This key introductory OU level 1 module provides a gentle start to the study of mathematics. It will help you to integrate mathematical ideas into your everyday thinking and build your confidence in using and learning mathematics. You’ll cover statistical, graphical, algebraic, trigonometric and numerical concepts and techniques, and be introduced to mathematical modelling. Formal calculus is not included and you are not expected to have any previous knowledge of algebra. The skills introduced will be needed if you plan to study more mathematics modules, such as Essential mathematics 1 (MST124), and are also useful in other areas, such as computing, science, technology, social science, humanities, business and education.
What you will study
In order to study this module successfully you should expect to be actively doing mathematics, rather than just reading it. You will also be encouraged to develop skills in interpreting and explaining mathematics, and this aspect will be assessed in some of the assignment questions.
Samples of the study materials, including example assessment questions, are available from our MathsChoices website.
Providing you have the appropriate background knowledge, you should expect to study for about eight hours a week. Many of the topics covered in the module depend on your understanding of topics in earlier units. So, if you have not fully understood earlier material, you may find later material more difficult and time consuming. This is particularly true of graphs, formulas and algebra. Naturally, the study time required for the module tends to increase before an assignment deadline.
You will learn
Successful study of this module should begin to develop your skills in working with mathematical concepts and using them to solve problems.
You will learn about:
- key ideas in mathematics, including some statistics, algebra, geometry and trigonometry
- mathematical vocabulary and notation introduced and developed in the module
- selection and use of mathematical techniques for solving problems
- interpretation of results in the context of real life situations
- simple mathematical arguments
- how to explain mathematical ideas from the module in writing
- development of skills in learning mathematics
- use of relevant ICT tools for learning and for working on mathematical problems
- describing problems mathematically
- analysing mathematical reasoning.
The module contains many real world contexts such as journey planning, glaciers, supply and demand, depreciation, poverty levels, chance events, and medical conditions (such as cancer), to help illustrate mathematical topics.
This module is sometimes accepted as an acceptable equivalent qualification to GCSE grade C in mathematics by teacher training institutions, but always at the discretion of each institution. So, if you hope to use it for this purpose, you are advised to check as early as possible with your chosen teacher training institution(s).
This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. 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 level 2.
You are advised to have previous experience in mathematics, before commencing this module. In particular, you should be confident with the following topics:
- arithmetic of numbers, including negative numbers and fractions
- scientific notation for numbers (sometimes known as standard form)
- powers of numbers including square roots
- using your scientific calculator effectively for the above topics, and for working with brackets and π
- using simple word formulas
- drawing and interpreting simple charts and graphs.
You are not expected to have any skills in algebra before the module starts.
It is essential that you establish whether or not your background and experience give you a sound basis on which to tackle this module, since students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully and get the most enjoyment out of it. You are strongly advised to follow the recommendations given in the Preparatory work section below.
There are two mathematics entry-level modules, this one and Essential mathematics 1 (MST124). Your choice of which one to start with depends on your mathematical knowledge, experience and on the qualification you have in mind.
For advice about where to begin your study in maths please look at our MathsChoices website. The website also contains a self-assessment quiz to help you decide if this is the right module for you.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.
It is recommended that you work through some of the free and open educational resources from the Maths Help website, where there is a module to help you to refresh your knowledge of each of the following topics:
- Numbers, units and arithmetic
- Rounding and estimation
- Ratio, proportion and percentages
- Squares, roots and powers
- Diagrams, charts and graphs
- Language, notation and formulas
Alternatively, you could study any textbook that covers the same topics.
Books, DVD, and a dedicated website containing online activities and resources.
You will need
A scientific calculator. We recommend any Casio scientific calculator with 'natural display', as these enable you to key in calculations in the same order as they usually appear in written text, and have a two-line display so that you can see both your calculation and the answer. Some instructions for using the Casio fx-83ES, and compatible models, are provided in the study materials. Any other scientific calculator is also acceptable provided that you know how to use it before the module starts, and you have access to the appropriate calculator manual (these are often available to download from the manufacturer’s website). Please note that you do not need to have a graphics or programmable calculator to study this module.
(If you have studied Science, technology and maths Access module (Y033), you can use the calculator from that module providing you have access to the manual.)
You will require access to the internet at least once a week to download resources and assignments, keep up to date with news and to access the interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs).
A headset with a microphone and earphones is recommended in order to participate fully in online tutorials.
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 either:
- Windows 7 or higher
- macOS 10.7 or higher
The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.
To participate in our online discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones.
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.