I self-studied mathematics years before I enrolled on my first Open University course MST121. Years went by in which I learned a lot of new topics but at the end of the year I had nothing to show for it. "What have I learned last year?" ( Perhaps you recognize the question? ) I passed M208 but that is not enough. Although I became more fluent in LaTeX and more skilled in using Mathematica it does not really show. (*) It could have been much worse though.
Somewhere in July or so I was spending twice as much time on the 30 point MT365 than on the 60 point M208. The real problem was that I procrastinated most of that time because MT365 was not what I expected from it -at all-. Part 1 Graph Theory was ok-ish, but all in all I dare to say MT365 does not deserve the title mathematics course. (I'll deal with this issue in a separate post.) The situation deteriorated fast. I gave up entirely. I stopped submitting MT365 -and- M208 TMA's. I had given up. End of study.
After a month or so I realized that I had collected more than enough TMA points for a seat at the M208 exam. Not everything was lost, 60 out of 90 isn't too bad. Besides that, I never thought that getting a degree in mathematics would be easy. "Expect problems. But handle them, immediately." - I passed M208 grade 2 with sending in 6 out of 8 TMA's. I am content with that.
If you are not a full-time student and if you want to do more than just your course work in your spare time, don't go for 90, let alone 120. I practice what I preach. I registered for 60 points in 2011. Considering what I went through last year my course(s) had to be challenging and fascinating. I looked very carefully at MST209 but it did not qualify for either of the requirements. Since MST209 is compulsory I postponed it to 2012 next to M336 Groups and Geometry. I'll deal with the MST209 issue later.
Now that leaves me with planning my free '30' points. An Open University study ends at 540 points. At that point the young and bright land in a Ph.D. position somewhere. They start teaching ( and deepening their knowledge of ) Calculus I. For them their study of mathematics begins, not ends. They are ( among ) the professionals. 'We' are what they call in mathematical circles 'amateurs', ( when there is a flaw in your work you are demoted to 'nutcase' ) disparaging maybe, but they know they can be beaten because all a mathematician need is his/her imagination and a pencil.
At 540, you must
- have chosen your field of expertise;
- be able to read articles of the journals in that field;
- understand the important open problems in that field;
- ( technically ) have the skills to write a paper and get it published.
The extra work I do is with this in mind. More on that another time.
(*) Did you know that you can copy a Mathematica formula and paste it as LaTeX in your favorite LaTeX IDE? - My fascination for Mathematica fuels my motivation to learn more mathematics and vice versa.
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