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Mathematical methods

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This module is designed to teach you about a variety of mathematical methods which are used in modelling through their application to solving real world problems. These methods include differential equations, linear algebra and vector calculus. You will become familiar with new mathematical skills mainly by using pencil and paper and by thinking. This module will give you a good foundation for higher-level study and is essential preparation for most OU level 3 mathematics, statistics or physics modules. To study this module you should have a sound knowledge of algebra, calculus, and geometry as provided by the appropriate OU level 1 study.

What you will study

The mathematical methods covered by this module are the core analytic methods that are useful for modelling the real world. The analytical (as opposed to numerical) solution of first and second-order ordinary differential equations is discussed, followed by linear algebra (vectors, matrices and determinants). We develop the elements of the calculus of functions of several variables, including vector calculus, which is followed by an introduction to methods for solving partial differential equations.

These mathematical methods are illustrated by putting them in the context of real world applications (such as simple mechanical systems). You will be assessed only on your mathematical skills, not on your knowledge of the context used. The module teaches 'pencil and paper' mathematical skills: although it explains where numerical methods are important, there is no programming or special software required.

You will learn all the core mathematical methods that are needed for further studies in applied sciences. In further study you will begin to appreciate the power of the methods introduced here – they are applicable in a very wide variety of situations.

The module is delivered as printed material in four books. There are some optional supporting materials on the website.

Read the full content list here.

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 one of the following modules:

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

You can check you’re ready for MST224 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.

Essential mathematics 1 (MST124) is ideal preparation, and Essential mathematics 2 (MST125) is also useful.

T194 is an alternative to MST124 for engineering students. However, we recommend you’ve also studied Core engineering A (T271) and Core engineering B (T272) to reinforce your skills in algebra, calculus and geometry.

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.

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. If you want to participate, you’ll likely need a headset with a microphone.


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 submit some of your assignments online but submit on paper for others. This is entirely your choice.

Both the interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) and TMAs will focus strongly on learning through practice rather than on assessment. The feedback you receive on your answers will help you to improve your knowledge and understanding of the study material and to develop important skills associated with the module.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying MST224 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 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 2024.

Course work includes:

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

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