For Future Students

Program Guide: Studying Mathematics at University

Kummer surface 2 One of the inescapable facts of life is that it is sometimes necessary to make difficult decisions. One such time occurs at the transition from secondary school to university: what subjects do you drop, and what subjects do you pursue at the tertiary level?

Of course, we recommend mathematics! But in this Program Guide we assume that you have already made the decision to study at least some mathematics, and merely describe the various alternatives available to you.

Fortunately, deciding which mathematics units to take in first year is usually a fairly strightforward matter, since the choice is largely determined by what mathematics you have studied prior to university. Of course you do also have to ensure that your choice is compatible with the regulations of your degree program.

Who does maths?

At the University of Sydney all science and engineering students are required to take at 12 credit points of mathematics (normally in first year), and all engineering students take at least one 6 credit point second year mathematics unit. But mathematics is certainly not restricted to students from these two faculties, and many students from other faculties—such as Arts, Economics and Education–choose to enrol in mathematics units.

We run first year units—technically called Junior units—at three levels: Fundamental units, designed for students who have done HSC Mathematics, Mainstream units, for those who have done HSC Mathematics Extension 1, and Advanced units, for those who have done HSC Mathematics Extension 2. There is an introductory calculus unit for students who have not done HSC Mathematics, and a Talented Students Program for really exceptional students who want a more challenging program. There is something for everyone!

All Fundamental, Mainstream and Advanced Junior mathematics units are worth 3 credit points, and most students enrol in four of these. Note that Junior Mathematics incorporates Junior Statistics: one of the Fundamental units, one of the Mainstream units and one of the Advanced units are devoted to Statistics. There is also a 6 credit point Statistics unit, designed for students who have done HSC General Mathematics; this unit is not available to students in the Science or Engineering Faculties.

Whatever mathematics or statistics units you choose to take, you will be taught by friendly, knowledgeable staff dedicated to making your learning experience enjoyable as well as beneficial.

How is mathematics taught?

In most units you will attend lectures and tutorials. Lectures are where you are introduced to course material, and tutorials are smaller classes where you can interact with teachers and other students as you work on exercises. Most units also have assignment work where you can test your understanding as it develops and get written feedback on your work. Each unit of study has its own website, through which extensive resources for the unit are made available to students; the website is updated each week while the unit is running. In some units you may also use computers to help you solve different sorts of problems or to give fresh insights into what you are learning in lectures.

What is university life like?

University is not like school. You are expected to take much more responsibility for your learning—nobody will chase you up. But help is always at hand if you need it; you only have to ask! Life at uni also offers much more freedom and independence than school. As well Sydney University presents students with many more opportunities beyond the purely academic. You will certainly meet lots of new people and make new friends. You can also join in any of a vast number of social or sporting activities, become involved in student representation, in drama, music, religion, learn new skills or develop existing cultural interests. You name it, it's probably happening here!

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