Having been through the first term of my second year, here are some of my thoughts about it.
I’ve gone to all lectures this term. They have been more helpful than last year because they provide a much-needed big picture.
In year 1, the big picture was usually obvious. For example, the big picture of year 1 analysis was to rigorously prove all the results we used in calculus during secondary school. We had in mind the ideas that needs to be developed throughout the course.
However, year 2 courses escape the realm of secondary school mathematics. It’s more difficult to understand and appreciate the ideas behind each course by reading lecture notes alone. Lectures, through endless examples and occasional off-the-cuff remarks, drops hint at bigger ideas.
The quality of year 2 lecture notes is also generally worse than year 1 lecture notes. Unfortunately, I expect this trend to continue.
With all that said, I don’t particularly regret not going to most lectures in year 1.
Firstly, it trained my independent thought process. Without lectures, I had to find intuition myself. I would draw graphs / make notes / think of examples / do whatever needed to grasp the material. It’s still something I constantly do when lecturers begin mostly reading off the notes.
Secondly, it made me appreciate lectures more. From last year’s experience, I’m confident that I could work out the tedious calculations and proofs after the lecture ends. It lets me focus on the grander ideas at the moment during the lectures.
Ultimately, a lot of the learning still has to be done by myself. I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the grander ideas if I haven’t already built up a basic understanding. A relationship between supervised and unsupervised learning remains crucial.
Routines / Variety
Lectures also give rise to routines. Every day after the lectures, I would (try to) do the relevant problem sheet questions, add new material to Anki, skim tomorrow’s notes and call it a day. It certainly gives more structure to my work and makes me doubt less about whether I’m on schedule.
Personally, I feel like a variety of tasks / some sort of high-frequency routine improves my motivation. If I’m stuck doing sheets I could write Anki instead. If I’m tired of writing Anki I could look at what tomorrow’s lectures going to be about instead. If there’s always something else I could be doing, I spend less time procrastinating.
As I’ve mentioned before, I still think it’s important to spend multiple parts of the day / week on a problem sheet / course. Nice lecture lists that spread lectures out throughout the week reinforce that mode of thought.
Unshockingly, all these routines fell off after week 6 / 7. I usually find myself being far more interested in everything in my life other than mathematics during that time. I suppose it’s better to just let maths go at that point. I could still go to lectures without fully understanding all the material and it could still be a fun process.
Printing out lecture notes
Because I attended all lectures, I’ve decided to print out all lecture notes as well. It certainly does cost quite a bit (Almost 20 pounds per term), but it does help.
For example, a lot of lecturers don’t follow the lecture notes to full. Some may skip all over the place (for good or bad reasons) and it’s much easier to flip through the pages physically than electronically.
Pen and paper also make lectures electronics-free which makes it easier to focus. Annotating notes physically still feels more natural than electronic alternatives.
There’s also something nice about putting all my lecture notes aside when I’m tired or when I’m done with working that day. It enables a degree of mental compartmentalisation.
Cooking, Cycling and Shooting
On a more casual note, this was also the first term where I started cooking and cycling. Combined with daily lectures and the occasional shooting, my weekly schedule has drastically changed.
Looking back, all the changes were surprisingly manageable. It has prompted me to consider enacting more changes to my life in the future.Next oxford post Previous oxford post
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