Archive for August, 2009


I really, really love the Algebra Workout programs that go along with the MS221 course texts – I watched the program on modular arithmetic earlier this week, and it was immensely helpful. Prior to that, I felt utterly confused about Euclid’s algorithm and finding multiplicative inverses, but once I’d seen the process worked through on the DVD, somehow made everything sense!

In fact, now that I actually understand how to do it, it’s quite enjoyable. And of course, using Euclid’s algorithm was especially good fun during the section in the course text about ciphers – there’s something really appealing about deciphering secret messages! I’ve been intrigued by cryptography and cryptanalysis since reading Simon Singh’s excellent The Code Book a couple of months ago, so I was really pleased to get the chance to do a bit of practical maths involving ciphers. I like the idea of learning how to actually break ciphers, but I think that might be a bit ambitious for a Level 2 maths student!

Anyway, now that I’ve finished Chapter D2 and its associated TMA questions, I’ll be getting started on the penultimate chapter tomorrow, which is about groups and symmetry. I’m looking forward to this chapter quite a lot, because the topics are completely new to me; there’s a chance I won’t like group theory, but either way I’m just excited to find out what it’s all about – and if it turns out that I do enjoy it, then there’s a nice chunky Level 3 course in the subject that I could aim for, which is always a good incentive to study harder!

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I got 85% for this one, so it’s a distinction but only just! By my calculations, I need to get at least 82% for TMA04 in order to get a distinction for the Overall Continuous Assessment Score – but to be honest, I’m probably going to end up with a Pass 2 in the exam, so TMA04 might not even matter that much anyway!

I’m starting to feel like I’m just not good enough to be doing M366; I lost a lot of marks on Question 5, the case study question, so it seems like I just don’t really understand the material well enough to apply it to practical scenarios. I know I’ve said it before, but I really wish I’d taken M359: Relational databases: theory and practice instead – I’m sure that would have presented its own difficulties, but in hindsight I think it would have suited my interests and abilities a lot more than M366!

Sneaking a peek at S151

S151 - Maths for Science

I’m insatiably nosy about other people’s courses, so I was very happy when Alex’s shiny new S151 textbook arrived on Monday. I was quite keen a have a look at the contents page and see what all this “Maths for science” business is about! I’m particularly intrigued by Section 9, the statistics bit, since I’m completely unfamiliar with those topics (I did learn a bit of stats in MST121, but I don’t think I could remember much of it now if I tried!).
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I’ve been working through Chapter D1 of MS221 for the last couple of weeks, and while it’s been enjoyable, I haven’t really gotten into the subject as much as I expected to. I’ve been looking forward to learning about complex numbers for ages (I’ve even got M337, the Level 3 complex analysis course, pencilled in as one of my possible future courses), but for some reason I just haven’t been able to get excited about the material in D1.

Still, I’ll have another chance to get into complex numbers next year – there seems to be a section about them in the introductory block of M208, which is available on OpenLearn here. So hopefully by the time I return to the topic next February I’ll be able to develop a bit more enthusiasm for it!

I’m really looking forward to M208, I can’t wait to get started on it. I had a look on the OU Despatch Schedules website out of curiosity, and it looks like the 2009 presentation of M208 had their course materials shipped out in early December 2008, so with any luck I’ll be able to get my M208 books before the end of the year. It’d be wonderful to have something chunky to get my teeth into over the winter this year – last year I only had M257 to do, and to be honest I found myself getting quite restless. It seems a shame to have those extra days off work over Christmas, without any substantial OU work to spend them on!

And thankfully it was a nice 99%! I did still make some silly mistakes (forgetting the dx on the end of integrals, that sort of thing), but on the whole it seems like my proofreading skills have improved since last time. And I’m amazed that my extremely wobbly sketched graph for Question 2 got good marks; it looked like something a primitive robotic arm might have drawn, so I’m pleased my tutor could even tell what it was supposed to be!

It seems like a lot of the mistakes I make are actually typing errors, so I’ll be interested to see whether I make the same kind of mistakes when writing by hand. Luckily there are a bazillion* past exam papers available for MS221, so I’ll have plenty of opportunity to iron out any wrinkles in my hand-written maths abilities.

*Actual amount: 5. Still much better than M257’s paltry 3 past papers, though.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d ended up with a Pass 2 or Pass 3 for this one, to be honest, so I was very relieved to see that I got 90% for the exam, and 98% for the continuous assessment. I’m so glad it’s a distinction – I was beginning to worry that I’d need to either retake M257 or substitute another course in its place (which would have entailed changing degree programmes, since M257 is compulsory for B14).

Alex’s results for S104 were released today too – he’s managed an awesome 92% for the ECA, and 79% for the continuous assessment. I’m so proud of him, and very relieved as it means that he’s definitely going to carry on studying with the OU in future. I would have been quite sad if we’d gone back to being a single-student household!

Anyway, well done to everyone who got their results through today – I hope you all got the grades you wanted!