Your feedback is important to us
Please take two minutes at the end of your visit to help us improve our information and services.
Skip to content The Open University

Exploring mathematics

On this page

Exploring mathematics builds on the concepts and techniques in Using mathematics (MST121) and uses the same software. It looks at questions underlying some of those techniques, such as why particular patterns occur in mathematical solutions and how you can be confident that a result is true. It introduces the role of reasoning and offers opportunities to investigate mathematical problems. Together with Using mathematics this module will give you a good foundation for higher-level mathematics, science and engineering modules. Even if you don't intend to study further, you will gain a good, university-level understanding of the nature and scope of mathematics.

You are advised to be confident with the content of Using mathematics (MST121), or equivalent from elsewhere, before commencing study of this module.

Modules at Level 2 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

Register for the course


Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£985.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£865.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

See below for information about part time tuition fee loans available for study towards a qualification.

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

*Fees may vary by country.

What you will study

Exploring mathematics offers both a way in to honours-level mathematics and deeper insights into the mathematics that supports other areas of study. It rounds off the suite of modules designed to provide a rich and enlightening introduction to mathematical ideas and techniques.

This module builds on the approach and design of the University’s Level 1 module Using mathematics (MST121), extending the mathematical concepts and techniques (to cover more calculus, for example), the range of applications, and use of the module software. It looks at questions underlying some of the methods from MST121, such as why particular patterns occur in mathematical solutions, and how you can be confident that a result is true. It introduces the role of reasoning in mathematics, and offers opportunities to investigate mathematical questions for yourself. By the end of the module you will have encountered many of the topics that are developed in later mathematics modules, in particular in our main Level 2 modules Pure mathematics (M208), and Mathematical methods and models (MST209) or from October 2014 Mathematical methods, models and modelling (MST210). It also provides a good mathematical basis for modules in physics and engineering.

There are four sections, with each of the first three revisiting and developing the ideas introduced in the corresponding section in MST121. An important theme that runs through the module is mathematical reasoning.

Work on numbers and sequences is extended to Fibonacci and related sequences; that on circles is extended to the study of other conic sections. There is further exploration of the properties of functions and matrices, including applications in transformation geometry. The computer is used to help with important ideas of iteration in discrete mathematics. The ideas of calculus are extended to include more sophisticated techniques of differentiation and integration and use in the approximation of functions using Taylor series.

The last section of the module introduces important mathematical ideas, such as complex numbers, number theory and groups, that are built on in later modules. It concludes with a chapter on the role of proof in mathematics.

The module also develops more general skills such as communication of mathematical ideas, which will be useful in studying later modules.

You will learn

Successful study of this module should improve your skills in:

  • communicating mathematical ideas clearly and succinctly
  • working with abstract concepts
  • thinking logically
  • constructing logical arguments
  • finding solutions to problems
  • using a computer algebra software package.

Entry

This module is the third part of the mathematics entry suite that starts with Discovering mathematics (MU123) and goes on to Using mathematics (MST121) and MS221. Your choice of which to take depends on how much mathematical knowledge you already have and on the degree you have in mind. It is not advisable to take either MST121 or MS221 in the same year as MU123, and you should not take MS221 before studying MST121.

If you start in October it is possible – for some qualifications where regulations allow – to study MST121 and MS221 together in a single year as if they are a 60-credit module, as the material in the two modules is linked.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, or about choosing the most suitable mathematics entry module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

An integral part of study on this module is the use of specific software, which includes on-screen graphs and mathematical notation. Parts of this module are delivered online and through a CD-ROM so you will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer.  If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in operating a computer or accessing the internet and have any concerns about accessing the types of study materials outlined you are advised to talk to our Student Registration & Enquiry Service about support which can be given to meet your needs.

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of the printed study materials are available. However some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. The study materials are also available on audio in DAISY Digital Talking Book format. Written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

Module books, computer software on CD-ROM, audio CD, DVD (for video material), website.

You will need

Audio CD and video DVD playback facilities; scientific or graphics calculator.

You require internet access at least once a week during the module to download module resources and to keep up to date with module news. If your tutor offers online tutorials, we also recommend a headset with a microphone and earphones to talk to your tutor and other students online.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some course software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2007 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device is not suitable for this course – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this course by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material, mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

Please note that TMAs for all undergraduate mathematics and statistics modules must be submitted on paper as – due to technical reasons – we are unable to accept TMAs via our eTMA system.

Each TMA typically consists of six questions, covering one Block of the module. Each of the questions typically involves some calculation, algebraic manipulation, creating and/or interpreting a graph, some written work to explain your interpretations and conclusions, and may involve using the module software and providing printouts. The first TMA is to be submitted about eight weeks after the start of the module.

The examination contains two parts. The first consists of short answer questions covering the whole of the module. The second contains longer questions, one on each Block, and you are required to attempt up to two of these.

Professional recognition

This module may help you to gain membership of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). For further information, see the IMA website.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in February and October 2014, when it will be available for the last time. 

The combination of the Level 1 module Using mathematics (MST121) and this module (MS221) will be replaced by Essential mathematics 1 (MST124) available from February 2014 and either Essential mathematics 2 (MST125) available from October 2014 or Mathematical methods (MST224).

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Student Reviews

“As other people have said this is another top quality open university course, where the material seems to be more ...”
Read more
“This is a good course; one I enjoyed more than MST121. The study materials are, on the whole, more demanding ...”
Read more

Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code MS221
Credits 30
OU Level 2
SCQF level 8
FHEQ level 5
Course work includes:
4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
Examination
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

Your questions

Try our frequently asked questions.

Come and meet us at an event near you.

Or contact an adviser by Email or call +44(0) 845 300 60 90 +44(0) 845 366 60 35

Employers' questions

Contact Corporate Enquiries
Visit our website for employers or Email us

Get a prospectus

Download or
order