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Essential mathematics 1

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  • Points: 30
  • Code: MST124
  • Level: 1
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Student reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed this module. I found it to be quite fascinating and interesting, it was well written and I had a wonderful tutor. I enjoyed the tutor-marked assignments, the questions were great for getting you thinking and really pushing what you have learned and ensuring you have grasped the concepts taught. I haven't studied maths since GCSE's, 17 years ago, and I needed to complete this module as part of the degree path I have chosen.

Prior to the module starting, I had read through some of the GCSE revision books (the CGP ones, I'm sure some will remember these from their GCSE revision days!). I am glad I did, however, the module did revise some of the basics from GCSE level so this isn't essential pre-study study but I actually think it was helpful for me, simply because it had been so long since I had even heard some of the maths lingo.

I found this module really challenging (in a good way), but very time consuming. I was studying this one 30-credit module alone and I definitely spent as much time on it per week as I have on previous 60-credit modules so it was quite intense and tough going (don't make plans to spend time with friends and family from Jan-March which is when we covered Differentiation and Integration). I am very pleased I wasn't studying another module alongside it as I think I really might have struggled. This might just be me, I'm slow with maths, it takes me a long time to work through the book, exercises and questions and I spent a lot of time on the tutor-marked assignments. Others might have rattled through it much quicker. The unit on Taylor Polynomials is omitted from the module and the exam, which meant there was more time to prepare of the exam. The exam was the quickest 3 hours of my life! It's a big exam, a lot of questions and very fast-paced. I think I would have benefitted from spending more time on previous exam paper practices than going over the module materials so much.

I am a bit nervous to go onto 'Mathematical methods' (MST224) (starting in October 2022) - as I hear this is much more difficult and I will be doing it alongside another module. So I am apprehensive. On this basis, I will do some extra work/revision over the summer beforehand on the calculus subjects to enhance my understanding further and ensure I have these subject areas nailed before it gets more complicated.

I did really enjoy this module though, I never thought maths would be so interesting, but it is, and MST124 is quite gripping from the start and ends on a fantastic note with complex numbers which I think was my favourite unit in the module.

Course starting: October 2020

Review posted: August 2021

I have followed a somewhat convoluted route through the OU so far, having done some level 1 (120 credits of computing courses), changed to an open degree at level 2 (doing two astronomy courses), and then headed back to level 1 to complete courses that would allow me to qualify for an astronomy degree. I also really like maths, even though I did badly at school; I only have a C at O'level from 1983!

I always knew that MST124 would be a challenge... I had completed MU123 and found that very easy, but that did not count in my new pathway and MST124 was compulsory. Anyway, I elected to complete MST124 starting in the Feb group and running through to Sep for two reasons; to help deconflict from S111 (only a short overlap) and to aid with MST224 by running straight into that course which started in the Oct. The deconfliction worked well as I found the later part of MST124 a challenge; I found I was having to commit far more time to it than I expected. Preparation for the exam took me a great deal of time, and whilst I got a good pass I was not at all confident going into MST224.

The module is very interesting, and, as usual, the tutor was fantastic. The order of the course is well planned and you learn what you need in a timely fashion. It does seem to be assumed though that you are fluent in that subject as you move through the module, and new ideas are introduced assuming you got the last one. There were times that I struggled to follow examples that "jumped steps"... thank goodness for the tutor!

So I started MST224 in Oct (as per the plan) and instantly felt unprepared. There were a few things that appeared as assumed knowledge in the new module that had not been in MST124 (implicit differentiation for example) and I really felt that my competence at MST124 was not at standard for MST224. I have therefore delayed a year in order to go through MST124 again (on my own), do the bits I missed (as I ran out of time), and generally become more at ease with the subjects.

So, would I recommend MST124... Yes, absolutely (and, I had to do it to get the degree I want!). I enjoyed it most of the time, got a great result I didn't expect, and learned a lot. For me, I was just not ready for the huge jump to MST224. Had I got a background in A'level maths then perhaps I would have been better prepared. Anyway, it's a great module, fabulous materials (Books... real books!) and a great tutor!

Course starting: February 2020

Review posted: October 2020

This is an interesting, but non-intuitive module that can be enjoyable if you learn the methods instead of the applications. Unless you have a good understanding of algebra and have recently studied alternative mathematical modules this will be a difficult module to complete.

Course starting: February 2019

Review posted: September 2020

This module is a good introduction to bringing people up to speed with maths. The first few topics were a revision of GCSE and A level maths with later topics (e.g. complex numbers and Taylor polynomial series) starting to touch upon more advanced topics.

The books and tutorial materials are well written and there are plenty of practise questions to sharpen the maths skills.

I would highly recommend MST124 to individuals who would like to brush up on their maths skills and would like to enhance basic maths knowledge to more advanced levels.

Kevin Cassar

Course starting: February 2019

Review posted: June 2020

Wowee what a ride! Starts gently, then unit C Calculus arrives and before you know it, you hate the module. But, nevertheless, I survived and looking back enjoyed it immensely!

Helen Ghosh

Course starting: October 2018

Review posted: June 2020

I found this a challenging but enjoyable and interesting module. I had studied 'Discovering mathematics' (MU123) first and was glad I had as this ensured I had a good grounding to work from.
I found the study materials well laid out and clear. I found the face to face tutorials useful and enjoyable. My tutor was very helpful whenever I had a question, always responding quickly and with helpful suggestions.
I was however glad that I only did this module this year as I found it very intensive, I had to put in a lot of hours and I am in awe of those who study overlapping with 'Essential mathematics 2' (MST125)!
The exam was a big challenge for me but having the annotated handbook was very reassuring and doing lots of example papers was definitely the most useful revision tool.
Overall a really good module!

Course starting: October 2018

Review posted: July 2019

Really good module, work hard and you can easily get a distinction like I did. Thank you.

Course starting: October 2017

Review posted: June 2019

I found this module tough but very rewarding and felt that the rigorous academic experience and understanding I was yearning for was satisfied by this module. It is a whistle stop tour (but also very in depth) of essential maths for later module choices and career pathways. Some parts of the module materials are very verbose as is the need to cover each topic in detail. Fellow students recommended Kahn academy videos in addition to the examples in the module materials and I too found these almost essential to cement understanding. The exam was a huge shock to the system and I got 30% less in the exam than my OCAS score but ultimately it is good to do an exam in first year study when the stakes are low compared to year 2. Another excellent tutor who would answer questions happily and supportively.

Justin Coleman

Course starting: February 2018

Review posted: March 2019

I enjoyed this module. While starting gentle the units gradually became more advanced and focus is required to keep up with the pace of the module. The units on Taylor polynomials and complex numbers were particularly interesting and well written.
This is a balanced and well presented introduction to Mathematics.

Course starting: February 2018

Review posted: January 2019

This is a very intensive module that requires grit, determination and intelligence. The coursework texts are of a very high standard that include excellently written books and well-articulated videos with some lovely accents and choreography. Books C and D were demanding and covered the A-level syllabuses on calculus, complex number and series. Sometimes it was difficult to score high assignment marks as it was easy to misjudge questions designed to test more in-depth knowledge. However, if you do not score well in the coursework tutor-marked assignments and computed-marked assessments this certainly would not debar from passing the module. In fact I found the exam very student friendly and achieved a pass above any of the coursework assessments. It certainly was a rollercoaster ride and is not for the faint-hearted. Having said this the level of maths should be in an achievement band well within the reach of students bordering AS to A-level standard although a pass in GCSE maths would do but you would probably need to work harder to tackle the more difficult topics successfully. One downside was the computer work which relies on older software and led to cumbersome keyboarding. Provided you are prepared to work hard, particularly on the last two books, this course is accessible to anyone with an interest in consolidating mathematical knowledge. One last thing, on the exam it is a straightforward multiple choice format comprising two sections. I found it paid off to concentrate revision on section B where there are four marks allocated to each of seven questions covering the more difficult chapters. It is a challenging module that develops calculus such as the chain, product and quotient rules from simpler equations to complicated functions involving trig. If you want to develop mathematical thinking up to A-level and beyond this module is for you. Good luck!

John Graham Owen

Course starting: February 2018

Review posted: December 2018

This module is a step up from AS Level Maths and the MU123-Discovering Mathematics Module.

This course starts with Plotting Graphs and Quadratic Graphs and Equations then covers Functions, Exponential and Logarithmic Functions.

This module then moves onto Trigonometric Functions and Trig Identities, Vectors in 2D and 3D, Differentiation and Integration.

The last aspect this module looks at is Sequences and Series, The Binomial Theorem and Complex Numbers, which is a subject covered in the A Level Further Maths syllabus.

If you are a serious Mathematician and you are studying for a BSc (Hons) in Mathematics like I am, please be rest assured that it is an excellent module and a great stepping stone in terms of students wanting to study the MST125-Essential Mathematics module. The final assessment is a multiple choice examination paper. I found that this examination was quite straight forward, as long as you had covered all of the subjects within the MST124 module and that you prepare for the exam.

Finally, the MST124-Essential Mathematics 01 tutor in 2015/2016 was Jill Friedlander. I sincerely hope that this is your tutor for this module. Jill's tutorials were great and she was always available to help students with aspects of the course, when they were experiencing some difficulties.

Dominic Peter Gecas

Course starting: October 2015

Review posted: December 2016

A good maths grounding. For people considering which combination of maths modules to take please take advantage of the diagnostic tests to test your understanding. If you struggle on this course you'll probably get blown away on MST125.
In my opinion the course rests around 1st year A-Level so if you are significantly below this please consider your options, since the course is so fast moving with so much material to cover, there is no way you can catch up while you study the unit.
I did A Level maths so it was an easy decision for me, but if you have genuine doubts about your maths options, I suggest you do this as your second maths unit.

Marlon Williams

Course starting: January 2015

Review posted: July 2016

I loved this module. Everything about it: the quality of the course text, the availability of my tutor, the support provided on the forums. I'd recommend this course to anyone with an interest in maths.

Stephen Peter Mitchell

Course starting: January 2015

Review posted: July 2016

Actually very much enjoyed this. A real challenge as I went into this with pretty good but not super fresh GCSE maths knowledge and though I struggled, it was a satisfactory experience.

The materials are (almost) all available in book form which helped considerably and was mostly very well written. Some things maybe could have been explained a bit more carefully with more examples (and not presuming that one has learnt the last 10 pages off by heart already would help) and the pacing could be a bit off, with some of the TMAs feeling especially stressful. However, overall the material and assessments were very clearly and logically written and my tutor was very supportive.

The low point for me was the exam. It was my first OU exam and admittedly, I hadn't revised as well as I should of. However, the exam was considerably more difficult than the specimen I'd had no trouble doing under exam conditions the day before.

I'd still highly recommend this course to anyone needed a higher (but not too high) level of maths for their scientific/ analysis based courses. I personally think that anyone doing the Computer Science pathway should reconsider their choices if this course seems beyond them (though don't let the challenge of it deter you).

Richard Sutton

Course starting: January 2015

Review posted: June 2016

I started my Maths studies with MU123 and I'm glad that I did - I would not have coped with MST124 straight off and it would have really undermined my confidence. I think if you are confident in Maths and have a recent-ish Higher or A level you'd be fine. I used an A level book to prepare for the course - in particular getting my confidence up with quadratic equations - and I was very glad that I had.

The worst bit of the course is the introduction to calculus - this does get easier as you go on further in your studies, but be prepared for a very, very tough couple of weeks with chapters 7 and 8.

Overall a great course which prepared me well for MST125.

Pam Currie

Course starting: October 2014

Review posted: June 2016

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.

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