maths study via The Open University

Archive for June, 2012

Do I or don’t I

Chuck the towel in on M347, that is?

I’ll admit it’s beating me quite badly.
Forget the being behind bit – the trying to understand what’s going on bit has really got me flummoxed.
It’s weird but the maths is quite doable – easy in many respects. It’s the understanding what the heck is going on that’s got me. Badly.

There’s so much gamma this and beta that going on in unit 8, that I’m getting to a point where:
a) nothing is going in, and
b) I’m spending hours trying to find where subtle substitutions in expressions are coming from.

I think this boils down to one thing: make sure you’ve done the level two stats courses first – I haven’t.

Right now, I would consider a result, in the exam, of 16% – fail – entitled to resit to be a minor victory. As it stands, I think I’ll be lucky to get a few marks.

Which is odd given I’ve got most of the iCMA questions right – and there have been a fair few. I just have no clue of what each answer means or how it might be applied in any other context.

Mind you, everyone else on the course seems to be flying along. Maybe I’ve decided, subconsciously, to find this difficult. Who knows.

Will do another 20 hours or so over the next couple of days then make a decision.

Result back

The second TMA for M343 arrived back today.
Considering I have been assigned a temporary tutor until my regular one returns, I’m impressed by the nine day turn around – I expected to see it back nearer the end of July.

He said the same as the regular tutor – I’m over-writing, wasting time proving basic results which are given in the handbook. I thought I’d stripped this TMA down to the bone – it was half the length of TMA1.

Anyway, perfect marks on the maths questions, but a few dropped on a wordy question about fitting scenarios to models.

So, near the elusive 100% but still no cigar (I don’t think I’ll be seeing the cigar on this course).

With the CMA submitted more than a week early, that’s four of the six assignments for M343 done, though the CMA result won’t be out for another week.

Attention has now been turned, fully, to M347 – Mathematical Statistics. I got so far behind on this that I’m having to read at 4 x the course pace to catch up.

I expect to be fully caught up two days before the mid-July TMA cut-off date whereupon, of course, I’ll be behind with M343 again.

I should be fully caught up on both by the end of July, then plan to get a month ahead by the end of August by doing around 50 hours of maths a week.

I then need to complete my maths degree with three more level three maths courses and the MSXR209 residential by July 2013 as it looks like I’ve been accepted to study the GDL (postgraduate law degree-equivalent) in September 2013 – a bit left-field, but my solicitor has been on at me for ages to do one.

Back to studying conjugate models in the context of statistics.

Slowly, slowly catchee statistical monkey

Slowly catching up.

CMA2 for M343 is done. Just need to transfer the options from paper to screen, then press send.

Now time to turn to M347 – three weeks to do 12 weeks of work, roughly.

Will start that properly tomorrow – tonight is all about reading the first block of notes to see if I can remember anything. 🙂

Time for a treat too – prawn fried rice, duck in orange sauce, spring rolls, prawn crackers, and a six pack of beer for 8pm.

Drinking and deriving rarely mixes, however. 🙂

What’s M343 like?

M208 was fun, MST209 was a massive workload but really enjoyable too.
M343, well that’s third year undergraduate level, right.
So, it probably contains really difficult stuff right?

Well, maybe it does, but the way it’s laid out for the student is crystal clear – beautifully concise proofs, excellent explanations, and enough practice questions to give you a fair idea of what’s going on.

A few posts down on this blog, I make the observation that some stuff is a little too “deep” to remember. I take that back now – the more you do this course, the more prior results and derivations get reinforced until understanding comes almost from “learning by repetition”. I’m confident that by exam time, I’ll have the derivations as well as the applications under my belt and in my head.

It’s all quite logical in its layout – results build very well on prior topics, and you gain a thorough facility in using and understanding various density and mass functions, cdfs, and probability generating functions.

Doing MST209 first would help a lot with the partial differential equations which crop up, while either MST209 or M208 would be useful for the linear algebra which appears, too.

Some of the results from the course are intuitive – others are mind-boggling – I was staring for ages at a result last night which predicted a fair number of people would be stuck in a queue waiting to get served at some mythical outlet – a post office, say – despite the numbers joining and being served per hour being reasonably close (intuitively, I’d assumed that, with the number joining the queue and the number leaving the queue not being that far removed from each other that we might have 2 or 3 people in the queue at any one time – I think, in fact (assuming the queue has reached some sort of equilibrium – ie it’s all settled down a while after “opening”), the answer was that there’d actually be a mean number of 9 people waiting in line, humming various tunes, and looking at other peoples’ shoes.

Ok, so that example isn’t all that exciting, but the result seemed weird. The maths behind it is rigorous, though, and easily checked.

Lagrange’s equation is probably the most heavy thing to appear in the first four (of five) books, so far – which is where having MST209 under your belt turns the related chapters from a learning curve to more of a revision one.

I’m not sure you need any statistics or probability beyond the little that’s in MST121 to make a fair attempt at this course – though a willingness (in the early stages) to look at various Youtube videos which derive and explain various distributions is possibly a good extra-curricular activity to be willing to perform to supplement the books.

The workload seems lighter than expected. It probably isn’t all that light in reality – it just seems that way after getting used to spending a large proportion of waking hours doing MST209 the year before – another reason why MST209 is such good preparation.

The M343 course notes are truly excellent, and the material varied (I’m reading about life tables used in actuarial calculations at the moment, and calculating various probabilities, etc with them).

I’m convinced that if the OU was to ever offer an actuarial science degree covering CT1-CT8 (the first block of exams needed to become part-qualified) and a bit more, it would be very well received.

The enjoyability factor of this course is up around a ten out of ten.
The difficulty rating is probably nearer a six out of ten.
And the workload factor is, at a guess, around a five out of ten.

If your calculus (integration) and ability to “read” maths line-by-line is at a good standard, I’d say go for it.


Well, I spoke too soon about getting M343’s latest TMA in the bag.
I realised I had errors in two questions, which took a while to iron out, and one sub-part of one question really confused me, forcing me to read, re-read, then re-read the course books some more.

Started at 8am, finished at 2am – 18 hours for approximately 10 marks.

Found a way that isn’t in the book to solve the question that was really confusing – just an algorithmic approach – but couldn’t check it.

When I finally sussed the book method, it did what my algorithmic approach had taken ages to do in five minutes flat. I still don’t fully follow the logic in the course book on this though.

The TMA is finally in an envelope and will be hand-delivered in about six hours time.

Next goal – get a couple of weeks’ worth of M343 reading done over the next few days, and get the CMA finished about a fortnight early.

Then play catch-up with M347 for the next month – need to go at 4 x course pace to get back on track for the next TMA.

That’s doable.

Home stretch

Nearly there. Another eight hours should see this assignment in the bag.
Will then write up some brief notes about each chapter, then do a bit of web-searching for some more background on Lagrange’s equation, then crack on with reading up for the CMA.

As an aside, because I know some of you are thinking of taking M347, here’s a link to a book recommended by one of the lecturers: Hogg, McKean and Craig: An Introduction to Mathematical Statistics.

I’ve bought it, and it covers a fair bit of what’s in M347.

This is the seventh edition, but you can get the sixth edition for around 20 quid on ebay.

Reviews of the sixth edition are here.

Seems to be suitable for both upper undergraduate and introductory postgraduate work.

Don’t let the “Introduction” in the title fool you – there’s a whole subset of statistics below the level this book is pitched at.

A much more introductory title is Probability and Statistical Inference by Hogg and Tanis.
Reviews here.

Productive day

All the needed reading for M343 TMA2 has been done and questions 3-6 answered, leaving 1 and 2 for tomorrow, which are the easier ones.
Lots to trip you up in this assignment, but really interesting material and questions, which has made the pain of a 13 hour stint today quite enjoyable in its own odd way.

Having done MST209, the PDE-related questions seemed quite straightforward.
The random walks question took ages – there’s more things to trip you up in here than a little.

Just read my emails for the first time in about a month and it seems there’s a tutor problem – I need to drive down to the OU HQ in Cambridge to hand deliver this assignment, which actually helps me out a bit, since I can leave that until Tuesday night to be in time for Wednesday’s deadline – the TMA doesn’t now need to be posted on Monday to be sure of arriving in time.

Off for a beer, then resume at 9am tomorrow morning. Will hopefully have the rough draft done by midnight, then write it up over Monday and Tuesday, rechecking what I’ve done.

The spectre of M347 then looms – had to email my tutor for that as he thinks (I think) I’ve withdrawn, which I haven’t.