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Friday, January 7, 2011

Looking back on 2010 - 2

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.

4 comments:

  1. I thought it was 360 points not 540 or are you including the MSc ? If you just want to go straight for the MSc and MST209 does not appeal you can do an appropriate selection of level 3 courses which on top of your M208 pass should be enough to get you on the course. They reccomend M208, M337 and if you are interested in mathematical modelling M326 mathematical methods and Fluid mechanics. From your posts you seem to have covered more than enough material for MST209 already and M326 has a revision block anyway so if you can do the revision block exercises then you could probably bypass MST209 especially if attending a residential school would be inconvenient. Also M337 is only strictly necessary if you want to do Applied Complex variables. Even on the MSc you don't have to do all the courses do 2 and you get a postgraduate certificate, 4 a diploma and so forth. I guess you would want to do the analytical number theory courses and possibly coding as your interests seem to be in
    discrete mathematics, but I'm not sure that any of the other courses would have much appeal to you. Anyway you have a few years to decide still. Hope you have a better experience this year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris, thank you for this comment! I will brief you in more detail in a private e-mail later this weekend or early next week.
    ( P.S. I will switch comment moderation back on. In that case I receive an e-mail when comments are posted, I might be able to respond more promptly when on-line. )

    ReplyDelete
  3. interesting post, i have just enrolled in MS221, my first OU course. looking forward to you next post

    ReplyDelete

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(Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion, colloquially aka Raumpatrouille Orion was the first German science fiction television series. Its seven episodes were broadcast by ARD beginning September 17, 1966. The series has since acquired cult status in Germany. Broadcast six years before Star Trek first aired in West Germany (in 1972), it became a huge success.)