Essential mathematics 1
This key introductory module provides a broad and enjoyable foundation for university-level mathematics, but you do require some prior knowledge. It teaches you the essential ideas and techniques that underpin university-level study in mathematics and mathematical subjects such as physics, engineering and economics. You’ll study a range of fundamental topics – including calculus, vectors, matrices and complex numbers – and use mathematical software to solve problems. You’ll also develop your skills in communicating results and defining problems. This is not a module for beginners. Our MathsChoices website (mathschoices.open.ac.uk) contains quizzes, sample material and advice to help you decide if this is the right module for you.
What you will study
There are twelve study units in this module.
In the first two, you’ll revise and extend the basic mathematical knowledge and skills in basic algebra and graphs that should mainly be familiar to you. This revision material should help you identify and fill any gaps in your previous knowledge, and develop your basic mathematical skills to the level that you’ll need in the rest of the module. Much of the material in these two units will be available online, so you can make a start on your revision even before the module begins, if you wish. The first two units also teach you about communicating mathematics, and introduce you to the mathematical software that you’ll use in the module.
In the remaining study units you’ll cover these topics:
- Functions: these provide a means of representing situations where one quantity depends on another. For example, the distance travelled by a car depends on the time that it has been travelling. You need to know about functions before you can study calculus.
- Trigonometry: you’ll revise the relationships between the angles and side lengths of triangles, and the definitions of the trigonometric functions sine, cosine and tangent for angles of any size. You’ll learn many useful properties of these functions, which are used to model a wide range of cyclical phenomena, such as rotating objects, and waves.
- Vectors: these are quantities that have both a size and a direction. You’ll learn about the mathematics of vectors, and how to use them to model a variety of physical quantities, such as speed in a particular direction.
- Calculus: this is one of the most important and widely applicable topics in mathematics. It is concerned with quantities that change continuously, such as the distance travelled by, and the speed of, a moving object. You’ll be introduced to differentiation and integration, and learn how to use calculus to model a range of different situations and to solve problems from areas such as physics and economics.
- Matrices: these are arrays of numbers, which can be manipulated mathematically in various ways. They’re used extensively in both pure mathematics and mathematical applications.
- Sequences: you’ll learn how to work with some commonly occurring types of number sequences, such as those in which each number is obtained by multiplying the previous number by a constant.
- Complex numbers: these form an intriguing set of numbers that includes all the usual numbers, and also many `imaginary’ numbers, such as the square root of minus one. They have many uses in applied mathematics, as well as being the basis of some fascinating pure mathematics.
You’ll work mainly from the module books, which are available in various electronic formats as well as in print. You can view many of the worked examples in the books in an alternative video format, in which tutors work through and discuss the examples. You’ll also use specially-designed software applications to help you understand the concepts taught, and you’ll learn to use a mathematics computer package to solve problems. There are many online interactive practice questions to help you consolidate your learning.
The module includes a large amount of online study material, and requires you to use mathematical software frequently, so you’ll need regular access to a suitable personal computer.
Samples of the study material, including example assessment questions, are available on our MathsChoices website.
You will learn
Successful study of this module should begin to develop your skills in:
- expressing problems in mathematical language
- using mathematical techniques to find solutions to problems
- communicating mathematical ideas clearly and succinctly.
Essential mathematics 1 is designed to be taken either as your first university-level mathematics module or following on from Discovering mathematics (MU123).
Essential mathematics 2 (MST125) is designed to follow on from Essential mathematics 1. Normally, you should have completed this module first. However, if you have plenty of study time and a high level of confidence and fluency with algebraic manipulation you could study both modules in one year.
Alternatively, if you are considering progressing to Mathematical methods (MST224), normally you should have also completed this module.
This module may help you to gain membership of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). For further information, see the IMA website.
Module books and website, including access to computer applications and to optional online tutorials.
You will need
We recommend a basic scientific Casio `Natural’ calculator such as the fx-83GT PLUS or fx-85GT PLUS. The module website includes a calculator guide with references to this series of calculator.
Note that the only type of calculator permitted in the final examination is a scientific calculator that does not offer algebraic manipulation, differentiation or integration, language translation or communication with other devices or with the internet. It should also not be programmable, and not have any retrievable information (such as databanks, dictionaries, mathematical formulas or text) stored in it.
You will need a device with internet access to study this module as a web browser is used to access learning materials and activities. 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. You may need administrative privileges to install software required for this module. Windows 10 S is not suitable as it restricts software installation to software available in the Windows Application Store.
Suitable devices are:
- A Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
- A Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.8 or later operating system.
Some software will not run on Linux, iOS or Android devices.
A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. However, these devices may not be suitable for some activities. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop device that uses the Windows or OS X operating system in case you are unable to carry out all activities on your mobile device. You will need a broadband internet connection to complete this module. Better video performance is available with higher connection speeds.
Recent versions of the following browsers for carrying out web-based activities:
Or Internet Explorer 9 and above.
Using a browser upgraded to the latest version will maximise security when accessing the internet.
Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.
To be able to talk and listen in our online discussions you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones.
Devices with small screens may make it difficult to view the material provided and carry out the activities. However, a device that has a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and also at least 768 pixels vertically should be adequate.
See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.