using mathematics


Starting off down
the maths road [again].

As ever there’s a blog.

at what level is this course?

Usually I start these things off by asking, who is this course for? And, I guess, that I’m still following tradition. But what is, perhaps, more germane for MST121 is—just how difficult is this course? And that’s a hard ask.

It’s hard because there are different audiences, we’re in the Goldilocks’ situation— is it too hot? Too cold? Just right? When will the bears arrive to eat me?

From discussions that I’ve followed in the OUSA MST121 forum [the course does not have a dedicated FirstClass presence] the feeling is that MST121 along with MS221 are equivalent to an advanced A level.

So that’s what we’ll take as our benchmark—if you’ve done anything like that level of maths in the past you should start here. And even if you haven’t I’m still going to say start here, unless you haven’t got any confidence in your maths at all. The reason that I’m saying this is that you have the option [for three months I think] to switch down to MU120—Open Mathematics if you find the going too hard—always aim high, you’ll be surprised how often you hit.

Which leaves us with a final question—should you do MS221 along side MST121? If you’re planning doing a maths based degree and you’ve got the readies, yes, a definitive yes.

what’s involved?

If you did any maths at school you’ll be familiar with the ground to be covered—sequences, functions, quadratic equations, trigonometry, calculus, vectors, matrices, geometry… What may be new, it was to me, was statistics.

The course is divided into four blocks that, I felt, weren’t related to one another. That’s maybe a bit strong—there were obvious links, but if you fall behind with calculus that isn’t going to affect your progress in statistics.

For me the statistics was the worst part of the course—I’ll go as far to say that I disliked it. However, I think that for most students it was the calculus block that caused the most problems. If you haven’t run up against calculus before prepare to spend some extra time on this block.

What I think that we were unanimous on is that we had problems with…


Mathcad is the course maths software and there’s no avoiding using it—a least one question on each TMA required it. It’s a powerful beast, but not the most intuitive piece of software ever. In fact it’s pretty horrible.

The only advice that I can give you is to create your own worksheets as you go along. They’ll be a great help when you finally come to do your ECA [because by that time you’ll have forgotten how to do what you need].


This is the other piece of software that comes with the course. I won’t say much about it because I did none of the exercises and I only opened it to answer TMA/ECA questions.

a good course?

Yes, an excellent one. It was well paced, the course resources were good and the support from the tutors a great help.

These course resources were slightly more interesting than usual—normally you get a few books, but this time there was a wee bit more:

  1. Some course how-to DVDs
  2. Some general maths DVDs
  3. Some audio CDs

I didn’t listen to the audio CDs, but the how-to DVDs were very useful and the background/enrichment DVDs were brilliant.

to sum up

If you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the maths ocean I think that this course is for you, either as a refresher exercise or as a place to start [providing that you have some maths experience].

Read what other students thought about this course.