Studying Mathematics in Germany
An article by Daniel Kastner. Cooperation from: Gabriele Meister
That is what it's about
The technical progress of modern times is inextricably linked with mathematics: No navigation system can calculate the ideal route in real time without mathematical optimisation, every search engine on the Internet needs algorithms, every weather forecast is based on mathematical predictions. The development of artificial intelligence is also based on mathematical modelling, and the autonomous vehicles of the future will use software developed using knowledge from mathematics. "Those who choose to study mathematics today will gain insight into this fascinating area of thought, while also learning to universally apply the skills they acquire to current and future issues facing our society. Mathematicians have very good job opportunities," says Sabine Pickenhain, spokesperson for the Conference of Mathematics Departments and mathematics professor at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg.
This is how the course runs
In the first four semesters, students engage in basic lectures with differential and integral calculus, linear systems of equations, matrices and vector spaces, for example. And they learn to master the precise logic of the subject as well as mathematical ways of thinking. In the third semester, lectures on stochastics, numerics and optimisation and other special fields are added.
Many universities offer programming courses. The main goal is to teach the computer to reliably solve complex tasks consisting of millions and millions of individual basic calculation options with its limited calculation accuracy. Most universities also offer a so-called application subject. Depending on the university, you can choose, for example, physics, computer science or mechanical engineering, sometimes also philosophy. An internship is usually also part of the course. After the bachelor's degree, many go on to study for a master's degree.
Typical questions raised within the subject
- How to encrypt information in such a way that it is difficult to break the code?
- How to train an artificial neural network?
- How to calculate the probability of certain events occurring on the basis of available data?
- What can an optimal radiation plan for a tumour look like?
- How to curb the exponential growth of a pathogen?
- How to optimise the flight path of an airplane so that it uses as little fuel as possible?
- How to make a weather forecast?
- How to calculate the premium for a life insurance policy?
The subject suits you,...
... you enjoyed proving equations in mathematics lessons at school and you like logical thinking. If you are in a mathematics degree course, you should enjoy solving tricky problems and are prepared to work longer on a solution. Although you do not have many lectures at the beginning, you spend a lot of time working on exercise sheets and homework. The content builds, so it is important not to fall behind. "Especially in the first year, mathematics is a difficult degree course, but it is doable, not only for mathematics aces. In the beginning, it makes sense to form learning groups," says Sabine Pickenhain. Teamwork is often required - mathematicians often work together with engineers, physicists or computer scientists, for example in the modelling and optimisation of complex energy and information networks.
Is there a numerus clausus?
At most universities in Germany you can study mathematics, usually there are no admission restrictions. "Smaller universities have the advantage that the supervision ratio is very good," says Sabine Pickenhain.