise against this, although it might be an option for an overcat.

    Introduction to Topology is the bestest course ever, but if you didn’t like Metric Spaces then I doubt you’ll like it. It’s pretty easy to get high marks in though. I enjoyed Algebraic Number Theory immensely, but the lecturer has changed this year so I’m not sure that it’ll be quite the same. You might want to take a look though. Complex Analysis is good, but quite hard. The second half of the course is very hand-wavy and it’s easy to get lost, so you have to really know the principles in order to do well in the exam.

    I would steer well clear of Geometry of Curves and Surfaces. Having been to a few lectures, the course is pretty disjointed and hard to follow unless you really enjoy geometry. I’ve heard Knot Theory is very good, and hopefully I’ll be taking this myself next year.

    In regards to the above, I didn’t find Algebra II all that hard, once you got past the absolutely awful lecturing. There’s really not all that much content to it at all. If you’re taking it as a 3rd year then you’ll still have John Moody (and so a similar exam), but if you’re a second year the lecturer has now changed to Dmitriy (which I expect will put some people off). The Group Theory module isn’t necessarily hard, but there’s an immense amount of material and he absolutely rockets through the course.

    If you didn’t take Number Theory or Variational Principles, I highly recommend them as they are very approachable courses. I don’t know whether it’s possible to take them in your third year however. I second the call for C Programming and Mathematical Methods II.

    If you’re into numerical analysis (and in regards to comment 1), the second year course by the same name has changed since I did it two years ago. From what I can gather the assignments are a bit wierd and generally the course is quite hard now. But it might be worth a look if that’s your cup of tea.

    I know this doesn’t apply for your situation, but if you’re a 3rd year looking for a good 4th year module to take, I absolutely recommend Equivariant Bifurcation Theory – the content is brilliant and the lecturer is very clear, as well as providing ample amounts of assignments and support. Often this is something you won’t find in a 4th year course.

    Can’t really comment on the non-maths modules as I don’t really take them. Looking forward to seeing you back around maths :-)

    By the way, you can find an up-to-date draft list of modules running this year on the PYDC website.

    07 Sep 2006, 17:12

  7. As someone who did vastly better in Stats than Maths modules while studying maths I found both History of Maths and Numerical Analysis quite reasonable. History of Maths is good, if only because you have 15 CATS out the way in good time and the essays are quite reasonable in size. Also I echo Ben’s comments, Jeremy Gray = Legend (He was on News Night a couple of weeks ago and was the only lecture I had who was applauded after the final lecture) so if he’s still doing it it’s well worth it.

    Numerical Analysis is good but was somewhat wierd this year, don’t know if it’ll be the same guy next year. About half the class seemed to drop away by the end of it because the lectures weren’t really that helpful and the assignments were a long time in coming (the last one was 4 weeks after the end of the course!) but I seem to remember most of the people who stuck with it did quite well as the lecture notes were good for what you needed and if you can do a bit of programming the assignments were not bad to do at all, also if the program works then you know when you hand it in that you’ve done ok whcih is a good boost during the second term. http://www.maths.warwick.ac.uk/~horvai/num_anal/index.html was this years material.

    And to again echo other peoples comments Variational Principles is interesting and features playing with bubbles which is good and Understanding Enterprise from WBS is another good non-exam module outside of maths.

    07 Sep 2006, 22:45

  8. Kim

    Everyone loves Knot Theory and Topology!

    As an outside option, I did a Philosophy module. it was called Scientific method, but I think it’s called Philosophy of Science or something now. Quite a nice little module though!

    08 Sep 2006, 13:22

  9. Patrick Telford

    Not sure what the situation with pass degrees is like as far as unusual options go, but two of my housemates last year took language options, which, if you’re willing to put in a bit of time, is 24 CATS of non-maths stuff that might even be useful in the future. Plus if you pick a language you’ve never done before, you’ll only be doing the very basics. I didn’t do one because I’m rubbish at languages, but for some people it’s a good option.

    As far as other choices go, Topology and Knots get a big thumbs up. Groups is hard – you have to really understand the Algebra 1 groups stuff. Topics in Mathematical Biology is quite possibly worth trying if a different lecturer is doing it this year – it really wasn’t so much the material that was the problem last year. I enjoyed Algebraic Number Theory, though it’s not for everyone. Also Weather and the Environment was a really interesting Physics option.

    09 Sep 2006, 11:27

  10. David Wood

    Consolidation is an easy 15 CATS and my advice is really make an effort with it since it DOES count towards your 3rd year Seymour.. don’t just do enough to pass it. As others have done I would also certainly encourage you to look for modules outside of the maths department… the fact you’re in this position would suggest maths isn’t your strongest point! Language courses are a popular option…..

    From the maths I agree with comments on Combinatorics.. it’s looks deceptively easy from the outside. History of Maths.. yes definately. Topics in Math Biol traditionally gets given to various temp lecturers and so is a mixed bag each year.

    If it’s exams that let you down but your assessed work and understanding is OK you could look at doing a third year essay.. you would need to find a suitable lecturer and topic.. and be prepared to work on it throughout the year.

    Remember also that for 3rd year modules term1 gets examined straight after Easter, term 2 in the second session so you may like to think ahead to spread the exams out in the summer.

    Be positive… every year many students who start off on consolidation turn things around enough to get an honours (a 2ii is not unreasonable).. but you need to be prepared to put the work in.

    Good luck!

    10 Sep 2006, 11:46

  11. The only thing I can add to the excellent advice already here is that Problem Solving was a great module last year. Really fun and a top class teacher (Pablo/Juan-Meia-Ramos – which name was the real one always confused me). Fun assessed work, fun exam – especially the discussion of the worth of using a rubric. I recommend it. That said, I don’t know if it’s running this year or has the same teacher. There were 2nd, 3rd and 4th years doing it last time though so I’m guessing it’s open to you, if it’s still running.

    18 Sep 2006, 16:07


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