Eureka moments – and satisfaction
I suppose if you’re reading this blog, you either study maths/physics with The Open University, or got lost on your travels around the internet.
Assuming it’s the former, then you’ll probably agree that there’s something immensely satisfying about working something out for yourself – particularly when you’ve found the concept / method / thing awkward / difficult / impossible to begin with.
It didn’t make you financially richer, didn’t get you a promotion at work and, on the face of it, was probably a lot of time invested for one tiny step forward.
But it does feel good.
So, unit 17 has clicked into place and lots of things are linking up. My mathematical modelling molecules are starting to take the shape of a very basic life-form.
This week has been a differential equations party (real and complex), an algebra feast, and a bit of a head-scratcher.
The unit has introduced the ideas behind strong, weak and critical damping, the “model damper”, systems analogous to the model damper, combination damping, the damping ratio, a method of using the quadratic discriminant to investigate damping levels / strengths, decaying amplitude, forced damping, forcing by displacement, steady state solutions, magnification factors, resonance and, of course, methods to model, investigate, and objectively analyse, both quantitatively and qualitatively, all of the above.
The TMA question was not what I was expecting. I am peering at it with a quizzical eye.
That, alone, will not be enough, however.
I have one large study session to go on unit 17 – ie all day tomorrow – then on to the TMA question on Sunday – probably all day as it’s worth 32 marks out of the 95 assigned to the maths in the TMA. Yeeeeeeeek. (The other 5 marks go on presentation, presumably in an effort to help retain the sanity of the tutors who have to mark questions which can range over 10 or more pages, which would be a bit of a drag if the whole thing was just slapped together without breaks, explanations, justifications and neat writing / typing / LaTeX).
So, with 20 minutes down time before walking the dog, I’m sitting here pondering something that’s being pondered on at least two other OU maths blogs right now – is the chase for cracking TMA marks coming at the expense of deep learning?
By that, I mean, is obsessing over the TMA costing time otherwise available to get an even deeper understanding?
I like to think I’m logical and can crack most problems. But I also have a **** memory.
Or do I?
Maybe I just concentrate on cracking the problems and not on really learning the material?
I’ll find out soon enough in the exam, but it does concern me.
I dislike the fact that I can barely remember the linear algebra from M208 last year although, curiously, almost all of the group theory and real analysis sits fairly fresh in my head.
Maybe the factor of “interest” comes into play here.
I found linear algebra boring but liked the other components.
With MS221, I liked the calculus and complex number stuff, plus some of the conic stuff. I disliked the number theory, recurrence relations and several other things.
Guess which I can remember?
So, how come I like everything in MST209, though I’ve found some of it very difficult, yet don’t seem to remember bits of it already?
Is it because it’s vast?
Is the learning pace too swift for me?
Or am I dealing with it like it’s a course of here-and-now problems to be solved – ie TMAs – as opposed to a blueprint to a mathematical skill set?
I’d be interested in other students’ thoughts – is the course so huge no one can take ownership of it first time round, or have I evolved into a TMA-completer who doesn’t know the subject?