The Cambridge Mathematics course is one of the most demanding and most rewarding mathematics courses in the world. It offers a wide range of subjects in pure and applied mathematics, theoretical physics and statistics.
Students are expected to study all the courses on offer in the first year (Part IA), and hence obtain a thorough background in all these areas. In the second year there is more flexibility, and there is no single course that all students must take. Some students choose to begin specialising in one area of mathematics, be it pure, applied or applicable (the latter referring to probability and statistics). It is, however, still possible to study most of the courses to cover greater breadth of material. Students then specialise in the third year (Part II) by choosing somewhere between 8 and 12 courses out of the 35 on offer. The courses in Part II cover as diverse areas as logic, black holes, financial mathematics and many more. In the second and third years there is also an optional Computational Projects course for which students investigate mathematical problems using numerical techniques.
After three years of studies about two thirds of students graduate with a BA, whereas the rest continue studying for a fourth year of the course known as Part III which leads to an MMath degree. For most people, Part III is the stepping stone to research. Many of the most famous mathematicians and physicists of the world today took this course.
There is also a `Mathematics with Physics' option. Students taking this option replace 25% of the first year of Mathematics with lectures and practicals offered by the Physics Department within Natural Sciences. At the end of the first year students taking this option can choose either to change to Natural Sciences to study Physics or to continue studying mathematics as part of the Mathematics course.
Mathematics at Peterhouse
We currently take around 8 students per year making Mathematics one of the bigger subjects in Peterhouse. We have 4 Fellows covering a wide range of research interests. Much of the College-based teaching(supervisions) in the first two years of the course is delivered by Peterhouse Fellows with the help of two long-serving supervisors from other colleges. In the third year, colleges form groups and divide the task of arranging supervisions within the group. In the case of Peterhouse, it is Trinity College that arranges supervisions for our students. It is still the case that in some subjects the supervisor will be a Peterhouse Fellow.
Famous Petreans in Mathematics include Lord Kelvin (of temperature fame), Charles Babbage (programmable computer), Klaus Roth (winner of the Fields Medal in 1958, Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse) and Charles Burkill (former Master of the college, his textbooks on analysis are to this day on the Mathematics reading lists). Current Fellows and their research interests in Mathematics are:
Dr Anders Hansen (Bye-Fellow and Director of Studies): applied functional analysis, spectral theory, compressed sensing, mathematical signal processing, sampling theory, computational harmonic analysis, inverse problems, complexity theory, geometric integration, numerical analysis, C*-algebras.
Dr Tomislav Plesa (Fellow and Director of Studies): analyzing, characterizing and applying mathematical models in the context of biology (principally constructing deterministic and stochastic dynamical systems in biochemical systems).
Dr Lloyd Fung (Research Fellow): understanding emergent phenomena in biology by a combination of advanced computational and mathematical techniques.
All applicants for Mathematics will be expected to be taking Mathematics and Further Mathematics to A level, or to be following an equivalent course of mathematical study (for example, the IB). Note that if your school does not offer teaching for Further Mathematics, you may be able to get help from the Further Mathematics Support Programme. Students studying the International Baccalaureate should take IB Higher Level 'Analysis and Approaches'.
In the first year only, there are two options: Pure and Applied Mathematics; and Mathematics with Physics. Candidates who intend to take the latter option are expected to indicate this when they apply, but a final decision does not have to be made at that stage. For more information see the Faculty course guide. Physics to A level or equivalent is considered advantageous for all applicants to Mathematics. Note that Maths with Physics has requirements for prior study of Physics, see the Natural Sciences page on the University website for more information.
The application process
At Peterhouse, candidates based for educational purposes in the UK will be interviewed in person whereas candidates based overseas will be interviewed online. In both cases, there will be two interviews, both of which aim to test your ability to think about unfamiliar mathematical problems. The material required to solve these problems does not go beyond what candidates would have already covered in school and no special preparation is necessary. One interview will be preceded by preparation time of approximately 45 minutes to an hour, during which you will attempt questions for discussion in the interview that follows. In the other interview, you will be given questions to think about during the interview itself. Candidates wishing to study Mathematics with Physics will have an additional Physics interview.
Typical conditional offers
All our successful applicants will be given a STEP condition as part of their offer, typically 1,1 in STEP II and III. Those taking A Levels will also be asked to achieve typically A*A*A in relevant subjects. Those taking the IB will usually be asked for a minimum of 40-42 points to include 776 or 777 at Higher level in relevant subjects. Those studying for other qualifications will be given an equivalent offer.
Offers are designed to be realistic, taking into account individual circumstances, and to reflect potential and likely levels of achievement. Although most applicants are understandably nervous about interviews and STEP Mathematics, we have found them to be a better indicator of mathematical potential than A level results alone.
We make extensive use of STEP for the following reasons:
(i) We can see the exact marks and even the scripts;
(ii) It compares, reasonably fairly, candidates with different backgrounds, providing a common exam for all candidates who may be taking A levels from different examining boards or, indeed, other kinds of sixth-form examination;
(iii) Most importantly, we believe that it tests the mathematical ingenuity and potential of a candidate better than the rather standard A level questions. However, the papers contain a wide range of questions so that candidates who have taken different A level syllabuses should be able to find sufficient questions on material which they have covered.
The papers are designed to be substantially more challenging than A levels. Candidates are advised to obtain past papers for practice. We do not expect candidates to receive extensive additional teaching for STEP. The Faculty offers a range of resources to help students prepare for STEP, including an online support programme. Further information can be found in the Faculty's Guide to Admissions in Mathematics. Although the level of our offers may seem high, we often admit a small number of candidates who narrowly fail to meet the conditions they were set.