What’s it like studying Mathematics?

Ben Higginbottom

Throughout school, I had the pleasure of being taught by many inspirational teachers and as a result decided I wanted to work in education myself one day. The most natural path to achieve this was to study towards a degree, which then left me with one big question to answer: What subject would be right for me?

So, why maths?

In sixth form, I studied Maths, Further Maths and Sociology – quite a unique combination! Although I enjoyed both subject areas greatly, the satisfaction of finally understanding difficult topics in Maths was where I found the most pleasure. Nothing beats the feeling of finally mastering new material and I was excited by the prospect of continuing this at university, hence why I chose maths.

What is degree-level maths like?

Despite this excitement, the one thing I really wasn’t prepared for was the difference between school and university style maths. Since starting at Durham, there has been a great focus on proving and deriving the theorems and concepts we encounter in the course. At first, I found this transition quite tough, but the frequent tutorials throughout first year really helped me to get a grasp of this very different way of learning maths. These small group sessions are a particular benefit of studying at Durham – they more closely reflect school style teaching by providing opportunities for group work, and I found having the help of the expert tutors to be invaluable.

Why Durham?

This was just one of the many reasons why I chose Durham. Right from the very first day I arrived here, I have found the support, both academically and pastorally, to be incredible. The collegiate system was another big draw to me, and I really have found it to be a great way to make friends and really feel part of a community.

In Fresher’s week, during the welcome matriculation (a large ceremony celebrating the arrival of new students) one of the speakers explained a mantra that has stuck with me: studying at Durham is about far more than just getting a degree. The ability to join societies and partake in sport, both at a college and University wide level, along with opportunities to attend events like formals, balls and college days are all nice perks of studying at Durham.

My favourite thing about studying at Durham

By far, my favourite part of studying here has been the friendships I’ve made along the way with other students on my course. The demands of a maths degree are hard: there’s regular assignments, lots of contact hours and some particularly difficult content to get to grips with. Without the support and encouragement of the people on my course, I simply wouldn’t be able to do this degree. Whether it’s sitting together in lectures, working through questions together, or socialising on the weekend – the best parts of my week are the time we all spend together.

Me and some of my course friends at Maths Society Ball 2022

Discover more

Our Department of Mathematical Sciences combines world-leading research with a dedication to the learning experience of our students. Ranked 7th in the UK in The Complete University Guide 2022, we offer a unique blend of high-quality teaching and research across a wide range of disciplines and provide practical experience to support future careers and employment prospects. 

Feeling inspired? Visit our Mathematical Sciences webpages to learn more about our postgraduate and undergraduate programmes. 

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Ben Higginbottom

Hello! I’m Ben and I’m a second year at John Snow College studying BSc Mathematics. Aside from my degree commitments, I also enjoy getting involved with outreach work for the University through my roles as a Student Ambassador, mentor in a local school, and as a maths tutor too. I am also a member of my college’s finance committee as well as the Mathematical Society.

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