High school mathematics classes are very different than those at university. Yes, mathematics classes at university are more difficult, but it is more than just that. When you learn mathematics at high school, all of the classes are about solving problems. The students are presented with the theory, the teacher demonstrates how to solve the problem using the theory and then the students try it for themselves.

What happens at university? Firstly, the classes are now lectures and so mathematics is now presented to the student rather than co-created with the student. Some problems are demonstrated, but often the lecture is mostly theory. The drawback is that the student must choose to put in the time in doing the problems outside of the class.

Some universities provide one hour of tutorial time per week or per two weeks. In these tutorials, often a postgraduate at the university will help the students in solving problems from a problem set. While this is welcomed, often the postgraduate is not as approachable as a high school teacher. The same can be said about the lecturer. Yes, you will find some lecturers who are only too happy to offer one-to-one time helping the students but this is not the norm. Most lecturers have their time taken up by research and they view classes as a secondary role of their job. This, of course, is not true for all third level institutes.

In addition to this, the mathematics courses themselves vary. For example, a student taking a course in statistics would be solving many more problems than a student taking pure algebra. Most questions in pure algebra are not "problem based" but rather "proof based". That is, in statistical classes the student will need to solve a problem and in pure mathematical classes students would mostly be proving a result. The former is more reminiscent of high school mathematics classes.

My advice for students entering a mathematics course at a university would be to stay on top of the questions or problems the lecturer assigns. You will not have the same time in class you would have had at high school for solving problems. Mathematics is not a spectator sport; you must work at it. Mathematics is presented to students as something to "watch" but it is something to work at. And of course, if you find yourself having trouble in your course, then seek help straight away!

What happens at university? Firstly, the classes are now lectures and so mathematics is now presented to the student rather than co-created with the student. Some problems are demonstrated, but often the lecture is mostly theory. The drawback is that the student must choose to put in the time in doing the problems outside of the class.

Some universities provide one hour of tutorial time per week or per two weeks. In these tutorials, often a postgraduate at the university will help the students in solving problems from a problem set. While this is welcomed, often the postgraduate is not as approachable as a high school teacher. The same can be said about the lecturer. Yes, you will find some lecturers who are only too happy to offer one-to-one time helping the students but this is not the norm. Most lecturers have their time taken up by research and they view classes as a secondary role of their job. This, of course, is not true for all third level institutes.

In addition to this, the mathematics courses themselves vary. For example, a student taking a course in statistics would be solving many more problems than a student taking pure algebra. Most questions in pure algebra are not "problem based" but rather "proof based". That is, in statistical classes the student will need to solve a problem and in pure mathematical classes students would mostly be proving a result. The former is more reminiscent of high school mathematics classes.

My advice for students entering a mathematics course at a university would be to stay on top of the questions or problems the lecturer assigns. You will not have the same time in class you would have had at high school for solving problems. Mathematics is not a spectator sport; you must work at it. Mathematics is presented to students as something to "watch" but it is something to work at. And of course, if you find yourself having trouble in your course, then seek help straight away!

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