What is it like to go to school in one of the best universities in the world?

Sep 2018
40
Sri Lanka
#1
If I, a dumb person, went to let's say Oxford or Harvard or any of those top 10 universities in the world, sat down with a professor there and they teach me geometry, would I become really smart in geometry?
 
Mar 2018
379
UK
#2
Oxford gives you the best resources possible to learn, i.e.: easy access to books and easy access to people to learn from. The tutorial system is also good at adding enough pressure to make you sit down and study on a weekly basis; although putting teenagers under constant pressure has it's own set of downsides... HOWEVER, fundamentally teaching is a reflexive activity. You teach yourself geometry, nobody else can make you understand it. If you're not willing to put in the time and effort, being in Oxford won't help you at all. There is also some element of aptitude - it might be genetic, taught from early childhood, or something else - but it is there. That determines how much effort it will take you to learn something.

So, no, going to Oxford and sitting down with a professor won't make you good at geometry. It will, however, give you the opportunity to become good at geometry and, with natural aptitude, make it easier for you to become so.
 
May 2018
72
Houston, TX
#3
If I, a dumb person, went to let's say Oxford or Harvard or any of those top 10 universities in the world, sat down with a professor there and they teach me geometry, would I become really smart in geometry?
Better to have learned the rudiments of math/geometry in primary school, then to a major university to gain proficiency. Also: going to a university where geometry is taught would be better than going where geometry is not taught.....
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
24,492
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#4
If I, a dumb person, went to let's say Oxford or Harvard or any of those top 10 universities in the world, sat down with a professor there and they teach me geometry, would I become really smart in geometry?
In dumb geometry ... learning capabilities tend to be related to the attention capability of the brain and it seems that this capability has got a kind of basic value and a kind of maximum value [at the end the brain can be compared to a muscle. You can train it, but if you are a little man, you will reach a limit, lifting weights, before of a big man].

Anyway, about human brain psychology jumps in and the first question would be:

is that person dumb because of "structural reasons" or because of envirnmental reasons? In the second case may be that dumb student could graduate at Oxforn and win a Nobel Prize ...
 

GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
4,801
Wirral
#5
Speaking of geometry, I’ve read that mathematics is unique in that there is a quantum step in difficulty at about pre-university level. I certainly found that to be the case. Up to the age of about 16 maths was as easy as reading and writing, I could cope with differential calculus but above that level it was pretty well a complete mystery and I don’t think it was a case of needing to work harder, my brain didn’t seem to be able to handle the concepts.

I haven’t noticed that sudden step up in difficulty with other subjects.
 
Likes: Linschoten
Aug 2015
2,227
uk
#6
At ghe highest level there has to be some natural ability. A sports coach might make you better at playing football, but he won't make you Ronaldo. A physics teacher will improve your physics but won't make you Einstein.

I'm guessing that to study at that level you already have to have some ability or at the very least be utterly dedicated to the subject. I also assume that tutors at this level would be specialised at teaching people like this; they may not be the best people to teach someone from scratch, or someone with no natural ability.

The very best teachers (imho) are those who bring a subject to life and make it interesting, and know what pushes the buttons of individual students to get them to perform to the best of their abilities. Perhaps at the very top level the abilities required from a teacher are different.
 
Mar 2018
379
UK
#7
Speaking of geometry, I’ve read that mathematics is unique in that there is a quantum step in difficulty at about pre-university level. I certainly found that to be the case. Up to the age of about 16 maths was as easy as reading and writing, I could cope with differential calculus but above that level it was pretty well a complete mystery and I don’t think it was a case of needing to work harder, my brain didn’t seem to be able to handle the concepts.

I haven’t noticed that sudden step up in difficulty with other subjects.
Speaking of geometry, I’ve read that mathematics is unique in that there is a quantum step in difficulty at about pre-university level. I certainly found that to be the case. Up to the age of about 16 maths was as easy as reading and writing, I could cope with differential calculus but above that level it was pretty well a complete mystery and I don’t think it was a case of needing to work harder, my brain didn’t seem to be able to handle the concepts.

I haven’t noticed that sudden step up in difficulty with other subjects.
I don't think it's the difficulty per se that changes, more what is studied. Everything up to 16 is about numbers, even when you have variables or operators as in calculus, they all stand in for an (unknown) number, or do something to numbers. University maths is far more abstract, you deal with maps and sets and topologies and various properties which have nothing to do numbers. You're no longer computing things, but proving them. Completely different task requiring very different skills.

It's like if all the history you did up to 16 was memorising dates when things happened, and after that you're suddenly asked to explain why things happened. It isn't necessarily harder (specially if you're memory is as bad as mine!), but it's a completely different subject.
 

GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
4,801
Wirral
#8
I don't think it's the difficulty per se that changes, more what is studied. Everything up to 16 is about numbers, even when you have variables or operators as in calculus, they all stand in for an (unknown) number, or do something to numbers. University maths is far more abstract, you deal with maps and sets and topologies and various properties which have nothing to do numbers. You're no longer computing things, but proving them. Completely different task requiring very different skills.

It's like if all the history you did up to 16 was memorising dates when things happened, and after that you're suddenly asked to explain why things happened. It isn't necessarily harder (specially if you're memory is as bad as mine!), but it's a completely different subject.
It was engineering I did at Uni, not maths but yes, calling it a completely different subject is a good way of putting it. I feel better now. :):)
 
Likes: Olleus

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,613
#9
I never heard of courses in geometry at Oxford, Harvard, etc. You would need to have learned that to get into those schools.

The professors there are not necessarily good teachers, and they don't sit down with you and teach.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
2,565
Las Vegas, NV USA
#10
You go to schools like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or Yale because of the name. Yes they may have the stars on the faculty but as undergraduates its better to go to a cheaper school (at least in the US) and get the grades you need for graduate school. For law, medicine and any kind of scientific research you want to go to the schools with the best reputation. You certainly don't go to Oxford to learn geometry. You might go Oxford (or more likely Cambridge ;)) to find new applications in algebraic geometry for your PhD thesis. Coming out of a top school really helps get funds to finance your career. However if want a good job in business or government, NYU is just fine. Get good grades as an undergraduate and you can get into a good law, medical or grad school. If you just want to make a lot of money and can't be a rock star, get an advanced degree in business and finance, but you have to put in long hours.
 
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