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Investigative and mathematical skills in science

Designed to follow our key introductory OU level 1 module in science – Exploring science (S104) – this module focuses on developing your experimental, investigative and mathematical skills. You’ll gain confidence in using mathematics as a scientific tool by working through questions in a study book with worked examples. You’ll investigate weather patterns and events around the world, and develop your observational skills by studying your local weather to make your own short-term forecast. And you’ll learn key scientific skills by doing experiments at home, and working online with a small group to discuss experimental design, collect data and compare results.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
1 7 4
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

This module has three components.

Understanding the weather concentrates on the physical processes that operate together in the atmosphere to produce various types of weather system. This will give you a better understanding of the information conveyed by weather maps. You will also learn about the ways in which meteorological data are collected and fed into the computer models that underlie weather forecasting. This will enable you to understand how the professional weather forecasts for your area have been made and how reliable they are likely to be. You will be able to apply this knowledge in making your own short-term predictions of your local weather. You will develop a range of study skills associated with retrieving and interpreting information in the form of tables, charts, maps and graphs. 

You will be required to undertake some small projects in which you will develop your ability to observe your local weather in a systematic way and to interpret forecasts. It is important that you will be able set aside time to carry out these observations on specified dates as set out in the study planner. You will also consider some of the ways in which typical variations in the weather and extreme weather events affect a wide range of human activities.

At the same time you will be working through a Maths For Science study book in which mathematical techniques are explained. Worked examples are included, but the main emphasis is on providing examples for you to try for yourself. As you work through the questions you will be able to revise the mathematical skills you already have, as well as learning and practising new ones, and your confidence in handling maths should increase.

Finally, you will learn about designing and planning experiments. By carrying out experiments yourself and discussing both the design and the results with other students in your group, you will learn practical skills in making measurements and observations accurately. You will also learn about the process of reaching conclusions that are supported by the experimental results. You will get an opportunity to design and carry out an experiment with your group. This will help you to understand the role of hypotheses in experiments and that detailed planning is necessary for successful and safe experimentation. By working in groups you will appreciate the role of group work and discussion in science.

It is important that you make sufficient time available to participate fully in the collaborative elements of this module; your active participation in the group discussions and data collection will be assessed by your tutor throughout the module and this will contribute towards your module assessment.

An online interactive text, the Good Experiments Guide, provides an explanation of the different phases of designing experiments, carrying them out, analysing the results and communicating the outcomes. It is illustrated with case studies taken from the published work of professional scientists, some of which mention historical scientific investigations carried out on animals.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material, experiments and observations, who will lead online tutorials and whom you can ask for academic advice and guidance.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above – please note this may be subject to change.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and end-of-module assessment (EMA) and you must work online to complete the interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA).

Your active participation in the collaborative elements of this module – tutor group discussions and the collection of experimental data  – is essential to pass this module.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you progress to modules at OU level 2. 

As this module builds on the skills and knowledge developed through the study of Exploring science (S104), we strongly advise you to study S104 first.

You should have basic mathematical skills (including drawing and interpreting graphs, and measurement and use of angles, using degrees). You should also have an understanding of basic scientific concepts. Both skill sets are covered in Exploring science.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £1350.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 04/08/2015.

What's included

A large proportion of the study materials will be delivered only online. Two printed books (Maths for science, Understanding the weather), study guide, website, online video and audio activities, other online materials including the online Good Experiments Guide, and online discussion forums for interaction with other students.

You will need

A few items of household equipment for practical work. 

A basic scientific calculator. It is important that you either know how to use your calculator fully or still have its operating instructions. You should check that your calculator performs calculations in the mathematically correct order. You will learn more about this during your studies, but for now check the answer that your calculator gives to the calculation 3 + 2 × 4. The correct answer is 11. If your calculator gives the incorrect answer of 20 it does not ‘understand’ the rules and you should not use it for this module. If  you should decide to buy a new scientific calculator, one of the following would be particularly suitable –  a Casio fx-83GT PLUS, a Casio fx-85GT PLUS or a Sharp EL-W531 (‘Writeview’)  –  and should not cost more than about £10.

Headphones and a microphone for taking part in online tutorial sessions.

A webcam or digital camera is highly desirable to show images of experiments.

You will need a certain amount of space to perform some of the experiments, and for one you will need access to soil. You should be prepared to set aside several periods of up to half a day for completing some of the experiments. This module may not be suitable for you if you are unable to study regularly, need to take frequent breaks from study of five days or more, or will not have regular access to the internet.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of the printed study material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. The two printed books (Maths for science and Understanding the weather) are available in a comb-bound format. In addition a significant proportion of the study material is delivered online but will include printable versions of web pages for students to print off should they wish to do so.  Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

Students with hearing or visual impairments may have difficulty participating in the audio conferences but should be able to participate fully in online forum discussions. Transcripts of audio-visual clips will be included in the study materials. Students with manual dexterity problems or hearing or visual impairments may need assistance to complete some experiments. Students with visual impairments may have difficulty in participating fully in some of the observational activities. For example, you need to undertake simple observations of the weather in your locality for a period of several consecutive days. Parts of the module rely heavily on coloured images, complicated maps and charts, and direct observations of the sky. One of the aims of the module is that students should develop an ability to interpret cloudscapes, weather maps, satellite images and their own observations. No textual descriptions of diagrams will be available and the use of a sighted assistant to interpret the images or describe the sky may conflict with some of the module learning outcomes. The assessment will only require students to demonstrate that the majority of module learning outcomes have been achieved. You should consider if you will find achieving these learning outcomes challenging and contact us for advice before registering for this module.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.