Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research

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Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research is a broad grouping of subjects which may be studied as full programmes or as part of other STEM subjects.

Further information

This information below is relevant to education levels Higher Education. The information below is suitable for Assistive Technologist, Disability Practitioner, Lecturer, Student, Teacher. Further information can be found at:

What is maths and stats?

The main aim of a mathematical degree is to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a broad range of mathematics and statistics and applications of those topics.

Mathematical subjects are not simply calculation or arithmetic, nor are they mainly about following processes or algorithms as in Secondary Education. Students in Higher Education will be expected to demonstrate these skills at an advanced level but they will also meet new facets of mathematics for the first time. These include:

  • Learning a wide range of techniques for solving problems
  • Working logically and persistently to abstract the essentials of problems
  • Evaluating, selecting and implementing appropriate mathematical and statistical techniques
  • Modelling real world phenomena and applying techniques to problems from other disciplines
  • Working flexibly and transferring knowledge from one context to another
  • Developing and structuring in-depth formal, logical or mathematical arguments written in English and notation
  • Communicating mathematical and statistical findings to others including using conventional notations precisely and accurately
  • Producing diagrams
  • Working in groups

Much assessment is via unseen examination and students are expected to demonstrate a reasonable understanding of the main body of knowledge. This will include precise and accurate communication of internalised concepts and may require students to state specific information from memory.

Most students will handwrite the majority of their notes, work and exams as for most people it is easier to handwrite mathematics than to use a computer. In some departments there is no formal classes on producing electronic mathematical documents. In other departments students may learn to do this and most usually will produce Word or LaTeX to do so. Producing such documents efficiently and effectively is an advanced skill and may not be taught until final year, if at all. Students who need to use these methods as part of their day to day studies will need to learn how to use these methods earlier than other students.

It is important to understand that standard assistive technologies will not necessarily work with mathematical notation in commonly used document formats. This includes notation embedded within English text so that the whole cannot be accessed or created effectively. Assistive technology may also fail to function with mathematical and statistical software students are required to use in their studies.

This website should help you to locate working methods that are viable.

What are lectures like?

It is important to see mathematics performed live as many skills are communicated by demonstration. This means that:

  • Lectures will often use a blackboard, whiteboard or a visualiser to enable the lecturer to handwrite mathematics in real time. These arguments may be long and take up considerable space.
  • Lecturers may not have slides which they can provide in advance.
  • If a student needs notes in advance these may need to be specially prepared.

Students will need a way to:

  • Transcribe completely and precisely from the board
  • Replicate diagrams accurately
  • Assimilate verbal exposition while annotating the written form in real time

What do students do outside of class?

Mathematics is characterised by the need for a high degree of conceptual and abstract thinking within the learning process. Once a concept is learned particular examples are understood more easily in that context. This means that:

  • It is vital for students to perform mathematics and practice the techniques they are learning.
  • Lecturers will often provide regular exercise sheets which may or may not be for marks. Sheets may be worked on in small group classes.
  • When working students need to comprehend problems and select appropriate techniques independently, perhaps with tutor assistance to start off with.

Doing mathematics

Mathematics involves large quantities of unusual notation that may be difficult to convert to audio, large print or Braille. It may also be difficult for sign language interpreters to interpret. Mathematical subjects also use graphical representations of data and visualisation of abstract concepts which may be used for brevity of explanation.

Students will need methods to:

  • Use notation precisely
  • Draw diagrams accurately
  • Draw analogies between intuitive thought and precisely defined concepts
  • Read and produce rigorous, well structured formal arguments
  • Analyse data

Most people find it easier to produce mathematical notation and arguments in a handwritten form as it is a skill to use a computer for this. Students who need to use a computer will have to learn how to do so.

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