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Student and tutor module reviews

Mathematical methods and models

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  • Points: 60
  • Code: MST209
  • Level: 2

Student reviews

Very tough and very rewarding. Had to put in lots of hours each week to keep up with the pace of the course, and filled around 10 A4 notebooks full of rough work during the year. I believe this was partly due to my not fully putting the effort in to MST121, so I had to do a lot of the early stuff over and over until it sank in.

Only do this course if you have the time to put into it, it is not a course for which you can do a few hours before each TMA, as I had done for other courses in the past.

The course was very interesting thorough, and teaches very useful techniques.

My one piece of advice is to complete as many mock exams as possible before the real exam, this will prepare you in the best way.

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: November 2013

I took this as preparation for third level physics modules and really enjoyed it. Whilst there is a large spread of mathematical topics, they are developed and then related to real world problems which I found worked well for me. The seven TMAs were well spaced and very helpful to reinforce the learning. Sadly there were no face-to-face tutorials but the elluminate versions were ok and my tutor was great throughout. The pace was as expected and I managed to keep up with the published timetable.

I found working a lot of past papers under exam conditions (and using the Black Badge press answers) to be essential as a means to revise and also to practise exam timing. I particularly liked the fact that it was possible to answer exam questions worth up to 115 marks - wish more exams did this! The 85 page handbook was excellent throughout the course and can be taken into the exam. I'm also finding it to be an invaluable reference in my current class.

My only gripe was that a software package called Mathcad is provided and required but in a back-level version with an extremely poor user interface. It was somewhat unstable and some of the graphical bits didn't work- in my opinion it's not up to the quality of the rest of the material and needs updating.

Overall a terrific course.

Peter Ross Wilson

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: October 2013

I really did struggle with this course and without the online tutorials I would never have passed the course.

It involves a lot of physics and that part was very new to me. The course was VERY time consuming and my other 30 credit module suffered because of it.

However once I got to grips with some of the physics I actually enjoyed some of the TMAs.

My advice for this course (especially if never covered physics before) is to stay ahead as much as you can.

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: October 2013

Wow! I thought S207 the previous year was an intense course (and it was) but MST209 is on another level altogether; the material is fascinating and well explained, but the scope of the course is considerable.

I managed to get a distinction, to my surprise, so for what it's worth here are a few tips for surviving and maybe even doing well.

(1) Stay ahead of the curve; start the course material as soon as you get it and definitely ahead of the official start date - this is a tough module for part-time study.
(2) Don't lose heart early on if you struggle, keep chipping away.
(3) Practice past papers religiously (I did 6); you can get past papers from the OU webshop and answers from Black Badge Press; they were brilliant

My top tip for the exam; the final section requires you to do 3 out of a choice of 7 long questions (one question per block), do not try and master all 7 blocks as you'll never do it ... pick 3 blocks to really specialise in and if you have time pick a 4th as backup, then you'll do well in the final part. You will still need to have a good overall knowledge of all 7 blocks for the first 2 parts of the exam, but this might help with your revision plan.

Whatever you achieve in this module, you will learn some fascinating topics and, as with all things that are hard to do, you will feel very proud of yourself when you get to the finishing post. will definitely need MST209 for any Level 3 applied maths courses, so don't skip it.

Andrew Kelly

Course starting: January 2012

Review posted: December 2012

After passing MS221 and MST121 , the natural progression for a mathematical methods addict like me was MST209. I especially enjoyed this course because of the mathematical techniques and methods that are used in applied mathematics.

The sections on differential equations and vector calculus are very good, as is the section on numerical solution of ordinary differential equations and their interpretation. Also, it helps to have a good supportive tutor who provide good explanations with the TMAs. Although this course has a lot of topics to cover over 9 months, if you plan ahead and focus on the bits that you like then you're able to cope!

My advice is to plan ahead for this course, practice lots a past paper questions and don`t be afraid to get extra books on certain topics for extra practice! In the end you are rewarded with a good old fashioned 3hour paper which is fair and balanced.

Overall a good course to take. As I am now addicted to Applied Mathematical techniques, I am now doing MST326, which means even more differential equations, numerical methods and vector calculus! Can't wait!

Course starting: January 2011

Review posted: September 2012

This is without a doubt the most intensive course I have ever studied. Get hold of the materials well before the start date and start working on the first block as soon as you can. Falling behind is easy as there are lots of units to go through.

The OU does a great job at making the material clear and accessible to students with different levels of mathematical ability so if you have completed the pre-requisite courses (MST121 and MS221) you should be able pass at a reasonable standard.

Course starting: January 2011

Review posted: May 2012

A broad course which introduces many techniques useful for future study.
The TMAs are well-spaced and a fair reflection of the materials, and become gradually more difficult as the course progresses.

Tutor support was excellent, as was camaraderie on the dedicated forum itself. The moderators were enthusiastic and the Elluminate sessions enlightening.

My own personal frustrations came early on with the introduction of statics and dynamics, lasted for a fortnight, then largely dissipated. The rest of the course was relatively plain-sailing.

I enjoyed the treatment of Fourier series, numerical analysis, vector calculus and, particularly, multivariable calculus, all of which are immensely useful at third level and beyond.

There's a lot covered and most students will find themselves busy, but the satisfaction of making it to the end is immense.

A very good course and thoroughly recommended. The exam in 2011 was firm but fair and kept me busy until the "pens down" moment.
Having done M208 the year previously, I'd say MST209 was substantially more work.

Keith Farr

Course starting: January 2011

Review posted: December 2011

A good course for an introduction to mechanics using vector calculus, matrices and partial differential equations. The course title pretty well summarises the course, it's about half modelling and half methods. I found it useful to have done M208 previously.

The course materials were very well presented and the TMAs were pretty straightforward. At the end you are ready for more advanced work on vector calculus and partial differential equations. The most interesting part of the course is the final section on rotational motion and planetary orbits.

Be ready in the exam for some lengthy algebra. The questions are reasonable, but the amount of writing required varies quite a bit, and if, like me, you tend to run out of time in examinations, choice of questions is important. The exam paper allows you to try for over 100 marks, I managed to nearly complete 100 marks worth and just scraped a distinction.

If you are planning on Level 3 applied mathematics modules, this is an excellent and absolutely essential precursor.

Roger Beautiman

Course starting: January 2010

Review posted: November 2011

I studied MST209 alongside MS221 and MST121 while also working full-time and having a young family -- and my advice would be do NOT do that!

I always enjoyed Maths at school, and was very excited about taking MST209 and I was not in the slightest disappointed. This is an excellent course and an excellent example of why one should study with the OU because that materials were excellent and my tutor was great.

As the title suggests, this is a 'methods' course. I did not fully appreciate the significance of this word in the title until well into the course. The materials give great explanations and proofs for the mathematics used for solving problems from vastly different modelling areas ranging from particles and objects in various types of motion, heat and waves, and population dynamics, but the emphasis is on applying the methods taught and this meant that the course covers an immense amount of mathematics.

There are numerous topics covered in the course and the calculus includes solving of ordinary and partial differential equations using analytical and numerical methods; fourier series; vectors and matrices. You have to like maths to enjoy this course and you have to feel confident about calculus from the start otherwise the course will get extremely tough very quickly.

I would say you would alse have to have some interest in the sciences, or at the very least not averse to them. Although there isn't any real physics to learn for instance, many of the problems used for motivation in applying the methods of the course, are drawn from sciences.

I had a huge sense of achievement getting through the materials and understanding them. The TMAs are very fair though demanding, and test your grasp of mathematics thoroughly. There wasn't a TMA that I didn't enjoy doing.

Allow yourself plenty of time to revise for the Final Exam and to practice past papers, as you will enjoy, all the pieces coming together and the increased understanding gained from bringing the whole course together. Good Luck!

Course starting: January 2010

Review posted: September 2011

The course materials were excellent, as with all the OU courses I have taken. Even the supporting software modules were good in spite of relying on Mathcad.

The topics are all part of what every educated mathematician must know, but I would definitely shift the balance from physics to mathematics. In particular, the treatment of multivariable calculus needs to be beefed up (e.g. including the Green-Gauss-Stokes theorems and a proper treatment of the inverse/implicit function theorems), especially since there is no other OU course where that is covered (I think there is a bit more in the fluid mechanics course, but probably without rigorous proofs - and not everybody may want to study an esoteric subject like fluid mechanics).

TMAs and exam were a bit too long, but not very difficult and overall fair.

In sum, a very good course.

Course starting: January 2010

Review posted: July 2011

This was a really well put together course, and I had the benefit of a very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and constructive tutor. I went straight into this course having done the OU online "are you ready for MST209" tests. Otherwise I would have studied the pre-cursor courses first. My last foray into maths had been in 1992, and so I had some memory-dredging to do, but it proved possible.

Thankfully, although MST209 goes into quite some depth, it works its way up in a well explained manner with good examples. It's worth using the tutorial sessions if you can, since on a few occasions I found the leap between example and practice questions hard to grasp. At this point human intervention is crucial.

Many people commented on the course forum that the 2010 exam was difficult or unrepresentative (in comparison to earlier years' papers). However, although pushed for time in my revision schedule due to a ramp-up in my work commitments, I believe the exam was a fair reflection of the syllabus. Indeed, I not only finished the exam in time (including an "extra question" to improve my chances) but I even got the grade I was looking for. Overall I found MST209 an excellent mathematical preparation for the mechanical engineering areas which I need to study.

Christopher Andrews

Course starting: January 2010

Review posted: December 2010

Disclaimer: I am one of those people who rather enjoys maths, so please bear that in mind when reading my comments!

I thought this was a great course. the materials (as in all the OU maths courses I've done so far) were excellent, and really led you through the material well. The course is mainly a calculus course, but with a heavy emphasis on application to real world problems, mainly mechanics, but also a few other areas (eg heat transfer). It does cover other areas (such as vectors, matrices, etc) but in the end these generally contribute to the calculus sections (on partial differential equations or vector calculus).

The TMAs were generally fair assessments of the material, and the exam (provided you've looked at enough past papers) is relatively easy to prepare for (and has more than 100% available, if you have the time)

Tutors were helpful, I'd highly recommend this course.

Course starting: January 2009

Review posted: January 2010

I found this course to be a very wide and often interesting, but which was significantly heavier on my time than previous courses. On many occasions I felt the university had given little thought to whether or not a particular unit could be completed within a week, the written text was usually of a manageable length but often the associated computer package consisted of a lengthy read through and there was often a 1970's style Open University film which no one has been brave enough to throw away.

Additionally the tma questions were much harder than I was used to, the final two tmas struck me as being far more difficult than they needed to be.
That said, as a maths course (and often a Physics course) this was a good one. The units on Forces, Projectiles, Vectors, Matricies and Eigenvalue were well written, and once you understood a topic it had a reassuring habit of turning up again in a later unit.

I found my tutor particularly helpful in many areas but specifically in supplying the answers to the last 4 written exams, with these on board I found the exam considerably easier than the tma's and I managed a relatively good final exam score.

My advise with this course is look at the exam questions early on, it is possibe to pass to a reasonably good standard with a good understanding of the basic core ideas. I think with this course it is necessary to prioritise and I wonder how sensible or practical it is to spend many hours on the finer points of the last 2 modules.

Sean Robinson

Course starting: January 2009

Review posted: January 2010

Another excellent OU course. Expect to be busy, but not necessarily challenged. This is about applying maths, not the 'whys and wherefores'.

A lot of the techniques boil down to basic integration/differentiation, solving simple quadratic and simultaneous equations (such as you might have done in MST121/MS221), along with being able to remember which direction you called 'positive'! But you will need to generate equations from basic principles applied to the described situations, and apply complicated patterns of equations without getting your algebra in a twist.

If you can do those basics accurately and confidently, you can do very well on this course.

Simon Harrison

Course starting: January 2009

Review posted: December 2009

I found this course to be both challenging and rewarding. You need to be able to keep studying at a rate of one module per week, and do the TMAs on top. I found that the latter courses built on the earlier modules, so it's important to really get to grips with the early modules. I also signed up MXR 209 - the summer school -which complements MST 209, but as a result of pressure of work I had to postpone the summer school until another year.

I thought the TMAs were fine, they cemented and extended my understanding of the concepts in the modules; like others though I found it difficult to get MathCad do what I wanted it to do. I like the idea of using a maths package to solve problems, especially where numerical methods are involved, I think the answer is perhaps to make more use of MathCad and become more familiar with it. I didn't have enough time for that.

I went to a few of the day tutorials which were great, informative and quite good fun too. I didn't make use of all the video materials as I do most of my studying whilst commuting. I did need help with the intuition on some topics such as gradient vectors, and I found some useful materials on YouTube, and also on the MIT lecture site.

With regard to the exam, I did lots of revision based on the supplementary exercises, and also five past papers. As has been said many times, it's vital to work quickly and efficiently to get through all the sections in the exam.

Overall a great course, I think that had I been able to devote more time to it I would have enjoyed making sure I understood the underlying concepts in more depth.

Stephen Robinson

Course starting: January 2009

Review posted: December 2009

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.


Module satisfaction survey

The figures below are taken from a survey of students who sat the exam/completed the end-of-module assessment for the February 2012 presentation of MST209. The survey was carried out in 2012. 36.5% of our students responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module. See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 82 %
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 78.7 %
The module provided good value for money 78.2 %
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 86.8 %
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 79.8 %
The module met its stated learning outcomes 85.2 %
I would recommend this module to other students 72.1 %
The module met my expectations 74.3 %
I enjoyed studying this module 68.7 %
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 65 %
Faculty comment: "We are pleased that the vast majority of students have enjoyed this module and have learned a great deal from it. For 2012, three units were made optional to address the workload issues, and the module software was updated, which we hope will address most of the problems that students have encountered in the past."
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