It’s definitely important to take a break after you finish your A-Levels. You’ll have just gone through an intense period of revision, and it’s crucial to take some time off, as you don’t want to continue studying maths straight through. Your love for maths may have dwindled a little.
However, when you’re ready to sit back down to some maths, there are plenty of useful things you can do to help you prepare for your degree:
Read some maths books recreationally
It’s important that you go to university feeling ready to engage with and love the subject you are about to start studying. A good way to put yourself in the right frame of mind is to read some popular maths books. If A-Level revision has numbed you a little, these easy reads will remind you why you love maths:
The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets – Simon Singh
Amusements in Mathematics – Henry Dudeney
Why do Buses Come in Threes – Jeremy Wyndham
The Joy of X – Steven Strogatz
The Music of the Primes – Marcus du Sautoy
The Number Devil – Hans Enzensberger
Obviously you don’t need to read all of these (unless you’re a quick reader and you’re enjoying them!), but they are all enjoyable, quirky reads that will reignite or further fuel your love of maths. You could also take a look at the books suggested in our reading list for Maths degrees.
Solve the problems set by your college, or on the university’s maths website
Most colleges set some preliminary problem sheets written by the university maths department. You’ll usually have around eight short compulsory sheets that will build and explore the content of the harder elements of your A-Levels. There may also be a few optional sheets that are considerably harder.
These sheets are a great way to strengthen your mathematical skills before you go to university, and it is definitely worth attempting some of the questions on the optional sheets. These are more in the style of the problem sheets you will have to complete throughout your degree.
Answer some problems in a bridging book
There are lots of books out there that are designed for the gap between school maths and university maths. I would definitely recommend getting one of these and working through some of the problems in it over the summer.
A few good examples of these books are:
Bridging the Gap to University Mathematics – Edward Hurst
This focuses on consolidating the knowledge accumulated at A-Level that will be required at university-level study.
How to Study for a Mathematics Degree – Lara Alcock
This is very useful as it focuses more on the adjustment to the new style of maths at university, which can be a shock.
How to Think like a Mathematician – Kevin Houston
This works through the key skills required for university maths, such as using axioms to construct a proof. This is useful to have on hand at the beginning of your degree, as it will clarify some of the things skimmed over in lectures.
Look over your A-Level notes
It is important to be completely confident with all of the A-Level content. If there were some areas that let you down in your exams, look over them and revise them a bit before heading to university. Also, the summer gives you a lot of time to forget things, so try and revise the content towards the end of the break, to make sure you have as strong a mathematical foundation as possible.
Maybe do a MAT or STEP Paper too
MAT and STEP contain problems of the style and standard of the first weeks of your undergraduate degree. It may be worth doing a couple of papers at the end of summer to get yourself into the right frame of thinking and problem solving.
And finally: Get excited!
Look at the course website and explore the different modules as much as you can. You could even have a look at our course breakdown. You’ve worked really hard for a place to study maths, whichever university you’re going to, and you want to make the most of it!