maths study via The Open University

Archive for February, 2011

Unit 5, and a summary of units 1 to 4.

Unit 1: a review of stuff OU students will have covered in MST121 and MS221. Difficulty: 1 out of 10.
Unit 2: first order differential equations – straightforward techniques but a bit to remember. Difficulty: 3 out of 10.
Unit 3: second order differential equations – revolves around solving auxiliary equations and finding particular integrals – moderate calculus required. Difficulty: 2 out of 10.
Unit 4: vector algebra – I preferred the way MST121 dealt with the dot product. Cross product is straightforward. Assignment question is a little odd. Difficulty: 3 out of 10.


Second (final) part of first assignment done. Difficulty: 3 out of 10.


And so, on to unit 5, which introduces Newton’s Laws of Motion and gets up to pace very rapidly. Deceptive amount covered in relatively few pages. Looking toward the next few chapters, I can see the need to be able to model, mathematically, many varied situations.

My interest in unit 5 – which tackled statics – is high.

I watched this excellent video from MIT, which is a great introduction to the topic:

Handy links for MST209

I’ll be posting up links used to supplement my own study of The Open University 2nd level course MST209 here.

It will hopefully build into a composition of excellent free stuff for maths undergraduates.

Visitors, especially those new to the MST209 course materials, may find these handy. I will almost certainly be using these links for revision.

So, just over 2 weeks into the course, and tying in with unit 3, section 2 (inhomogeneous differential equations), I watched:

This is a great video from Graeme Boswell of the University of Glamorgan on solving a particular non-homogeneous, second order linear diff equation.

MST209 and M248 kick off

So, a couple of weeks into both and here are my thoughts:

M248 (analysing data):
Pretty straightforward. I haven’t spent much time on this so far. The TMA dates are stored in my head and I figure 8 hours a week (ie a straight run each Sunday) will suffice to get through the material and do the TMAs. The maths itself within the course is quite low brow.

Hmm. The maths itself seems straightforward so far (the first few units). The first TMA went fine. No surprises aside from what read (to me) as a slight ambiguity in one sub section of one question. I went for the long-winded route to hopefully cover everything expected off.

The maths thus far seems no more difficult than M208’s. I feel quite comfortable with it at the moment.

However, the course is huge. The reading material is well-laid out but there’s a lot of it. And the time taken to do this is nearly matched by the time needed to get to grips properly with the course’s computer software package. It’s quite precise in its needs. I’ll say no more – aside from that I think it’s likely to prove frustrating when I do hit a sticking point – the time I’d like to have to overcome any maths problems is likely to be used up in the software programming aspects.

MIT’s lectures on differential equations, which I watched online between October and now complement some sections of MST209 well.

However, there’s a lot of engineering/physics-type applications in MST209 which is all new to me – it takes a little time to adjust to working very real-world problems – particularly with the scientific notation. All this 5 x 10^(-7) stuff – ie tiny.

Liking both courses so far.

I need a distinction on either M248 or MST209 to stay on track for a first class honours degree. The other can be a bare pass – it makes no difference to the weighting of my final degree marks thanks to my M208 distinction grading.

I’m hoping the engineering applications get a bit heavier in MST209 – they’re a source of new interest for me – particularly when it comes to the forces involved in construction. There’s a very interesting DVD which accompanies the course with lots of exploration of real world problems – such as how flying buttresses were used to reinforce the walls in old cathedrals. That probably sounds a bit dry but it’s actually fascinating (really).

Study looks something like this:

Monday-Friday: 6pm to 9pm MST209 study.
Saturday: 1pm-4pm and 6pm to 9pm MST209 study and assignment answering.
Sunday: 1pm-9pm: M248 without a break, aside from making coffee.

This 90 point selection (60 for MST209 and 30 for M248) is equivalent to 75% of a full-time undergraduate maths degree workload.

So coupled with my full-time job of about 40 hours a week, plus up to 10 hours of travel, my days are full of:


Next year will be worse since I’ll be taking 3 x 30 point courses, and 2 x 30 point courses =more material than 1 x 60 point course.

Lectures are miles and miles away. I don’t think I’ll make any since the closest I’m officially down for involves a near 140 mile round trip.

Next update probably next month.