A math phobics introduction to Open University introductory mathematics.

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Conure
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I have noticed on this forum that there are a lot of people like myself, who are perhaps slightly mathematically phobic and worry about being able to handle the mathematics on their course. I can only speak for the introductory course MU123, however as this covers a substantial amount of pre calculus content it is a fairly thorough introduction to the subject.

If, like me, you have opted to move down the path of an engineering or science based degree, then it's inevitable that you're going to have to learn mathematics. I was very worried when I began, thinking perhaps I was unable to do the work involved because my brain wasn't mathematical. My mind would flit back to long division and multiplication and other life ruining memories from school and I would think "I am just useless at maths, clearly I am just no good at it and I will never be able to do it".

Well, as the world's worst student of mathematics, I am happy to say that this is absolutely wrong! I am now solving problems that looked like an alien language before I started. Is it because I found out that secretely I have the mystery gene that enables me to perform vast computations and mental gymnastics? Absolutely not. It's because I sat down for a few hours every other night, and spent time improving my ability and knowledge of one of the most fascinating subjects around.

At the level of MU123, you are simply learning a few simple rules that apply to how numbers work, practising the application of those, then moving on to the next section which builds upon those rules further. I have no doubt that there are areas of mathematics which require immense mental gymnastics (though I am assured by a friend of mine who graduated with a BSc Mathematics, that the study of the subject actually continues in a linear fashion, slowly building up knowledge in the same way one might learn to drive).

Are you ready for MU123? (Yes!)

Here's a problem for you. If you can solve it by following my instruction, then you're ready to begin to MU123.

5 + 2 * 3

In arithmetic, you carry out the multiplication (which I've outlined in bold) first. After completing the multiplication, you then carry out the addition.

So, first we work on 2 * 3, which is the multiplication aspect of the problem. 2 * 3 is 6, so we can reduce the problem to:

5 + 6 = 11

There, you've solved a problem using the order of expressions rule and got the correct answer. You're ready for MU123.

I want to discuss the content and make up of the course in a bit of depth, because I know there are often a lot of questions before starting an OU degree as to how the assessment works. I will focus specifically on the grading style of MU123.


How does assessment work?

Assessment on MU123 comes in two forms. The Tutor Marked Assessment (TMA), and the Interactive Computer Marked Assessment (iCMA). There is no exam, and you can complete the TMA questions whilst you cover the relevant sections in the course materials, at home. They simply needed to be posted to your tutor on or before the due date.

The TMAs are weighted as follows:

TMA01: 15%
TMA02: 20%
TMA03 - 30%
TMA04 - 20%

The iCMAs, of which there are also four, act like a piece of formative work in the form of a multiple choice quiz which covers most of the same content as the upcoming TMA. The weighting for the iCMA's is quite low, and my tutor even told us that some people that don't bother to do them go on to get Firsts. I believe they are worth doing well on because they give you confidence for the TMA material.

The TMAs are roughly evenly spaced throughout the course. So, as an example, your first couple of months will play out like this:

Weeks 1 and 2 - Working with numbers.

Weeks 3 and 4 - Negative numbers and fractions.

End of week 4 - iCMA due which covers material on first four weeks.

Weeks 5 and 6 - Thinking mathematically.

End of week 6 - TMA01 due.

Then you'll start on week 7 and the same process will begin.

The structure of the course

Finally, here is an overview of what you will be covering on the course. The pace is fairly relaxed, however if you take it alongside other modules make sure you stay up to date with the material, because I've found it's very difficult to cram with mathematics.

Unit 1 - Starting points

Unit 2 - Mathematical models

Unit 3 - Numbers

Unit 4 - Statistical summaries

Unit 5 - Algebra (this is where it gets interesting!)

Unit 6 - graphs

Unit 7 - Equations and inequalities

Unit 8 - Geometry

Unit 9 - Expanding algebra

Unit 10 - Quadratics

Unit 11 - Statistical pictures

Unit 12 - Trigonometry

Unit 13 - Exponentials

Unit 14 - Mathematics everywhere

So there you have it. Some of that stuff looks complex, and initially it is. But if you can solve 5 + 2 * 3, you're in a great position to start the course, and to enjoy what has been the most genuinely stimulating and fascinating subject I have ever studied. And that is coming from a guy that got a G in GCSE Maths 11 years ago.

I hope this has alleviated your nerves and maybe even persuaded you to go on and study a science or engineering degree with the OU. If I can do it, anyone can!
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-G-a-v-
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Excellent post I'm definitely not math-phobic, but I enjoyed reading this!

OU Maths courses are great, everyone should do them.
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Conure
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(Original post by -G-a-v-)
Excellent post I'm definitely not math-phobic, but I enjoyed reading this!

OU Maths courses are great, everyone should do them.
Thanks Gav

Just out of interest, how are you finding the study of pure maths when compared with the physics degree?
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mug2k
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What a brilliant post/thread, I've been pretty worried that I was going to have big problems with maths (gonna do comp sci) because I've only done the utter basics in everyday life since leaving school 16 years ago. I actually did some very basic maths over the Khan academy website earlier and quite enjoyed it which surprised me.
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-G-a-v-
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(Original post by Conure)
Thanks Gav

Just out of interest, how are you finding the study of pure maths when compared with the physics degree?
It's awesome. The main thing I learnt doing Physics is that I really should've been doing maths (which was always the original plan til I did A-level Physics, lol). It's a different way of thinking, and you have to be precise about everything. In Physics, the maths was sometimes a bit handwavey, so it's nice to start doing things more rigorously.

I've also not been anywhere near a lab since i graduated, which I'm totally OK with :p:
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Conure
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(Original post by -G-a-v-)
It's awesome. The main thing I learnt doing Physics is that I really should've been doing maths (which was always the original plan til I did A-level Physics, lol). It's a different way of thinking, and you have to be precise about everything. In Physics, the maths was sometimes a bit handwavey, so it's nice to start doing things more rigorously.

I've also not been anywhere near a lab since i graduated, which I'm totally OK with :p:
Good to hear you're enjoying it - I occasionally have moments of madness where I consider swapping to Software Development and pure mathematics, but I think I'd put myself at risk of getting a worse grade than if I focus on Software, which comes more naturally to me.

Still, I'm yet to find something in academics that compares with that moment of clarity you get when something finally becomes obvious in maths.
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Conure
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(Original post by mug2k)
What a brilliant post/thread, I've been pretty worried that I was going to have big problems with maths (gonna do comp sci) because I've only done the utter basics in everyday life since leaving school 16 years ago. I actually did some very basic maths over the Khan academy website earlier and quite enjoyed it which surprised me.
Khan Academy is amazing, sometimes I'll put it on and watch videos completely unrelated to my study because the guy is just a fantastic teacher.
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mug2k
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(Original post by Conure)
Khan Academy is amazing, sometimes I'll put it on and watch videos completely unrelated to my study because the guy is just a fantastic teacher.
The same guy teaches everything ?

edit: Just checked the 'About Us' page is actually a a team of people.
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Conure
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(Original post by mug2k)
The same guy teaches everything ?

edit: Just checked the 'About Us' page is actually a a team of people.
Yup - Salman teaches all the maths content!
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Imarnie
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Many thanks for this I was worried about my score for the TMA01. I got well over the 15% mark and I feel so much better now😊
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JollyCynic
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(Original post by Imarnie)
Many thanks for this I was worried about my score for the TMA01. I got well over the 15% mark and I feel so much better now😊
The 15% mark is the weight of your TMA01 score toward your final OCAS score for the module. Basically, you multiply your TMA01 score by 0.15, and that's TMA01's total contribution to the OCAS.

A "pass" mark for assessments is generally 40, but there are other assessments to bring the average mark up if it isn't quite there. Keep in mind that since the other assignments are weighted heavier, they'll contribute a higher percentage to your overall score.
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Imarnie
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Many thanks JollyChnic, this really helps alot. Im not really good at maths and I know my scores aint going to be great, so if I get any higher scores, which I intend to aim for, will make up for it. If I pass the MU123, I be screaming from the roof tops........
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