Archive for September, 2009

Although I’d recommend using the Black Badge Press solution booklet for MS221 revision, since it’s more detailed, I thought I’d upload the other solution documents that I’ve managed to collect over the last few months, in case anyone wants them:

Happy revising, everyone!


I can’t believe it’s only 3 weeks until the M366 exam! This course has really dragged at times, but now that I’m into the revision period the days are just flying by! This week I’ve been making notes on the learning outcomes for each block, and trying to condense my notes as much as possible. There’s something very satisfying about squashing a nine-month course into a nine-page Word document!

I’ve been doing some MS221 revision this weekend too – I decided to have a go at Part 1 of the 2007 past paper, and I was interested to see that the questions don’t completely conform to the pattern in the 2008 paper. I was particularly blind-sided by the appearance of a question on combinations/permutations and binomial coefficients, since I’d forgotten they were actually covered in Chapter B1.

With MS221, I’ve mostly been concentrating on getting faster at answering questions – there are 12 questions in Part 1 of the exam, and I’m aiming to spend 2 hours on that bit, so I need to be able to do each short question in about 10 mins. So far, I’m fast enough when it comes to my favourite topics (Block D, I love you!), but in my weakest areas I have to spend far too long flipping through the Handbook and scratching my head.

In an attempt to speed the process up, I’m putting together a kind of condensed version of my most frequently-used bits of the Handbook, so that I can transcribe it into the blank front page of the actual book and take it into the exam. It’s going to be quite a challenge to hand-write all these notes into the Handbook, but hopefully it’ll allow me to spend more time puzzling over the actual questions and less time flicking through the book. And it’ll give me an opportunity to use my many colourful gel-pens – my Handbook will probably be the most gaudy book in the exam hall!

My tutor very kindly sent me a solution document for the past paper from 2008, so this morning I’ve been working through the my first ever practice exam for a maths course! I was quite curious to see what the exam paper was like, since all the exams I’ve taken with the OU so far have been in computing/programming. Luckily it seems like maths exam papers follow roughly the same pattern that the computing exams do – about a dozen short questions, one for each course unit, and then a few longer questions that require combinations of techniques from various units. And nicely, you only have to do two out of the four longer questions available, so I’m happy to say that I’ll be able to avoid at least some of the graph-sketching questions!

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I was wondering in my last post whether the MS221 unit about groups would be any fun, and quite unexpectedly it turned out to be really enjoyable! I particularly liked working with Cayley tables and isomorphisms (even if the former can sometimes feel a bit like filling in a sudoku puzzle!), and on the basis of this chapter, I’m very much looking forward to the material on groups in M208. From what I can tell, there are a whole seven units on group theory in M208, so I’ll certainly get a chance to see whether my interest in the subject is more than a passing phase!

Chapter D4, the “proof and reasoning” chapter, was good solid fun too – and very reminiscent of the material on logic in M263, so it was quite a nostalgic experience for me. It definitely helps to have encountered the idea of proof by induction before; I think I had some trouble with that originally in M263, so I think it could be a bit of a stumbling block for the MS221 students who haven’t met the topic before.

There was one bit in D4 that I had a lot of trouble with – proving statements about inequalities. I’m not sure why, but I seem to have some kind of weird mental block when it comes to inequalities. So I’m going to have to do loads of practice questions involving them during my revision work – I don’t want to have an inequality-induced freakout in the middle of the exam!

So now that I’ve finished with chapter D4, I’ll be spending this weekend wrapping up TMA04, and then I’ll need to work out some kind of revision plan – only 5 weeks and three days to go until the M366 exam, eek!