mst121 (Exploring Mathematics) – Brief recap for anyone thinking of taking it

Noticed a lot of hits coming in from people searching for MST121, guessing that’s people thinking about starting the course in October.  So i thought a quick recap of the course so far might be helpful


I did A-Level Maths (C) and Further Maths (E (though some of that grade I blame on being evacuated due to a bomb scare in the final exam)) about 16 years ago. Since then I’ve mucked around with some maths, but nothing major. So that’s meant that most of the course has been revision for me. But all the topics seem to be introduced in a pretty good manner, so everything’s easy to understand.

General OU comments:

All course materials appear to be shipped with DHL. This caused me a few problems at the start as the local DHL depot is a good 45 minutes drive each way from home. But you can get the Open University to ship to an address other than home, so now all course materials arrive at my work with no problems. (They didn’t offer this when I enrolled over the phone, so I changed it in the Profile section of the student website)

Everything that’s arrived from the OU has turned up in plenty of time, and there’s never been a problem with anything missing. All the materials seem to well produced and proof read (the errata sheets seem to very empty, which is a good sign). I can’t comment on any of the DVDs or CDs as I’ve not needed to use them yet.

As I’m doing MS221 at the same time I’ve not been to any MST121 tutorials since the first one. But if they’re as good as my MS221 ones have been then they’re very helpful. And even not having been to a tutorial, my tutor does check that everything’s going well and reminds me that I can get in touch whenever I want to.


MST121 means you have to use the Mathcad and OUStats packages. The Open University recommends a windows based computer. Being a contrarian I decided I’d be using a Apple Macbook instead. The easiest way to make sure everything ran fine was to run Parallels and keep them in a virtual machine. That seems to have worked absolutely fine. Though I’ve got to admit that Mathcad is not the best bit of maths software I’ve ever used, and I’ve only put up with it as there’s quite a few marks on TMA questions that need it.

Other than that I’ve been typesetting all my TMA submissions using LaTex (more details and a TMA template here)

Course Content:

I’ve found the course pretty straightforward with everything being introduced in a nice structured way. I’d say if you can answer all the question on this test then you shouldn’t have any problems with any of the topics. And if you can’t quite get through them all, then the revision section of the course should brush up the bits you don’t remember or haven’t met. If you’ve got a Maths A-Level then everything should be familiar, if you’ve got a GCSE then the basics should be familiar, but there might be more new stuff to learn, but shouldn’t be too much.

The assignments are pretty well spaced out so there’s plenty of time to study and get them done. Though if like me you’re doing MST121 and MS221 at the same time (January start) then it does get a little hectic.

All of my other posts on MST121 are available in an archive – MST121 Archive

Hopefully that’s been of some use. If you’ve any questions, please ask.

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