Thursday, November 17, 2011...11:14 pm

Taking on OU mathematics – I think I may have miscalculated a bit

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I never knew there was this much maths in the world…

Another big gap in posting on Freelance Unbound in October (and, indeed, November) is not simply a sign that I am working too hard at my day job. No – the new university semester is drowning me as a learner, as well as a teacher.

This October saw me take on my dark nemesis – maths. And despite all my best intentions, my arch-foe looks like defeating me again.

Maths was my undoing at school. I did fine up to O-Level Elementary Maths – but then took on something called Additional Maths, which flummoxed me completely. Suddenly, equations had things like exclamation marks in them – what on earth was that about?

And I had no idea what any of it was for. Integration? Differentiation? I could understand trigonometry, and things like simultaneous equations. But this new material was bewildering. So I quietly gave up and moved on to English Literature and Economics.

This has always bothered me. So during my Open University science degree I’ve been determined to beat maths into submission. After all – I’m an adult now. I’m motivated and wise. Mature and methodical. Maths can’t defeat me again.

Oh dear. My first science unit with the OU was a gentle romp. I even understood basic quantum mechanics. But this maths unit (MST121 – Using Mathematics: a “broad, enjoyable introduction to university-level mathematics”) is made of sterner stuff.

Depressingly, I’ve pretty much hit a brick wall with it, just as I’ve reached the crossover between what I achieved successfully at school and the material that defeated me. All that stuff about being more mature and motivated seems not to be helping at all.

Maybe the truth is that I can’t do it. I am actually a failure at maths beyond the basics.

It’s a blow. I had really wanted to specialise in physics for my OU degree. Just like that chirpy Brian Cox, I wanted to probe the mysteries of the cosmos and delve into the subatomic structures of matter.

But it looks like I may have to have a backup plan. Still – chemistry is pretty interesting. And I hear there is actually quite a bit of work in the field these days too…

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