OU Maths – decisions on level 3

Image credit OU Mathematics

This week was results week for the Open University. Many of us who had been checking the website weekly since the exam1 finally got the link through to our overall module scores. If, like me, you were waiting for a result then I hope you got what you needed2. MST210 marks the end of level 2 of the B.Sc. Mathematics and I now have some choices on level 3.

I knew that level 3 would be four 30 point modules and was hoping that I could stagger these with October and January starts. Sadly, this is not possible and all level 3 mathematics modules start in October. I can now choose to go easy on myself, doing one module a year and making this an 8 year degree rather than 6 years, or double up on the modules.

As ever work is always going to take priority over this degree and I’ve already volunteered to speak at a few conferences in the last few months of the year. Can I really make time for two modules?3 Looking back over the past few years and I’ve realised that I have this quandary at the start of each OU year and I always manage at least 60 points and do fine4.

So, accepting that I will sign up for two modules, the question is: which ones?

Further Pure Mathematics (M303) – Focussing on number theory, metric spaces and a small section on cryptography – this does have great appeal, although is suggested to be studied towards the end of level 3. Maybe something for 2018.

Mathematical methods and Fluid mechanics (MST326) – Building on MST210, this module goes into further depth on partial differential equations and modelling fluid flow. This feels a little too applied for me. While I’m sure it would be interesting I think it’s less of a pull than some of the other modules.

Deterministic and stochastic dynamics (MS327) – This is described as an “accessible introduction to level 3” although has a lot of interesting ideas in it; from the fundamental concepts of random processes, to diffusion and fractal dimensions of attractors, and finishes with models for options pricing in finance. This is a strong contender for a first choice.

Complex Analysis (M337) – Complex numbers and fractals, this requires a sound knowledge of differentiation and integration. I’m pretty much sold on this already. I can’t see the direct application of it, but it sounds like a fun module.

Applications of probability (M343) – Describing patterns of events that occur in time and space, this module covers practical use of earlier studies of probability. It’s probably the closest to game theory that I’m going to get in the modules and is a strong contender.

Linear statistical modelling (M346) – This module is looking at correlation between variables and statistical significance. From the description I’m not sure how much more it builds above the mandatory M140 statistics module I did at level 1. I’m fairly confident in my healthy scepticism of correlation and causation, and also have a deep awareness about understanding data and testing results, so I don’t think this module will benefit me.

Mathematical Statistics (M347) – Covering Bayesian and classical statistical approaches, this overlaps heavily with the mathematics I have had to learn from my PhD onwards. I am conscious that there may be gaps in my knowledge and some formal study would be useful, but right now I don’t know whether I’d be better off studying something different formally and getting the books for this course second hand rather than under formal assessment. Interestingly, in addition to 4 tutor marked assignments, this module has 14 interactive computer marked assignments, so either the assessment is little and often or this is a heavy module. More research required I think!

Graphs, Networks and design (MT365) – This is a modelling module focussing on graph theory and design to solve problems within business and for fun. From the description, I feel that this is going to be light on mathematics and consist of a lot of diagram drawing. I think this is something I could self learn, so I’m going to discount this as an option.

Optimisation (M373) – Although perfectly aligned with my day job, the optimisation module doesn’t hold a great deal of interest for me. Creation of a computer model and its analysis is not something I want to study when it overlaps so closely with work. While this would make it an easy 30 points, I’d rather stretch myself to something I don’t already do. So this I can cross off the list as well.

The quantum world (SM358) – Only available in the second set of options, I can’t choose this until I’ve already done two other modules. I find quantum theory fascinating. One of my team is currently working part time while studying for a PhD in Quantum machine learning5 and I think quantum computing will be the next evolution, so it’s critical to get a good academic grounding in this. So this is one of my final year choices fixed.

Electromagnetism (SMT359) – This module is also only available in the second half of level 3. While electromagnetic fields and Maxwell’s equations are intriguing, I have to weigh this against M303 and the benefit that further pure mathematics would give me. This also looks like it will be replaced soon, with a final start in 2018.

So, I have about 6 weeks to make a decision. Right now I think I will take two modules rather than one, but which two is still a difficult choice. It’s a shame that I had to do a “filler” level 1 module in DB123, I would have far rather studied 5 level 3 modules and  this wasn’t an option for me6.

If I save SM358 and M303  for the 2018 start then I have to choose from MS327, M337 and M343 to start this October.  Let me know in the comments or by twitter if you’ve done any of these modules and have a strong opinion!

  1. Or hourly in some cases 🙂
  2. Or wanted as in my case.
  3. Not to mention a bit of time with Cosmo and my 3D printer!
  4. Doing 90 points to finish level 1 and start level 2 at the same time was a little too much while working and I wouldn’t recommend this (not if you want to spend time with your family any way)!
  5. I’ve been trying to convince him to blog about it, but he’s yet to be convinced of the value.
  6. I appreciate it may be an option with the open degree, but I’d already committed to the B.Sc. Mathematics by the time I had discovered the restriction. Also, I wanted the defined maths degree rather than a general one

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Dr Janet is a Molecular Biochemistry graduate from Oxford University with a doctorate in Computational Neuroscience from Sussex. I’m currently studying for a third degree in Mathematics with Open University. During the day, and sometimes out of hours, I work as a Chief Science Officer. You can read all about that on my LinkedIn page.

8 thoughts on “OU Maths – decisions on level 3”

  1. Hi,

    I’ve just finished my first year, I completed S111, MST124 and MST125. Ironically, I got the lowest mark in S111 which is a noddy module for some of the reasons you mentioned, the need for collaborative work in the TMA’s which I’m not good at.

    I will be taking MST210 and M208 this year, it’s a heavy work load but I have set myself a 3 year timeline to complete the degree.

    I was looking for feedback on my next modules and thats how I came across your blog. You brought up some very interesting issues in dealing with this module which is really going to help.


    1. hi

      Thanks for reading 🙂 Both MST210 and M208 are interesting modules in their own right. I think as long as you go into the group exercise aware of the potential problems then you won’t have a problem. Best of luck for your second year.


    1. hi – Thanks – I’d completely missed that! Makes it even trickier to plan… If I want to do quantum world then I either do M303 first or not at all…. !


      1. It’s a shame the OU doesn’t allow us to do modules but opt into whether they will count towards the degree.

        I was originally on the Mathematics & Physics pathway, which didn’t allow any Pure Maths modules at all. I’ve had to switch to the Combined STEM degree so I can do any of those modules, this year it’s going to be MST210 and M208 and next year M303 (Further Pure Maths), S383 (The relativistic universe) and SM358 (The quantum world).

        The course content will be solid, but the degree name won’t be so sexy. Hopefully, all the Msc courses I’m applying for after that won’t be put off by the name of my qualification. I want to eventually do a Phd in Mathematical Physics and this seemed the only way to get the maths required.

        Best of luck with Level 3, I’m really looking forward to it next year. A friend gave me the PDF course books for SM358 and it looks really great.

      2. I agree – I’m sure you’ll be fine with that degree, particularly if you expand on the modules you’ve done. I assume most people wouldn’t necessarily get the balance you’ve chosen without some structure and this is the reason behind the clear pathways. Enjoy level 2!

  2. Gosh!
    I am currently sitting in front of the computer making exactly the same decision…
    I really enjoyed level 2 even though I took 120 credits last year.
    This year I have decided to go for 60 as after distinctions in M208 and MST210 I have whet my appetite for a First…
    I can at least try I guess – that is if I can decide finally what modules to study…

    1. Congratulations on the distinctions! It’s a tricky decision isn’t it, hopefully my musings helped 🙂 I’m still not sure about which ones are best to start with for me! Unless you need particular modules for job reasons, choose the ones that interest you most. It’s a problem when there are too many interesting ones 😀

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