Powered by MathJax From GCSE Maths, to Rocket Scientist...

Friday, 30 December 2016

I'm Back, Sort of...

Well, what an incredible two years it has just been.

I am writing tonight because I was prompted by an anon comment which arrived on my iphone, earlier, saying 'what happened?'.

Well, thank you anon, for prompting me, and good question...

I am pleased to report the following events.

I studied hard for my complex analysis course with the Open University, averaging over 70% for my course work (TMA's) and then I attended my exam in Coventry in the summer.  The exam was three hours long and I knew that I had to answer most of the part one question correctly, to stand a chance of a decent grade 2 result (70 - 84%).  The invigilator opened the exam and I leafed through the paper, trying to prepare myself for the hard slog ahead.  Unfortunately, I spotted an immediate problem.  A question which I had practiced well came up; however, it required an algebraic manipulation which completely stumped me.

I went through more questions and spotted another nightmare which needed some deft calculation.

Anyway nil desperandum, I thought, as I ploughed through the questions averaging about 8 mins per sum in the first hour.  But then things took a turn for the worst.  I felt mental fatigue setting in and I began having difficulty remembering the most basic of formula.

Two hours later, I left the exam and sat in my car for an hour.  Not moving.  I knew I had stumbled and had begun to plan for my, soon to be wasted, year of resitting.

However, I don't quite know how, but my exam result arrived in the inbox about 8 weeks after the big day and, somehow, I passed with a grade 2 result!

The relief was unbelievable and I don't know how, to this day, I picked up the needed marks to achieve my target grade.

What happened then was completely unplanned and fortuitous.

I proudly accepted my BSc (Hons) Open degree in Mathematics and Humanities with a 2.1 grade and started to prepare applications to send in for MSc programmes which focussed on mathematics and big data (a new interest of mine), as well as being accepted as an associate member of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.

However, during that time, my professional life (which I have never discussed in this blog) offered me an opportunity to do some research (I had been working in the criminal justice sector) as part of a new post.

I started researching and realised - Hey, I love it!  The enrichment and satisfaction gained from pouring through literature, critically evaluating and then synthesising new knowledge is beyond description.

A large part of my research involved doing mathematics, crunching numbers and designing methods for evaluating criminal justice processes, as well as using fuzzy cognitive mapping to analyse social networks.

In short, the draw towards research was irresistible so I promptly stopped preparations for my MSc plans and set about organising a bold step towards getting accepted directly onto a doctorate.

Now, my blogging journey was always meant to document my path from my GSCE in maths, to a PhD; and. I have to admit, there have been times when I lost hope of ever getting there.  It's really, really hard.

But, I am pleased to announce that 3 months ago, I started as a part-time student on a doctorate programme at Keele University studying Criminology after accepting an unconditional offer.

Now, I know, I can hear you saying - Criminology?  that's not maths - and you are right.

However, although I am still honing my research question; unless things change, I am planning to use fuzzy cognitive mapping (yes, some maths) to explore the networks involved in some criminological areas.

So, in my maths degree, I avoided applied maths like the plague; and now, I'm writing a thesis using it!  Go figure.

So, my friends, I don't know where to go from here with regards to this blog.

I'm not sure how interested people would be to hear about my doctoral escapades or whether it simply wouldn't interest my usual audience of aspiring hard-core mathematicians.

All I can say is make your voice heard and leave a comment below, if you would like me to carry on blogging.

Otherwise, I will bid a farewell to those who have supported me with their kind words, over the last several years, and wish you all a very happy new year. (Especially you, Chris F)

I think I ought to make you aware that I now plan to partake in what is now a traditional pint of Bishops Finger, to celebrate new year.

Ooh Matron!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Booked on to M337 Complex Analysis

After passing my two most recent exams with much better marks than I ever hoped for, I have decided to hit the big red button and go for the nuclear option for my next course - Complex Analysis M337 with the Open University.

I think that this (apart from the old Topology course) is probably the most challenging of the OU maths courses of recent years.

Looking at the preparation available for this course being  Pure Maths and Mathematical methods, both level 2 courses with the OU - these don't seem to be very comprehensive prerequisite courses for tackling Complex Analysis.

Of course, there are other courses which are not analysis based which use calculus, or alternatively, provide practice at reading and producing complex proofs, such as the fluids dynamics course etc...

But I haven't taken those other courses and my own background comes from pure mathematical courses alone.

So, I have started planning some pre-course study, to get me back up to speed with analysis.  The books that I am using are:

Calculus.  Spivak
Complex Analysis.  Gamelin
A First Course in Mathematical Analysis.  Brannan
A Course of Pure Mathematics.  Hardy

I won't study them in depth and also not in the order listed above.  I will also be referring back to my trusty annotated M208 Pure Maths handbook from my course in 2012, which has all those handy little notes which now make no sense at all, two years on.

My preparation will consist of two strands.

1.  An overview and recap of main concepts, starting with limits, bounds and series / sequences; leading on to continuity, epsilon-delta, properties of integrals, power series etc...

2.  A sharp facility in the rapid calculation of most basic differentiation and integration problems with some memorization of basic derivatives and integrals.

Spivak has a nice section for practicing facility with derivatives and integrals - and I particularly like his humor as he describes this passage of work:

'Although rapid calculation is not the goal of mathematics, if you hope to treat theoretical applications of the chain rule with aplomb, these concrete applications should be child's play - mathematicians like to pretend that they can't even add, but most of them can when they have to'!  Spivak.

On the bright side, I have now only signed up for 30 points this year; half of last years study time.  I will be pushing for a distinction on this course, which should line me up nicely for a half decent grade on final graduation next Summer.

Because my OU studies will come to an end at that time- I have now started to look at all the available MSc courses which provide distance learning or part time options, which require a high mathematical content.  

 I will need to start applying for my MSc course, after this Christmas.

I'll try and give an in-depth critique of the options available for a distance learner, in a future post.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Thank the Lord. I Passed!

What a blogging hiatus, that has just been.

Four months...  few!

Four months seems an age; but I have remained silent during this time,  for two main reasons.

Firstly, I found myself so deep into studying and really struggling for time to even spend with my family; that I just decided to stop the posts for a while, and concentrate on what is most important.

Secondly, I was having a major melt down / ego readjustment, as It really dawned on me that there were large volumes of material within my two current courses, Number Theory / Mathematical Logic, and Groups / Geometry; that still  left me sweating at night with not even a clue on how to navigate the material.

The simple human condition then took over - as in - it's simply not very pleasant to write about your impending implosion into failure, no matter how reflective your blog is supposed to be.

'Warts and all' can be an extraordinarily challenging blogging ethos, in times of real difficulties.  I feel I have failed that test, this time around.

Fast forward to June - I took my exams in Birmingham.  Two exams in two days.  I stayed in a hotel, in between the exams, and up until the hour before the first exam, I was revising for 10hrs a day for three weeks solid (I took leave from work).

I just couldn't remember the material and produce it quickly enough under exam conditions.  Help!

Anyway, I took the exams and having totted up my points, I had reckoned that I had achieved around the grade 3 area for Number Theory, and Grade 4 area, for Groups.

To my astonishment, I received my results email tonight, logged into my student home page, and promptly fell off my chair, Brie sandwich in hand.

I am pleased to report, that I scored the following results:

Number Theory and Mathematical Logic - 72%   (Grade 2)

Groups and Geometry - 66%   (Grade 2)

As my followers will appreciate; it  is now time for me to attend a public house and imbibe a pint of - what has now become an exam results tradition for me - a pint of Bishops Finger.

Ooh Matron!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Exam Revision - or - The Lack of it...


I really am struggling with the workload on these two courses.  I just feel like I am glossing over the books, in order to answer the TMA's - with no real hope of a deep understanding of the material at hand.

Logic is fairly straightforward, if you don't mind the dryness of having to learn a new language - that of formal logic with all its odd symbols and squiggles!  It's one of those subjects that you can read, understand and then apply without too much thought, though.

Now, Number Theory - that is completely different.

I have noticed that TMA03 (which I am writing at the moment) is seeming easier than the first two.  But I have realized that I have started to pick up on the 'method' of proof for answering these blasted TMA's.  It is more of an art form than a process, and it requires you to see the tricks that the OU employ, to baffle, beat and thrash you , with the NT questions.  As mentioned before, many of the questions don't resemble any of the unit examples.

They are a cruel bunch, those course writers (Derek G, I'm looking at you!)

So, we come to Groups and Geometry.  I thought I was fairly good at groups and awful at geometry.  However, it seems that my tutor thinks it is the other way around!  I have struggled with the algebra involved in the groups units - but I think this is just showing up my low level of algebra knowledge, which I most definitely missed out on, between GCSE and University level.

Anyway - I have now printed off all of the exam papers of past years, and I am slowly practicing exam style questions, in the hope that I can somehow be ready on those looming exam dates this June.