maths study via The Open University

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.


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