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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Maths - Naomi Arnold

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Photo of maths studentsNaomi Arnold
Maths student Naomi Arnold

Learning to love Maths

Maths is certainly not something I’ve been passionate about my whole life; on the contrary, I often found it a ‘necessary evil’ through a fair bit of school - something that you just had to do - and it just so happened that I was good at it. ‘Maths’ and ‘fun’ were generally two disjoint things and it was only in my later years of school that I began to experience the sense of joy (albeit after a fair bit of frustration) of solving mathematical problems, through some class trips to the Maths Inspiration roadshows and some off-curriculum maths classes related to number theory that our teacher put on after the end of exams.

Aiming high

Deciding to apply to Cambridge was a choice I made after attending a Sutton Trust summer school in Cambridge. I loved the challenge of working on more open-ended and exciting problems than you ever got in school exams and the sample supervision, as well as meeting other people who were as passionate (if not more!) about maths as I was.

I would say that if you enjoy the challenge and reward that comes with doing maths, do have a think about applying to study it here at Cambridge. The course is certainly difficult at times but interesting and rewarding in equal measure, and the supportive, empowering and friendly community of Murray Edwards College is a fantastic place to do it!

Living in Murray Edwards College

Murray Edwards has provided a great ‘home base’ for my time so far in Cambridge - it is situated slightly out of the centre which means it’s quite peacefully away from the buzz and busyness of central Cambridge but near enough to walk or cycle to lectures. I’ve found there’s an excellent sense of community here where the staff such as the porters, gardeners and Dome staff genuinely do their best to make everybody feel at home and welcomed. The Freshers all live in the same block (and are usually placed next to one other person doing their subject) which really helps you get to know people in your year group, and you are assigned a ‘college mum’, usually someone in your subject in the year above, who you can go to with any questions and will be there if you need any help or just a cup of tea and a chat!

Studying

My average week in Cambridge during my first year consisted of six days of lectures (yes six, sorry!) with two 50-minute lectures per day finishing around lunchtime, and roughly two hours’ worth of supervisions a week. A lot of my independent study time in afternoons and evenings were spent in the maths faculty or library, or indeed my room, working on the example sheets, which are sets of challenging but enjoyable problems related to the lecture courses. It certainly took a bit of time getting used to the challenge of the example sheets as they felt a lot more demanding than the type of questions that I’d encountered in school, as well as learning the new skill of ‘writing’ maths. This however was helped by the Murray Edwards Gateway Programme workshops whose purpose in the first year is to help ease the transition between school and university level study.

One of the things I’ve loved about the course in first year is that whilst of course the end of year exams are important, the lectures and example sheets up to April haven’t all revolved just around preparing for exams but rather allow you to develop your problem skills and deepen your knowledge and understanding of the various courses, without simply being exam geared, which really helps you develop your enjoyment of the subject.

And socialising

When I’m not in lectures/supervisions or sipping tea and powering through an example sheet, I enjoy socialising with friends or going to local events. Cambridge  provides such a fantastic and unique opportunity to get involved in societies or go to events either for free or very cheaply, such as productions by students involved in musical theatre, as well as events within the city in general, like the incredible bonfire night fireworks display on one of the greens close to the centre. The societies in Cambridge encompass a huge range of interests from the popular to the obscure, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for you can always set one up yourself. This year I am hoping to get involved with the Emmy Noether Society which is a society promoting women in Mathematics, as well as hopefully some volunteering schemes.