exploring mathematics


Getting, slightly, serious with maths

As ever there’s a blog.

at what level is this course?

When trying to describe it to the maths teachers in my school I said, “it’s like a first year maths course for engineers and scientists with a dollop of pure maths thrown in”; which, I suppose, is about right. Although if you’re planning to get serious with physics etc. then I think that you’re going to have to do MST209 [Mathematical methods and models] as well.

There is a slight oddness about the course; the, aforesaid, maths teachers all commented on the fact that some parts of the exam paper [which I showed them] were incredibly easy, some parts were hard and some parts [second-order homogeneous equations] they hadn’t seen before. What we have here is a mathematical smorgasbord.

What you should know is that this course is designed to be studied alongside MST121, if you’re doing any kind of maths degree then you’d be daft not to do them together. I was [and am] daft.

a good course?

Brilliant, excellent and all the other superlatives! My favourite OU course ever. It should be noted that I may be biased, much of my enjoyment was of a personal nature—I had a great tutor, a lovely bunch of tutor-group-mates and the forums were positively stuffed with wonderful people.

Disclaimer aside this is a fascinating course for anybody who is in any way maths inclined. However, it is an appetite-whetter rather than the whole goods—prepare yourself to shell out for more courses.

what’s involved?

The course is split into four blocks:

  1. sequences, conics, geometric functions
  2. iteration, matrices, transformations
  3. differentiation, integration, Taylor polynomials
  4. complex numbers, number theory, group theory, proof and reasoning

For me block four was the best bit. Perhaps because that didn’t involve MathCad? [Which, as ever was the worst bit.] Not really, block four is an introduction to another kind of maths—if you like block four then M208 [Pure Mathematics] is your next port of call.


There can be no doubting this was an issue—time being the problem as always. I don’t suppose that anyone, given time, would find it too hard, but…we didn’t get time and everyone suffered. Other students practiced timed past-papers, I’m not sure that this helps; exams are different, you do strange things [I looked up the chain differentiation rule in my handbook!]. Prepare for the stuffing to be removed from you.

worth doing?

An emphatic yes. However, for maths students, this is a taster for joys to come rather than a consummation. For scientists there may be an argument for skipping it and heading straight onto MST209 if you have confidence in your math’s skill-set. That said I don’t think that time spent doing this course is time wasted. In fact if you’re doing a degree in Philosophy or Italian do this course—it’s fun and it’ll make you a better person.

Here’s what others said about MS221

And you’ll need to read Chris F’s blog.