This week I finished the last of the books in SM358 – the quantum world and am now starting two and a half weeks of intense revision to prepare for the exam. This has been by far the most enjoyable module to study in my Open University mathematics journey so far, even if it was also the first one without face to face tutorials.
While I am very happy at studying on my own, one of the aspects I have really enjoyed in previous modules was spending a few hours every month with fellow students. Not so much to solve problems (as I am always well behind where everyone else is!) but to be inspired. When work and family commitments get overwhelming, study is easy to put to one side, having a checkpoint in the diary helps prioritise and I always left tutorials feeling motivated. I’m not sure whether SM358 didn’t have face to face tutorials because it is a physics module or if it’s just a module that has never been successful with these. Online tutorials are just not the same. Partially because I don’t get home early enough to attend them, but also after a day at work, trying to switch to student mode and find a quiet corner of the house just isn’t possible.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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
This week I was delighted to be at the Royal Statistical Society as a business representative for the launch of their Data Science Section. At over 160 years old, the RSS is one of the more established professional bodies and I like that it is questioning and making a difference as the application of their industry changes and when faced with an increasing challenge of abuse of statistical methods. I wish the general public had a greater understanding of statistics so they wouldn’t be so easily swayed by the media with a simple graph “proving” a point. Continue reading Professional body for data science? Yes Please
This week was the exam for my level 2 OU module MST210 on methods, models and modelling. This was a compulsory module, but had it not been I would have never chosen it. The module has been mostly applied maths, which has been really interesting, but what’s been a problem for me has been the mandatory team work modelling exercise, which makes up 16% of the continuous assessment. So much so, that I lost motivation to do the final TMA or revise for the exam as much as I wanted to. I thought it would be worth a short reflection on why I disliked this aspect so much (especially as it led to a repeat of last year when it came to revision…). Continue reading MST210 – Exam and modelling exercise reflections
After the lack of focus I’d had studying for M208, I was adamant that with MST210 I’d get into a routine and stay on top of the work regardless of what else life through at me. This worked pretty well in October and November. I did the work during my commutes, approximately 3-4 hours a day, even if I had to sit on the floor of a train carriage or find a dusty corner of Paddington while waiting for a delayed train. All was going well. At the end of November I began the process of changing jobs and, because of the nature of my work, was put on garden leave for three months. Suddenly I wasn’t confined on trains for about one seventh of every weekday. This is where my whole routine broke down. Continue reading MST210 – Lack of routine has consequences
I’ve written before about the power of literate programming, using to create reports when code runs. It’s fairly simple to combine this with the graphical drawing packages to create impressive graphs and figures on the fly. A lot of academics I’ve spoken to have shied away from using for drawing, despite being very proficient with the textual layout. Similarly, a lot of students on the OU Mathematics degree write up all of their assignments in but drop in hand drawn graphs and diagrams. Just like anything else in , once you get your head around how it works, it’s actually not that difficult to create very complex structures. Continue reading Diagrams with LaTeX – easier than you might think
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