Skip to content The Open University

Student and tutor module reviews

Optimization

see module description

  • Points: 30
  • Code: M373
  • Level: 3

Student reviews

The module starts by sounding as though pi will be rounded down to 3, but then demonstrates practical reasons for doing so.

Very much for the applied mathematics enthusiast, this module felt like the perfect continuation of 'Mathematical Methods, Models and Modelling' (MST210) as modelling was very much a key element.

Course starting: October 2018

Review posted: December 2019

This course naturally follows on from MST209 (or MST210 for newer students) and I would rank it near the top of my level 3 modules for enjoyment.

M373 was the last module of my Maths degree. It was tricky in parts but, overall, a great module.

There's two things that students get frustrated with on M373: the maths software Maxima, and the middle block of the course which contains some confusing algorithmic techniques.

But the online tutorials are fantastic - some of which were recorded during my presentation (2015/16). Do watch them - they were, by far, the best tutorials I've 'attended' with the OU and help you through the most complex parts of the course.

Stuart Reynolds

Course starting: October 2015

Review posted: October 2016

I studied 5 OU level 3 modules and this was my favourite. A great mix of theory and applied maths, although it will probably appeal more to those with a more applied preference. The emphasis is on solving problems using different techniques. Great support from the OU moderators and tutors too.

Stephen Peter Wood

Course starting: October 2013

Review posted: April 2015

I really enjoyed the breadth of this module. Tutors were absolutely excellent.

M373 was a challenge, especially as I had studied previously M208 Pure Mathematics but not second level Applied Mathematics. The practical application of topics and breadth of study is excellent. There is quite an emphasis on numerical methods and analysis which I found fascinating.

I particularly enjoyed the discussions of ways in which the methods had been improved and how developments have been made. I thought this module was really excellent. I did receive lots of help from tutors, as there was a lot to learn.

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: July 2013

One course has to be the least enjoyable and, for me, I am afraid it was M373. The only letter in the course is M therefore it is a full-on maths course with emphasis on practical applications coming a distant second. Therefore my extensive knowledge of financial modelling at work turned out to be of limited benefit - well no benefit, actually!

I found the mathematical steps in most cases fairly okay to understand (after three or four readings), but not having previously used the Mathcad software proved to be a handicap that I severely underestimated. It is a lot, lot more difficult to master than Excel. Consequently, I fell behind almost immediately and only caught up by the last TMA. However, although I was averaging in the mid-80s for the TMAs, I had not had the chance to learn the material thoroughly enough to do myself justice in the exam, where I got less than half my TMA score.

So, if you are a maths-oriented person and you enjoyed MT209 or M208 and got to grips with Mathcad, M373 is probably a logical next course. If you are a business studies, computing or engineering student who fancies doing something a bit different, my advice would definitely be not to do M373.

James Graham Macdonald

Course starting: February 2009

Review posted: January 2010

This was a thoroughly testing course that I strongly recommend as a Level 3 module for anyone doing a maths degree.

I particularly enjoyed the middle block that contained all the linear programming activities, which have great relevance to the business world. The computer applications were very interesting, and occasionally produced surprising results.

Facility with matrices is a great advantage on this course, and some of the maths logic can look scary.

But don't do the course unless you like doing calculations.

Andrew Fawcett

Course starting: February 2006

Review posted: September 2007

A rather time-consuming course, harking back perhaps to the origins of optimization with all hand-calculation; it involves a detailed understanding [that'll dawn on you as you study the course for those who aren't all that familiar with it yet] of matrix algebra.

The essence of the course is fascinating; you tend to understand the reason for being made to take so much time doing what a computer could do so quickly, when the aim is in-depth understanding of all the ways a computer could implement optimization algorithms.

Being introduced to the various ways of making business questions mathematical is itself quite an enjoyable revelation.

The course luckily goes easy on the hand-calculation as far as possible, leaning heavily on 'the computer algebra package' implementations of the algorithms, particularly for the more advanced stages, although hand-calculation + other laborious aspects represent a sizeable chunk of your time both during TMAs + during the exam itself.

Reports of reams of paper seem a bit overdone; I seemed to manage good grades with 20 page TMAs, although I did try to rearrange some of the printing to save paper.

Course starting: February 2006

Review posted: December 2006

This course is about techniques for solving real-world problems; it makes extensive use of computer and calculator (I advise you to get the TI-Voyage 200 or equivalent; it will pay off) and there is plenty of number crunching. Extensive use of vector and matrix notation is made throughout the course and if at the beginning the vector formulas may be rather daunting, eventually you will gain a very good capability at handling them. This course is not for those who hate number crunching and elate themselves with high abstraction. But if you like to tackle real-world problems, it is a very rewarding course.

Fulvio Tabacco

Course starting: February 2004

Review posted: January 2005

Completing this course was very satisfying as it put mathematics into the "real" world and showed how there are feasible solutions to mind-boggling problems(factory/business)and further, that these solutions can often be found by drawing simple graphs!

There is a large amount of matrix manipulation involved but if this sounds off-putting do not fret, reading and mostly accepting the algebra involved while focussing on the beginning and ends of the mathematical process seemed to enable sufficient understanding of what was happening and why. (I have not studied M203 and was able to follow the reasoning, but not reproduce it)

I like applied maths and really enjoyed this course, in spite of its sparsity of calculus and lack of mechanics. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to be really chuffed with themselves after having drawn a few graphs and solved a (small but possible) business problem!

Course starting: February 2004

Review posted: January 2005

Top

Tutor reviews

It is good to see that most of the reviews have been very positive. The course team set out to demonstrate how mathematics can be used to solve real world problems in linear and nonlinear optimization by focussing on the modelling involved, the algorithms that can be applied, and on the reliability of the results. The course is accessible to students who have previously studied either M208 or MST209.

Inevitably there will be some hand calculation in order to reinforce the methods, but all of the algorithms are available in Mathcad, with the opportunity to see the detailed calculations involved, which can be very helpful when things go wrong.

Mick Bromilow
Exam Board Chair, M373

Review posted: November 2012

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

Enter a module code to find a review

To send us reviews on modules you have studied with us, please click the sign in button below.