Skip to content The Open University

Student and tutor module reviews

Essential mathematics 1

see module description

  • Points: 30
  • Code: MST124
  • Level: 1
On this page

Student reviews

I found this module built quite nicely on from Discovering mathematics (MU123). The beginning of it was a nice refresher and really helped consolidate the learning. I found it quickly picked up pace, and it really pushed me at the end.

This module does require a lot of commitment, and I think I underestimated the amount of time I needed to dedicate to it. I found that it was easily taking more than the recommended time to keep up to date with module materials, the tutorials, and the tutor-marked assignment prep.

I did enjoy the module. I found it extremely satisfying to study and found it to be a fantastic module to challenge myself. I would definitely recommend the module, but would advise any upcoming students to definitely ensure that they allow plenty of time to work on the materials.

Course starting: October 2022

Review posted: March 2024

This was my first OU module that I had chosen to determine if I was good enough to study software engineering. My previous encounter with maths was in 2000 in secondary school where I scored the lowest passing grade. As a result, I approached this module with fear and uncertainty. However, I chose MST124 over MU123 as the latter has little value in my opinion.

With an early access to forum and revision materials, I started the module 10 weeks prior to the official start date. This gave me plenty of time to work through Units 1 and 2, attend revision tutorials and do challenges. These first two units go over basics (BIDMAS, HCF, LCM, manipulating surds, fractions, index laws, scientific notation etc.) that underpin subsequent units, including calculus.

I thoroughly enjoyed the module: excellent course books with text, illustrations, mention of famous mathematicians, real-life applications, many examples and exercises. I have had many serendipitous moments, and completing this module has boosted my confidence in maths and in general. Now I want to study more maths modules outside my degree.

This module requires a lot of time and effort commitment. On average, you have to work through a hundred pages of text and exercises a fortnight. Tutor-marked assignments take a lot of time to prepare and there is a lot of studying for the final exam. In my opinion, marking is strict but fair. There is plenty of time for all of that, even to catch up if you fall behind. I wholeheartedly recommend this module to everyone.

Kamil Sterniczuk

Course starting: January 2023

Review posted: December 2023

I absolutely loved this module. It was my first module with the OU and I was nervous about studying maths for the first time in nearly 30 years, but I did some preparation and although it was challenging at times, it was incredibly interesting and rewarding. The material builds up knowledge and understanding in robust, incremental steps. The module is very well organised to aid and enhance learning. You have to commit and work hard, but if you have a passion for maths, you should find it well worth the worth.

Susan Chaplin

Course starting: October 2021

Review posted: December 2022

This is a great module, and I would recommend it to anyone doing a course that requires anything more than the most basic maths. Coming from a background of doing A-level maths quite a long time ago, I still found it quite demanding. If you've completed A-level (or equivalent) maths recently, I suspect you'll find a lot of the content revision, but otherwise I'd encourage you to ensure you have plenty of study time available if you want to get the most out of this module. There is lots of support available if you need it, so many tutors seemed to be exceptionally motivated in this module to help students succeed.

Course starting: January 2022

Review posted: November 2022

I had to choose between this module and Discovering mathematics (MU123), and I am glad I chose this one.

You get four sizeable books, written by the OU module team, specifically for the module. The books are excellent; they start you out with some very basic problems and concepts – such as the order of operations – and from there, the material seamlessly progresses into much more advanced university-level mathematics. Every topic is explained clearly, using simple-to-understand language, and you're given a good number of problems to practice on. If you're having trouble with any particular problem, the books also provide step-by-step solutions to each and every one of them, sometimes even showing you multiple approaches you could have taken. And if you feel like you've not had enough of a particular topic, you can always get extra practice online on the module website.

The module claims that prior mathematical knowledge is required, but I really don't feel like that's the case: everything is written so well that someone who encounters the mathematical concepts for the first time will do just fine, provided they put the required hours into it. Unlike some other OU modules, this one won't let you get away with skimping on study time. I put a couple of hours into studying every other day, and in just a few months, I went from not being entirely clear on what logarithms are, to having passed the module with distinction.

Thanks to the quality of the materials, I didn't need to bother my tutor very often, but when I did, she was very helpful, and friendly, too. She even agreed to provide an academic reference for me, which ultimately helped me get a better job.

Course starting: January 2021

Review posted: October 2022

Besides learning the essential mathematical concepts, this module allows me to develop communication skills in mathematics. Online interactive quizzes, examples and exercises are great to practice, especially when preparing for the end of the module assessment. However, due to compatibility, installing and using Maxima on Macbook was a challenge for me. Simple Python or Excel would be an excellent addition for the students for the market requirements.

Erkan Malcok

Course starting: October 2021

Review posted: July 2022

This module provides an introduction/recap of subjects that form a good basis on which to build.

Margaret Mackett

Course starting: October 2020

Review posted: July 2022

A thorough and relentless module. The pace is constant with the material getting more and more involved as you progress through the units.

The materials supplied are detailed and supportive, as well as the tutorials too.

If you're not aware, there is a 'pre-study' headstart which helped consolidate much of the basics needed to be able to progress well through the module.

Enjoyable, but tough, as well as rewarding.

Course starting: October 2020

Review posted: June 2022

After leaving my A-levels after the first year, I was worried about studying this module.
However, I found that a large portion does only concentrates on first-year A-level, rather than the more complex second-year stuff. It is tricky for people who have come from this background, however, it is not impossible and with some practice can easily be picked up. The only thing I really didn't enjoy was the software usage required. I had never used software for my mathematics before and using it with this just felt kind of wrong to do? I'm sure it's useful and will grow on me.

Course starting: January 2021

Review posted: January 2022

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

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.