maths study via The Open University

Unit 5 finished, unit 6 started, plus result for all of TMA 1

I’ve been rating the units for difficulty as I go along (1=easy, while 10=hard). So far, I’ve given fairly low scores to reflect the lack of (relative) difficulty in them given that the first four units were either revision of things we should have known from prerequisite courses, or were concepts leading on from them.

That changed with unit 5.

While others on the course seem to have understood it from the off, I was left scratching my head for more than a week (and a couple of re-read throughs) trying to fathom out the counter-intuitivity (for me, anyway) of Newton’s Laws of Motion – the third law in particular.

The maths in the unit was easy – decomposing vectors into i, j and k-components in terms of trig functions, then working out corresponding coefficients of friction, etc.

The bit that threw me was deciding which forces act where. Put a book on a book on a table. Not so straightforward as to what is exerting a force on what. Throw a ladder against a wall and marvel at force diagrams devoid of stress on the wall. Hmm, this took some time to figure out – not least because I didn’t twig I was drawing a force diagram for the ladder, not the *********ing wall as well. Normal force. Don’t forget him.

So, while I can’t give a difficulty rating on behalf of my peers/cohort/fellow sufferers, I’ll state mine flat out as a 9.

From no effort to head explosion in one easy go.

The penny (or box of pennies) dropped after about 8 days of read, re-read, ponder, draw, wail, cry, re-read, think, etc.

Anyway, once it made sense, the two assignment questions related to this unit (which make up a part of assignment number two) turned out to be quite straightforward. I can’t discuss them but suffice to say one was easy, the other made you think for a while.

On to unit 6…..

Finally, I get to put calculus to use. In the real world.

This is my first foray into using integral calculus to model real-world situations. It’s exempified by extending its notation to include vector notation, position vectors and the like. Great fun.

I am seriously loving this integration work and the fact that, after previous courses of manipulating calculus all over the place to arrive at some answer which, ultimately was just a jumble of “x”s, “e”s and constants, this course has, in one stroke, shown me what (integral) calculus can actually be used for. Apart from finding the area under a curve or solving an elementary volume of solids of revolution question, that is.

I’ll wait until I finish the unit and have done the assignment question before rating it out of 10 for difficulty.

I’m now one day behind where I should be on the study calendar. Saturday night is now in rather than out. I cannot fall behind on this course. The pace is swift now. It’ll only pick up…..

The result for my first assignment came back today – that is, the amalgamated score of both parts of it. Very high pass one.

But before I get carried away, there are six more written assignments, two computer-marked assignments and a three hour exam to go, plus approximately 600 hours of study and 100+ hours of revision for the exam.


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