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MSXR209 Mathematical modelling

Residential school module

This module will give students an introduction to mathematical modelling and the experience to apply it to a number of real problems. A significant part of the module is the writing of a report of a mathematical model that is initiated and developed at the residential school; this report will be marked and assessed by a module tutor, which is a separate associate lecturer appointment, after the residential school.

Other activities at the residential school include:

  • an introduction to data modelling and analysis
  • modelling simple dynamical systems and judging whether a real system behaves as the model predicts
  • obtaining a physical feel for the behaviour of basic components of mechanics such as springs, friction, pulleys, masses, strings
  • sensitivity analysis to identify the parameters in a model that have most effect on the outcome of the model.

A significant feature of the module is the development of communication and group-working skills. Students will be working, with tutor guidance, in a small group on the presentation of the results of an activity carried out at the residential school. Deciding what information to present and how to do it effectively are important skills.

Up to 85 students will attend each residential school. Participation and communication are essential, and the assessment during the week, carried out by tutors, will lead to either pass or fail.

Types of teaching roles for the module

There are two roles at the residential school:

  • tutor
  • tutor-learning adviser.

There is also the post of associate lecturer for which the work is done before and after the residential school.

Role of the tutor

There are seven main activities for the tutor, outlined below.

Mathematical modelling sessions: students start work on their models and develop them to such a stage that they can complete the work unaided after the school. They work in small groups and one or two tutors will supervise a class of about 25. You're expected to encourage students to develop their own ideas and discuss them in a constructive way with each other. The module team believes that the best way to learn mathematical modelling is through doing it, and your role is to see that students derive as much benefit as possible from the modelling they do. Although there will be some preliminary briefing and training before, and at, the school, you should have some experience of mathematical modelling. Both students and tutors will be sent a teaching text on mathematical modelling to study before the residential school.

Mechanics modelling: students formulate mathematical models that will be validated by straightforward dynamics experiments. Written laboratory notes and instructions will be provided. Your role is to supervise a group of students and to give whatever help is needed, with emphasis on the modelling rather than on experimentation.

Modelling techniques: students do some data analysis on various experiments and also investigate the sensitivity of the predictions from a model to small changes in the value of the parameters. Your role is to help them understand regression analysis; the use of Mathcad worksheets; symbolic manipulation in Mathcad; and sensitivity analysis.

Reviews and revision classes: these teaching activities, for groups of up to 30 students, should consolidate students' knowledge of the topics in applied mathematics that are useful for the activities they will be doing at the residential school and have studied before the school, or give an introduction to topics in applied mathematics that extend their present knowledge.

Presentations: there are some plenary presentations to the whole group or sub-group. An outline of what should be covered will be provided by the module team.

Computing sessions: the module uses Mathcad 14 to teach and support mathematics, and students will make some use of it at the school. You will be expected to be familiar with Mathcad, including the use of symbolic operations, and have the competence to help students with it. The software and documentation will be sent to tutors in advance.

Assessment: there are three types of assessment at the residential school:

  1. peer-marking of students' reports (written prior to arrival) of a very simple model: the tutor's role is to mediate and to help the markers to come to a fair decision
  2. satisfactory participation in the group discussion sessions: the tutor's role is to confirm that each member of the group is present and has made some contribution during the session
  3. satisfactory presentation, on Friday morning, of one of the activities that they have undertaken during the week.

Guidance will be given to tutors on how to conduct assessment that they will do during the week. Just as the module itself tries to foster group-working among students, so the tutors work as a group, and it is essential that they are part of a team, helping each other out where needed.

Qualifications (tutor)

You are expected to be able to teach every topic in the module and to be ready to participate in all the activities. You are expected to make yourself familiar with the relevant content of the associated module MST210, or its predecessor MST209 and to keep to its terminology, notations, and general outlook.

Essential requirements are: a first degree in mathematics or a mathematics-related subject; experience of group working; good communication skills; good presentation skills; experience of a computer algebra system; ability to work as part of a team; interest in teaching students from diverse backgrounds; confidence in being able to let students explore modelling and mathematics on their own, where this appears to be productive; and enthusiasm about mathematics and its teaching.

Desirable requirements are: knowledge of Mathcad 14; experience of mathematical modelling (as opposed to mathematical models of physical systems); experience of teaching group working and communication; and teaching applied mathematics to at least second level at university.

Role of the tutor-learning adviser

The role of the tutor-learning adviser is to be a tutor as well as to help students with educational and learning advice, and with their choice of modules within the degree programme. Students must find you approachable and helpful.

You will work closely with other members of both tutorial and learning-adviser staff, dividing your time roughly equally between the two roles.

For the tutorial side of the work, you will be responsible to the module director and will be given half a teaching load, with flexibility in scheduled teaching time to allow for the learning-adviser role. For the other half of the time, you will work closely with other members of the academic staff in helping students to take full advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the residential school.

For the learning adviser side, you will be responsible to the school director, and will also make yourself available to discuss with students any problems connected with their studies.

You will be expected to participate in briefing and discussion sessions, and in other activities that are part of the residential-school programme.

Qualifications (tutor-learning adviser)

Essential requirements, in addition to those for tutors, are: a sympathetic personality; knowledge of Open University mathematics modules; and academic counselling experience.

A desirable requirement is: experience of academic counselling of Open University students.

Completing the application form

If you wish to apply for any roles you must complete the appropriate application form.

Dates & venues - MSXR209

    All schools will be held at Nottingham University as follows:

    11th July 2015
    18th July 2015
    25th July 2015