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Graphs, networks and design

This module is about using ideas from discrete mathematics to model problems, and representing these ideas through diagrams. The word ‘graphs’ refers to diagrams consisting of points joined by lines. These points may correspond to chemical atoms, towns, electrical terminals or anything that can be connected in pairs. The lines may be chemical bonds, roads, wires or other connections. The main topics of mathematical interest are graphs and digraphs; network flows; block designs; geometry; codes; and mathematical modelling. Application areas covered include communications; structures and mechanisms; electrical networks; transport systems; and computer science. To study this module you should have a sound knowledge of relevant mathematics provided by the appropriate OU level 2 study.

What you will study

What codes are used by spacecraft in communicating with Earth? Where do you brace a framework to make it rigid? How many colours are needed for a map to ensure that neighbouring countries have different colours? How can you assign people to jobs for which they are qualified? These are some of the questions to be answered in the module. The problems range from those arising in technology, operational research and the sciences to puzzles of a recreational nature. We show the connections between problems in widely differing areas and describe methods for their solution that use the properties they have in common.

The material is presented in a down-to-earth manner, with the emphasis on solving problems and applying algorithms, rather than on abstract ideas and proofs.

The module is divided into three related areas: graphs, networks and design. The Introduction introduces two themes of the module, combinatorics and mathematical modelling, and illustrates them with examples from the three areas.

Graphs 1: Graphs and digraphs discusses graphs and digraphs in general, and describes the use of graph theory in genetics, ecology and music, and of digraphs in the social sciences. We discuss Eulerian and Hamiltonian graphs and related problems; one of these is the well-known Königsberg bridges problem.

Networks 1: Network flows is concerned with the problem of finding the maximum amount of a commodity (gas, water, passengers) that can pass between two points of a network in a given time. We give an algorithm for solving this problem, and discuss important variations that frequently arise in practice.

Design 1: Geometric design, concerned with geometric configurations, discusses two-dimensional patterns such as tiling patterns, and the construction and properties of regular and semi-regular tilings, and of polyominoes and polyhedra.

Graphs 2: Trees Trees are graphs occurring in areas such as branching processes, decision procedures and the representation of molecules. After discussing their mathematical properties we look at their applications, such as the minimum connector problem and the travelling salesman problem.

Networks 2: Optimal paths How does an engineering manager plan a complex project encompassing many activities? This application of graph theory is called ‘critical path planning’. It is one of the class of problems in which the shortest or longest paths in a graph or digraph must be found.

Design 2: Kinematic design The mechanical design of table lamps, robot manipulators, car suspension systems, space-frame structures and other artefacts depends on the interconnection of systems of rigid bodies. This unit discusses the contribution of combinatorial ideas to this area of engineering design.

Graphs 3: Planarity and colouring When can a graph be drawn in the plane without crossings? Is it possible to colour the countries of any map with just four colours so that neighbouring countries have different colours? These are two of several apparently unrelated problems considered in this unit.

Networks 3: Assignment and transportation If there are ten applicants for ten jobs and each is suitable for only a few jobs, is it possible to fill all the jobs? If a manufacturer supplies several warehouses with a product made in several factories, how can the warehouses be supplied at the least cost? These problems of the system-management type are answered in this unit.

Design 3: Design of codes Redundant information in a communication system can be used to overcome problems of imperfect reception. This section discusses the properties of certain codes that arise in practice, in particular cyclic codes and Hamming codes, and some codes used in space probes.

Graphs 4: Graphs and computing describes some important uses of graphs in computer science, such as depth-first and breadth-first search, quad trees, and the knapsack and travelling salesman problems.

Networks 4: Physical networks Graph theory provides a unifying method for studying the current through an electrical network or water flow through pipes. This unit describes the graphical representation of such networks.

Design 4: Block designs If an agricultural research station wants to test different varieties of a crop, how can a field be designed to minimise bias due to variations in the soil? The answer lies in block designs. This unit explains the concepts of balanced and resolvable designs and gives methods for constructing block designs.

Conclusion In this unit, many of the ideas and problems encountered in the module are reviewed, showing how they can be generalised and extended, and the progress made in finding solutions is discussed.

Read the full content list here.

You will learn

Successful study of this module should enhance your skills in finding solutions to problems, interpreting mathematical results in real-world terms and communicating mathematical ideas clearly to both experts and non-experts.

Professional recognition

This module may help you to gain membership of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). For further information, see the IMA website.

Entry requirements

There is no formal pre-requisite study, but you must have the required mathematical skills.

You can check you’re ready for MT365 and see the topics it covers here.

Talk to an advisor if you’re not sure you’re ready.

Preparatory work

You should aim to be confident and fluent with the concepts covered in the Are you ready? quiz here, and follow the advice in the quiz.

The key topics to revise include:

  • algebra
  • matrices
  • logical reasoning and proofs
  • modular arithmetic

Essential mathematics 2 (MST125) is ideal preparation.

What's included

You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment details, instructions and guidance
  • online tutorial access
  • access to student and tutor group forums.

You'll be provided with printed books covering the content of the module, including explanations, examples and activities to aid your understanding of the concepts and associated skills and techniques. In addition, you will have a printed handbook, CDs and DVDs.

You will need

CD player and DVD player (or computer able to play DVDs).

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

  • A desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows
  • The screen must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you’ll likely need a headset with a microphone.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You can choose whether to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) on paper or online through the eTMA system. You may want to use the eTMA system for some of your assignments but submit on paper for others. This is entirely your choice.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying MT365 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Graphs, networks and design (MT365) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2020.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2022.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
4 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
Examination
No residential school

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