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Struggling with my OU maths course

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by Ateacher2002, Jun 4, 2008.

  1. Hi all,

    I am seeking some advice about the best way foward. Basically I teach languages and I was getting a bit bored. Furthermore, I have always wanted to study maths to do a decent level. Therefore I started a course with OU with medium term view of teaching it.

    Recently, I have started to struggle. I find the examples are not enough and it can be difficult getting hold of my tutor. This week I was supposed to be learning Trigonomtry through sounds waves whilst using a graphic calculator. I was completely losted. I spoke to my tutor who advised me to skip the module because it is very confusing and badly taught.

    Now I am going to learn it myself with the aid of a colleague at work using GCSE textbooks.
    Has anyone done these courses (mu120/mu121/further maths)? What were your experiences?
    Is there any other alternatives to studying maths at the OU? ARe they respected as much as the OU? Do you think studying maths with organisations like the OU (through the post) is an extremely challenging goal to set oneself?
    Also what standard do you think is necessary to be a confident and competent KS4 maths teacher.

    thank you for any constructive advice

  2. I don't know that module - what exactly were you being asked to do? What are the trig graphs?
  3. I did an OU degree in maths a lot of years ago, but the courses were different then. I enjoyed it.
  4. Although I am not a Maths teacher, just quit a Maths PGCE (will not bore you with the details), but I did the old version of these M101 which was brill.

    Why not look at the OU courses 'Developing units', ie,ME624, ME625, ME626, ME627 they are actually designed for non-maths teachers who which to teach maths. I actually did ME624 and found it very good.

  5. The tasks on Trig involved changing settings on a calculator and zooming in and out of graphs. I was just pressing buttons on a calculator getting results but not understanding them.

    My colleagues in the maths dept have never heard of teaching Trig through sound waves.
    Btw thanks for the link to the OU courses.
    Any other suggestions please keep them coming!
  6. Well sound waves are trig graphs. It is due to the OU using real life situations to teach the maths - I take it that you are doing MST121? Maybe you should speak to your physics department rather than the maths department. The London mathematics society do some popular lectures as a series - there are a couple that look at sound waves - I think it might be either the Marcud du Sautoy one or the David Acheson one.
  7. I plan to do the MST121 in jan. This is the basic course MU120. I know from studying Spanish with the OU that the courses can provide material which will go over the heads of 90 percent of the students.

    From what my tutor said to me last night this could well happen in the maths courses. For instance, he said most students get very depressed about this module and advised me to move onto probability whilst practising my algebra whenever possible.
  8. There are a lot of websites out there that will help you with trig graphs - it is always worth trying to understand something.
  9. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    That unit is probably the one which I (as an MU120 tutor) get most questions about. I've had one of my students on the phone twice this week, confused. I did assure her that we would spend some time on it at the next tutorial (and would have done at the last one if anyone had turned up!. I find that interaction is often necessary in order to establish what a student does and doesn't understand.

    The approach to trigonometry in this course is rather different to the approach taken in school maths, but arguably a more mathematical approach. (For others reading this, we start with sine waves, spend some time exploring sine and cosine graphs using a graphical calculator, and don't do much on triangles until a later unit.) If you're going to look at it with a teacher at your school, do make sure you show them the unit, particularly the objectives, as it is so different.

    One approach to this unit is not to worry too much about understanding fully - if you look at the TMA question, you'll see that most of what you are asked to do is to draw some graphs on your calculator and make some observations from them. You will revisit trigonometry later, and it will probably be beginning to fit together then, especially if you've been able to get to a tutorial. (If you do go to the tutorial, let your tutor know in advance that you'd like to spend some time on the trigonometry: it's an entirely reasonable request, and it's likely that others will want to, too.)
  10. Cheers Frustum - I've applied to tutor MU120 and MST121. Still waiting to hear if student numbers will be high enough in our area for them to consider me.
  11. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    The first time I applied, they didn't have any vacancies locally, although they were very positive about my application.

    It might be worth being aware that MU120 finishes in 2009 - there will be a new course replacing it in 2010. As I understand it, existing MU120 tutors have to apply afresh for the new course, so you'll stand a better chance of getting in then. You might actually be glad of not starting in 2009 - you'd have to familiarise yourself with the whole course and then start all over again in 2010.
  12. Thanks - I'm just after a new challenge. I'll see what happens. If I don't get anything this year I'll apply again next year.
  13. Thank you for your reply Frustrum and other posters. Btw emilyisobel and frustrum do you feel that the two further courses on OU mst121/exploring maths is sufficient to be competent and confident teacher T ks4?
  14. Well, if you do MST121 and exploring maths you will have maths knowledge at A level and some further maths + knowledge so that would give you enough to teach KS4.
    To teach higher GCSE you will need to understand trig, including graphs and graph transformations, but you will cover these again after the bit you are doing at the moment. It depends on how you feel your competence is at that stage. You will have a higher level of maths than some people teaching maths.
  15. I started tutoring MST121 in October and would advise anyone wanting to do this course not to worry about trig, but to concentrate on algebra, especially factorising quadratics and solving equations. This course has a preliminary assignment (which your tutor will mark) and a 160-page revision pack which are both very useful.

    If you are going to teach GCSE to students wanting to do A' level it is useful to be aware of what they will need when they go on to the Core topics.
  16. Thank you for your replies and I will follow your advice on the algebra. cheers
  17. Hi, my mum is doing this module and from the point of view of a secondary maths teacher I think it is absolutely hurrendous. Every evening I have to help her and I don't feel she has any real understanding.

    If any of you are or do become tutors on this course could I ask you seeing if you can do anything about the course materials - they are so numerous and wordy my mum is losing the will and that's with a personal tutor! She loves the fact it is taught with real world applications but that doesn't mean it is necessary to use 10 words where one will do.
    Rant over!
  18. I am a current tutor on this course and I quite liked this module! What is the problem exactly? :)
  19. how did you become OU tutor? I tried but was turned down. I had some experience tutoring at university (years 1/2) but was unable to get on. Is it a matter of keep trying ?
  20. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    It's quite important to read the job specs for the courses you might be interested in. They have different person specs for different courses - for a level 3 course, they're usually after someone with a postgraduate degree, whereas for a level 1 course they might be more interested in someone with plenty of teaching experience.

    The demand/supply for tutors varies according to course and region. I have a friend who tutors for a completely different region because she couldn't originally get a job in ours. There's usually a far better chance of getting a job on a new course, as an existing course usually has existing tutors who just carry on from year to year. When a course is replaced, existing tutors will have to reapply for the new one, so the vacancies will all be up for grabs.

    There is a list on the OU site of which courses and regions have vacancies and which don't, but that doesn't tell you whether there is one vacancy or six - unless the course is new, there's probably only the odd job going. When I first applied, they needed someone in my region, but at a centre I hadn't ticked as a possibility. They did ring and ask whether I would consider that centre, but after checking bus timetables, I said no. At least I knew that that was why I was turned down!

    So do keep applying.

    Sooya - the course is being replaced in 2010. Unit 9 is probably the steepest bit of the learning curve for a lot of people, but it's quite difficult to teach that material with no interaction and feedback (in my opinion, anyway). It's probably the one I spend most time on in tutorials, but usually people begin to feel more comfortable with it. Sometimes people worry too much about understanding everything fully - we do revisit trig and it often becomes clearer then. If you look at the learning outcomes listed at the end of the unit, the trig bits are not actually that "deep".
    [All the students have a personal tutor, by the way. It's just they tend to be rather shy about ringing the one they've been allocated, especially if there's a family member who can help!]

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