One key concept of Michael’s Maths degree is finding proof.
Michael knows he needs to use logical arguments to come up with a hypothesis that will lead to the conclusion.
Maths also involves being able to give precise and brief explanations to quite complex and wide-ranging problems.
Michael’s key advice for other budding mathematicians is to never give up and to trust your instincts.
What are the top attributes you’ve developed through your degree?
Explain and argue clearly and concisely:
My degree is nothing more really than about one aspect which is proof and proof is simply nothing more than an explanation about why something is true, so I’ve spent 2 years now doing nothing but providing arguments that are logical and start from a hypothesis and end at a conclusion. Of course it’s not just important to be able to provide these arguments, but you want to try and strive to give arguments and explanations that are precise, clear, sharp and brief; these are characteristics that are encouraged in our degree programme.
Respond appropriately to criticism:
In my first year there was an additional question that we could choose to do, it was more of a challenge question. I found out later most students didn’t even attempt it because of the level of difficulty but I was really enthusiastic and I really wanted to try and do it. It actually took me just over a month to be able to solve it but through the entire month all I was doing was essentially the wrong thing – I was being criticised constantly for an incorrect approach, for nothing having understood a particular topic before well enough to do the problem, but being able to respond during that time and to not give up has really meant that I could solve the problem eventually.
Connect information and ideas within my field of study:
Mathematics is a subject that builds on itself and it tries whenever possible to generalise. In fact some people say that mathematical beauty is about encapsulating as much as possible in as little writing as possible. As a result I’ve spent my two years here facing the challenge of being able to think very deeply about what I’m learning and see connections between these subjects, to be able to integrate ideas and hopefully develop a wide awareness for the subject as a whole.
What are the top attributes you’ve developed through a chosen module?
Develop effective written and spoken English:
In my second year I did a module called Mathematical Writing. This is a module that teaches you the language of higher mathematics and how to use it with precision and fluency in a variety of contexts. Using assessments and examination it tries to test your ability to be able to communicate Mathematics to different types of people effectively, concisely and successfully.
Apply different forms of communication in various social, professional and cultural settings:
I had a coursework question where I had to explain the concept of the natural logarithm function, but I had to do it in roughly 150 words and I had to do it in two instances. In the first instance I had to communicate this to an advanced mathematician but in the second instance I had to do the same thing to someone who has very little mathematical background. Of course in the first scenario, my objective is to be as technical as possible whereas in the second scenario I have to try and minimise the technicalities and be as simple as possible.
Develop a strong sense of intellectual integrity:
You are forced to take far more responsibility in this module and accept that challenge and rely on your own intuition, your own problem solving skills, your own creativity and to trust those instincts.