At the end of my module G11FPM Foundations of Pure Mathematics this year, one of the anonymous comments I received (on Student Evaluation of Modules) was that there appeared to be almost no maths in the module, only logic.
Of course this was only one comment from a class of over 200 students, but it left me wondering if I could do (even) more at the start of the module to warn them that much of pure mathematics at university is very different in nature to almost anything they will have seen at A level. Of course that is what my first lecture is intended to do, along with my class on “About this module”. But could I do more?
Today I gave my 30-minute “Taster Lecture” on Pure Mathematics as part of our Open Days for prospective applicants. I started the lecture by saying “Pure Maths at University is really very different from anything you will have seen at A level, because (etc.) … and some of you may not even recognise this as mathematics! But it really, really is …” (or words to that effect).
One of my colleagues tells me that one of the visitors was complaining after the lecture, saying something like “I was expecting a sample maths lecture, but that was really just logic!”
Back to the drawing board ….
Tomorrow I will start the talk by telling them “It’s maths, but not as you know it!”