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Mathematical methods, models and modelling

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Solve real problems by finding out how they are transformed into mathematical models and learning the methods of solution. This module covers classical mechanical models as well as some non-mechanical models such as population dynamics; and methods including vector algebra, differential equations, calculus (including several variables and vector calculus), matrices, methods for three-dimensional problems, and numerical methods. Teaching is supported and enhanced by use of a computer algebra package. This module is essential for higher level study of applied mathematics. To study this module you’ll need a sound knowledge of mathematics as developed in Essential mathematics 1 (MST124) and Essential mathematics 2 (MST125) or equivalent.

What you will study

This module will be of particular interest to you if you use mathematics or mathematical reasoning in your work and feel that you need a firmer grounding in it, or if you think you might find it useful to extend your application of mathematics to a wider range of problems. The module is also very suitable for those planning to teach applied mathematics.

Around half of this module is about using mathematical models to represent suitable aspects of the real world; the other half is about mathematical methods that are useful in working with such models. The work on models is devoted mainly to the study of classical mechanics, although non-mechanical models – such as those used in population dynamics – are also studied. The process of mathematical modelling, based on simplifying assumptions about the real world, is outlined. You will work in groups to create a mathematical model and to produce a mini-report. The work on methods comprises topics chosen for their usefulness in dealing with the models; the main emphasis is on solving the problems arising in the real world, rather than on axiom systems or rigorous proofs. These methods include differential equations, linear algebra, advanced calculus and numerical methods. 

You’ll begin the mechanics part of the module with statics, where there are forces but no motion, and then you’ll be introduced to the fundamental laws governing the motions of bodies acted on by forces – Newton's laws of motion. These are applied to model:

  • the motion of a particle moving in a straight line under the influence of known forces
  • undamped oscillations
  • the motion of a particle in space
  • the motions of systems of particles
  • the damped and forced vibrations of a single particle
  • the motion (and vibrations) of several particles.

In the methods part of the module you’ll cover both analytic and numerical methods. You’ll explore the analytical (as opposed to numerical) solution of first-order and of linear, constant-coefficient, second-order ordinary differential equations, followed by systems of linear and non-linear differential equations and an introduction to methods for solving partial differential equations. The topics in algebra are vector algebra, the theory of matrices and determinants, and eigenvalues and eigenvectors. You’ll develop the elements of the calculus of functions of several variables, including vector calculus and multiple integrals, and make a start on the study of Fourier analysis. Finally, the study of numerical techniques covers the solution of systems of linear algebraic equations, methods for finding eigenvalues and eigenvectors of matrices, and methods for approximating the solution of differential equations.

Read the full content list here.

You will learn

Successful study of this module should improve your skills in being able to think logically, express ideas and problems in mathematical language, communicate mathematical arguments clearly, interpret mathematical results in real-world terms and find solutions to problems.

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

You must have passed the following module:

Or be able to provide evidence you have the required mathematical skills.

You can check you’re ready for MST210 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
  • geometry
  • trigonometry
  • calculus
  • mechanics.

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.

You'll also be provided with six printed books and a printed module handbook.

You will need

A calculator – you may wish to use this during the module, but you are not allowed to take a calculator into the examination.

Computing requirements

You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

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.

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 MST210 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

Mathematical methods, models and modelling (MST210) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2021.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.

Course work includes:

8 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
Examination
No residential school

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