Studying Maths is fun thanks to Ratkomo

Student feedback often mentions Ratkomo. It is one of the things that make it nice to study mathematics.

The corridor on the third floor of Exactum has become a base for students of mathematics. They gather there to solve their course assignments. Ratkomo also operates there, a service offered by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.  

The employed Ratkomo supervisors can be identified by their colourful high-viz vests, and they can help students with their exercises. You can also contact the supervisors remotely via Zoom according to a set weekly schedule.

Most courses also have employed assistants, supervisors who, along with their other duties, can help with the course assignments. This means studying does not have to mean struggling alone.

How do you study mathematics?

The table groups spread along the corridor invite students to work together, and studying together in Ratkomo goes like this:

“Take out your assignment and you have the material. The idea is to look for definitions or clauses that can act as tools for solving problems”, says Eetu Halme, a master's student in mathematics and statistics, and coordinator of Ratkomo.

Solutions are often bandied, and ideas slung back and forth, and in the end the calculations are written down in notebooks or on the tabletop, and then the students consider whether they make any sense. The objective is to prove that something is true.

The process is like a labyrinth with one starting point, but you can take many different routes to the solution, and sometimes there may be many different answers.

“It's not always easy to bring out your own ideas; it takes courage. There are many students who are never seen on campus. We want to keep the threshold as low as possible. The supervisors are also proactive if they see someone sitting alone at a table”, says Halme.  

Eetu Halme says that mathematics is something you seldom do alone. Working together helps, and it also prepares you for a career in research.

These tables are the thing

Fifth-year statistics student Lauri Tarpila has come to complete his weekly assignments on functional analysis at a table on the third floor.

“You can draw your own stuff on the table and then wipe it off. Usually, a clean copy of the final solutions is written in a notebook.  The table is also handy for explaining something to another student. Sometimes you take a photograph of the table to hand in your assignment”, Tarpila says.

He sometimes asks a supervisor for advice or discusses the answers with one of his course mates there. But he thinks the environment is inspiring and helps him concentrate. 

“The supervisors give you a push in the right direction, but they don't solve the assignments”, he says. “During this course, we have to solve four assignments per week, so it's pretty hectic. During the Covid outbreak, student progress slowed down, and one reason was that we were left alone with our assignments”.

"What is the definition of a union?"

Ella Saunders, Saara Savolainen, and Tiia Nieminen, who are studying to be teachers, are sitting in the mathematics corridor working on assignments from the Introduction to university mathematics course, and they are being helped by the teaching assistant, third-year teacher student Paavo Ahola.  

“Introduction to university mathematics is a first-period course and very challenging for many students. You take the biggest leap at the beginning of studies, and that is when we offer the most tutoring”, says Ahola.  

Ahola supervises students at the introductory course two days a week. This gives him a total of five hours, and he also supervises the Telegrammi electronic discussion group for the course. Ahola is happy with this extra income, and it is also a good way to train for his future profession as a teacher.  

Open applications for supervisors twice a year

“You can apply to be a supervisor after you have completed the course. In practice, the applications for supervisors are open. The work is interesting, and you get paid”, says Eetu Halme.

During the pandemic, the seats at the table have been spaced out, and you can also sit in a nearby classroom or the students' room.

There is also room for improvement.

“One of the drawbacks with the space on the third floor is that it doesn't have its own entry, so we could give students the keys. It is typical that the students come to Ratkomo between lectures or as a deadline is nearing, and they sit there all day until the porters come and throw them out in the evening”, says Halme.