Seven years ago I was in work bored and desperate for a new challenge. My daughter had recently been born and I had decided to stop playing World of Warcraft. Needing a new challenge, I had toyed with an MBA but really wanted to do something for me. So I signed up for a BSc in Mathematics with the Open University, which I knew would take about 6 years part time while working. This week, I got the results for my final module and it was confirmed I had earned a first class honours degree. But why didn’t I do maths the first time round?Continue reading Maths degree for fun? Done!
2 out of 3 ain’t bad: back to back TMAs
It’s been a crazy month. From the lead up to the product launch at work to know it seems like I’ve been doing nothing but back to back assignments for my Open University maths degree. So much so in fact that I’ve not had time to study, but only focus on the assignments themselves. It all started back with the second TMA for M337 (Complex analysis), which was a rush job and I got a much lower score on that than I would have liked.
Dot knows it is #TMA time and is “helping” – the complex plane is obviously comfortable ? #m337 @OUstudents pic.twitter.com/gkUrql6R81
— Dr Janet Bastiman (@Yssybyl) February 6, 2018
I then had two weeks until a computer marked assignment for MS327 and was going into this without having looked at any of the material in the book. As usual, I spent my commute trying to get through it, but barely made it a quarter of the way through before I realised I’d have to start working through the questions for the assignment. Computer marked assignments are very different from the tutor marked ones. You either select an answer from a choice of 4-6 potential results1 or by typing a numerical result. Therefore your answers are either correct or incorrect. There are no marks for method.
If you find yourself in this position, my best advice is always to do the unit quizzes. These are usually in a similar format and will get your brain in the right place for the assignment itself. In combination with the handbook and text books you should be able to follow how to get the answers from the questions, although please make time to go back and fill in the gaps as soon as you can.
With the iCMA out of the way, I then had a week for the third TMA of MS327. Fortunately on the same topics as the iCMA, but much more involved questions. This was a lot trickier to pick up. With the usual standing room only on the commute, I’ve had to spend a lot of evenings trying to do this around family time and study in the excessive noise of soft-play centres… not a great environment for thought!
So I’ve just submitted the MS327 TMA online and I’m pretty happy with it. Now I have two weeks to get the M337 TMA3 done and I’m a little more nervous about that. There isn’t time to go through the study materials and answer the questions, so I’ve given myself a week to get as far as I can and then I’ll dive into the TMA and see how far I can get…
On the plus side, the OU offers substitution on your assignments, so it’s okay to have a bad one and you’ll be allocated a score that’s the average of the other three. So I can still pull up my average for M337, as long as I do well on this TMA.
I’m really hoping that I can get time to get these to 100% before the exams in June!
Can I do calculus in my sleep?
Breaking discipline with my Open University studies is never a good thing. Once you’re behind, it’s so difficult to catch up, especially with a full time job and a young child. It’s been a crazy few weeks at work too, we’ve had a major launch event and lots of projects with looming deadlines.
It was in the days leading up to this launch that I had a TMA due for one of my level 3 OU modules, M337 Complex Analysis.
What a day! OU TMA on complex maths first thing, full work day with a break to #Giveblood then @StoryStreamAI ‘s fantastic #aihype demystify event. Fantastic speaking to everyone, but happy to be heading home.
— Dr Janet Bastiman (@Yssybyl) February 7, 2018
With all the other deadlines I’d only done half of the study necessary for the TMA. This is never a comfortable position. I got away with it at level 1 and mostly got away with it at level 2 but you really can’t do this at level 3. Especially when the focus is calculus of complex functions. I made a start in good time, but without the time to really get my head into the topics, it was always going to be an uphill struggle to make the intuitive leaps necessary at this level to determine the correct method.
In the days leading up to that TMA my sleep profile was pretty awful. I can’t remember what caused it, but I had so many nights in a row where I got very little quality rest. This isn’t great. It impairs judgement at the best of times. I could have asked for an extension in good time, but that would just compound the problem with the MS327 assignments in a few weeks1.
When you’re sleepy, it’s easy for “i” to look like “1” and “z” to look like “2” particularly in equations where there are other terms with these numbers. One of those days I found myself working on problems from the wrong module (MS327) and just looking at my notes it’s pretty obvious that I nodded off in the middle of writing these2. Maybe it isn’t that obvious, but trust me that this level of spider scrawl is not representative of the handwritten work I normally submit!
The results of my assignment are back and it turns out I can’t do calculus in my sleep, let alone path integrals of complex functions. I really do need to up my game and attribute more time to this degree3.
On a side note, I’m really pleased that my presentation at the launch event was recorded – I was a little light-headed after giving blood on top of poor sleep. I presented for 5 minutes and couldn’t remember a thing I said immediately afterwards. I got some great feedback, so there’s definitely a learning there for being relaxed, not overthinking what you’re saying and also speaking about what you know! I’ve only heard the audio so far, but will post the video when I have it.
M337: Group theory becomes relevant
One of the things I’ve enjoyed least about my OU Maths journey so far has been group theory. I ploughed through whole swathes of M208 applying the techniques and not really seeing the relevance1 I found group theory and the proofs related to it tedious. Mainly because I was proving something that was “obvious”. However, I’ve always had a healthy acceptance of partial learnings – knowing that if I was being taught a technique then there was a reason for it. Two years later and that reason finally hit me. Continue reading M337: Group theory becomes relevant
OU level 3: Complex numbers and stochastic dynamics
I gave myself a birthday present again this year, by registering for another 60 points worth of Open University maths modules. I’d put it off for quite a while as I couldn’t decide which level three modules I wanted to do most and also in which order. The only fixed option was “The quantum word” which was only available once I’d completed1 60 points worth. This left me with a choice of 3 modules from 4 other interesting options. Sadly, I discovered (thanks to a comment) that the pure maths module I intended to do was a 60 point module, meaning I either had to lose that from my choice or two of the modules I was really wanting to do. In the end, pure mathematics lost out and I’m committed to four 30 point modules. Continue reading OU level 3: Complex numbers and stochastic dynamics