I mentioned last year that trigonometry had been my mathematical Achilles heel until I finally got it smoothed out by Khan Academy in preparation for MST-124.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was that I’d have to re-invent it every time I saw a triangle.  And it turns out there are a lot of triangles.

I’m now officially on the far side of Unit 4, which is trigonometry.  By the time I opened up TMA02 and saw the trigonometry stuff, I caught myself saying, “Well this is easy!”  And I wasn’t even punished by the maths gods for my hubris!  It felt really great to be so at ease with the concepts in it.  I can no longer blame not properly learning trig for my failures, and will have to admit to not being that bright, instead.

I also finished the iCMA42 for MST-124 (which covers units 2 through 4) with full marks.  I managed to avoid making the silly, silly mistake I did on the last one, by forcing myself to triple check my answers with a calculator if I got confused by anything.  On the other hand, it took me 9 days and 10 hours to complete, so I can’t necessarily use the same techniques when it comes time for the exam.  A two-week exam would be just about right, though.


Even though I’ve put TM129 away for the time being, I had a chance to attend a last-minute online tutorial with my tutor last week.  He’d had a face-to-face scheduled about forty miles away (and about sixty miles from where he lives), and literally nobody signed up for it, so he sent out an email and did it online.

In the end, there were only three of us on it, but it was just him and me chatting by voice for the first fifteen minutes or so.  Obviously, we didn’t cover much of the actual module material, but we talked a lot about TMA strategies and general study skills.  It was good motivation, as well.  I haven’t yet attended any face-to-face tutorials, but am starting to think it could be quite advantageous.  It’d mean an entire evening away from my children, though, and that’s something I want to avoid after my father’s part-time associate degree left us practically feral for four years.

After catching up a bit in TM129 the other week, I figured I was done with everything in the Robotics block except for TMA01, so I might as well get that out of the way.  As it’s due in mid-December, and it’s such a fast module to study, I figured that if I got the TMA out of the way, I could put TM129 on the back burner until January and just concentrate on MST124’s maths.

TM129’s TMA01 is quite uneven.  Question 1 mostly tests if you were paying attention during the block, and could mostly be answered using the search function from the module planner.  It also asks for opinions, but it’d be difficult to get your own opinion wrong, so …

Question 2 is weird.  Parts A and C check your understanding of concepts.  Part B tests maths skills.  And maths skills are not a part of the Learning Objectives for TM129.  Yet part B still took two full pages to answer.

Question 3 is just programming the virtual robot.  It’s completely harmless, but fun.  I stretched my wings a bit and included abstraction techniques, self-commenting code methods, and so forth, none of which is part of the module.  If there’s a possibility of getting points docked for talking too much, I’ll be guilty here, but there are no word count limits for any section but question 4.

Speaking of question 4, it’s a report.  They ask for a lot of things, starting with research, and want you to fit it all into 400 words.  The word limit is a bit of a tall order, but it sets the expectations for scope.  One problem is that the specification asks for something contrary to the supplied context of the question.  I included it, but didn’t state that it was in reference to the specification request, so I may lose one or two points here.  (I think my tutor’s pretty good, though, so I don’t really think I will.)

Question 5 is just attaching the ePortfolio for the robotics block.  Which was awesome and fun to do.  I never imagined I’d love the ePortfolio, but I totally do.  Just do it as it comes, and not when the TMA is due, though.  Some students are already starting to struggle back-filling ePortfolio activities.


My MST124 TMA01 came back today, literally the last day it could.  I feel bad for my tutor, as she’s obviously extremely busy.  There were no comments on any of my work at all, and even though I had made (quite a few) errors on the TMA (though all the answers were correct), I was still given the full 100 marks.  I think it may have been a bit of a last minute rush job, and I’ll probably get that with each of the TMAs in this module.

I suppose that means my style is okay.  I’m just under halfway through TMA02, so it’s nice that I won’t have to retype everything in a different style.

I’ve moved on from Unit 3 (Functions and Logarithms) to Unit 4 (Trigonometry), and it’s a breath of fresh air.  I love functions and logarithms, and think they’re the coolest parts I’ve encountered in maths.  But the MST124 materials for Unit 3 were abysmal.  Nearly every student who didn’t already understand the subject matter abandoned the materials for Khan Academy or any other internet site.

Anyway, I’ve got quite a few weeks just to concentrate on maths, so I’m hoping to make quite a bit of headway getting to the calculus stuff.  Which is what we’re all dreading.

The modules I’m studying this year, MST124 and TM129, are certainly not balanced.  TM129 is a casual Stage 1 module, and is in the vicinity of an appropriate amount of work for Stage 1.  (It’s definitely a bit more light than I’d have expected, but not outrageously so.)  MST124, on the other hand, does seem lighter than I’d expect from a 60 credit Stage 1 module … but not by much.

My brain isn’t extremely multi-track.  If I can think about one thing at a time, I’m much happier than having to switch back and forth.  For some reason, I’m finding this true with studying over the span of a week.  I’d rather study an entire section of one thing, then an entire section of another, than read a bit from one section one night, then a bit from another the next, then switch back.  It doesn’t get absorbed as well if I’m re-compartmentalising as I go.

For now, I’m going to stick with my initial solution, which is to spend one week on MST124, then the next on TM129.  But this did cause some trouble.  In MST124, Unit 3 took me the full three weeks allotted to it in the study guide for me to get through it.  Actually, three weeks and two nights.  It’s just rough reading.  And I can’t just bail halfway through a unit, or I forget everything.  Reading from a book is just not a good way for me to learn maths, and it’s killing me to try.

Anyhow, now I’ve got to catch up as much as I can in five days in TM129 before switching back, because if I take longer than that, I’m going to fall behind in MST124.  I should hopefully be able to pick up an entire three weeks worth of study guide time in that five days, but it’s not going to be easy.

Studying two 30 credit modules is way more work than studying one 60 credit module.

I submitted my TMA01 quite early for MST124.  I’m really fond of my chances with it.  I’ve gone over it a few times and have a few questions about presentation, but over-all, it’s good.  That’s the advantage to TMAs on a maths module: There’s usually only one answer.  You can be certain of at least getting that part right, and worry about presentation separately.

As stated earlier, I’m using the Microsoft Word Equation Editor to present my maths work.  This makes it easier to do the non-maths portions of the TMAs, and will make it easier for me to include maths in TMAs in non-maths modules.  The only thing I don’t like so far is that fractional indices are presented vertically instead of horizontally, so I have to manually change those before submitting the TMA.

MST124 TMA01 has a portion about simplifying and rearranging algebraic functions, a portion about how to present work (it seems geared to responses to “story problems”, mostly), a section about solving and graphing linear equations, a section about solving and graphing quadratics, and finally a token portion showing that you can use Maxima.  I’m satisfied with the work shown on all sections, and with the answers.  I’m potentially nervous about the level of detail used in the portion about presenting work, but I’ve done about as well as I can without knowing exactly what they’re looking for.

The only thing that really bugs me about the TMA is that it’s a requirement to hand-draw the graphs.  I’m okay doing it, and I know why it’s necessary.  But I’m a perfectionist, and I had to draw those graphs about fifty times each.  I avoided graphing paper as I’d been warned about scanning it in for TMAs, but next TMA I think I’m going to ignore that advice and just submit it on graphing paper anyway.  I can’t imagine an actual deduction so long as I make it all clear.

Anyway, I normally strongly hedge my expectations for TMAs, but I’m hoping for at least a 95 on this one.

I’ve also done my first iCMA (iCMA41) for MST124.  It covered just algebra and quadratics, and didn’t take too long.  I missed a question because when I was double-checking a surd I’d simplified, I second-guessed my answer.  Still, I think it’ll land me with a 90, and it’s only worth 2% of my OCAS anyway.  And let’s face it, that’s probably the highest iCMA I’ll do.

TM129 has been a major shock for me: The shock is how much I’m enjoying it.  Most of all … I love the ePortfolio!  I was dreading it, but it’s fantastic.  It’s basically carte blanche to show how much I learned, or how deeply I understand something.  They only require a few minutes each, but I’ve been spending up to a couple of hours on them, because they’re just that fun.  They’re like mini-TMA questions, and when it comes down to it, I think I enjoy doing TMAs.

I’m keeping the ePortfolio write-ups as brief as I can, but I jam a lot of information to a few short paragraphs.  On one, I researched articles on the OU Library for a well-rounded answer, rather than the guess the activity asked for.  On another, I resolved the robotics problem put to me, and then resolved all possible similar problems, by altering just a single line of code.  It’s really empowering to stretch your wings and see just how much you can actually accomplish when the parameters aren’t so narrow.

I’m about halfway through TMA01 for TM129, which makes sense as I’m also about halfway through the first block.  As I’m learning the most on the ePortfolio activities, that’s where I’m spending the majority of my time.  I’m starting to get into some psychology in the module that I haven’t been exposed to in MOOCs that I’ve done, so it’s nice to be exploring new areas.

Overall, I’m very happy with both modules.  I’m about to get into some more difficult areas in MST124, and that’s knocking my motivation back a bit, so I’ll have to put some ePortfolio activities to the side until after I can struggle through that.

Six years is a long time to work on anything.  I’ve only had one job which lasted longer than that.  (In fairness, so did my dad … Since he only ever really had one job.)  But it’s a bit of a rush to realise I’ve only got four more final prep weeks ahead of me.

How’d it go this year?  I took many fewer MOOCs, but learned much more.  This summer’s work has been worth well more than twice what I’ve been through with TU100 so far at the OU.  Computer science and object-oriented programming were covered in far more depth than just introductions, abstract program design was probably at introduction level (possibly a bit lower), and my mathematics refresher was very strong: It seems to have covered all of MU123.  And all of it was free!

I’ve also gotten cosy with this year’s modules.

For MST124, as I said, my Khan Academy prep seems to have taken me through everything I would have been exposed to in MU123.  Additionally, I’ve worked through the “boot camp” for MST124 (a series of practice tests and live/recorded tutorials reviewing pre-MST124 maths), and the first two units of MST124.

MST124 is unique compared to other modules I’ve been exposed to or heard about at the OU: They recommend you open your books and start going through the material as soon as you get them.  They know that this stuff is difficult for some people, and give us as much time to get through it as possible.  So even though I’d planned on only getting a week ahead with my study, I’ve done as recommended, and am three or four weeks in.  It’s going really well so far, with only some silly and redundant trigonometric concepts giving me pause.

For anybody considering MST124, here’s my recommendation for preparation: Don’t bother with the “Revise and Refresh” learning materials: They’re rubbish.  But use the quizzes to check your level, and definitely do the tutorials, at least the recorded ones.  For any gaps the quizzes turn up, use Khan Academy.  Or your favourite YouTube resource that explains to your learning style.  (The actual MST124 materials are fantastic, though.)

I’ve even rattled off my first TMA, which I’ll talk about in a different post.

For TM129, there’s not really much prep work for me to do.  TM129 used to be three separate 10 credit modules which have been grouped into a monolithic 30 credit module.  These previous modules are preserved in TM129’s three blocks: robotics, computer networks, and Linux.

The second two blocks don’t need much explanation: I work professionally in both of these fields at a level higher than that covered in the module, so there won’t be much for me to wrap my head around.

I’ve only been through the first week of the robotics block, but it seems I’ve inadvertently had the perfect preparation for that: the Begin Robotics MOOC presented by the University of Reading on FutureLearn.  A lot of the same material is covered, with the academics stripped out of it in the MOOC.  It looks as though the MOOC went into more depth into cybernetics, but I’ll know more later.

So that takes care of the TM129 content, but not its processes: The reports, the studying, assignments … the ePortfolio …

Well, I’ve done prep work for all of that, too, already: It was called TU100.

My TM129 materials finally showed up yesterday.  I’ve already described the box contents, there was nothing unexpected.  I’ve had fun re-reading I, Robot though.

TM129 has one TMA for each of its three blocks, but they won’t be visible to read until closer to their due dates.  (My experience on TU100 tells me that it’s possible the module team isn’t done writing them, yet.)  I gave TMA00 a glance, expecting it be along the lines of write something about why you’re taking the class, and make sure you know how to zip and upload.

On the one hand, I was right: Those things are part of TMA00.  But the second half of it wants us to explore the ePortfolio.

TM129’s ePortfolio is nominally a record of your learning on the module: Activities that are somewhat more involved than practice exercises, and somewhat less involved than TMA questions.  After completing them, you’re asked to discuss the activity, particularly focusing on what skills it demonstrates and what avenues of study it opens up.  The pitch is that you could even show it to prospective employers to show them how much you’ve learned! (Pro tip: Never, ever show the ePortfolio to a prospective employer.  Or anyone.  Ever.)

In reality, the ePortfolio appears to be a tool meant to tie your study to your learning objectives.  And that’s cool!  Because it tells you how to get top grades on your TMAs, EMA, and the module.  The better you can sign-post how your answers match the learning objectives, the better you’re going to do.  In fact, the ePortfolio extra guidance essentially spells out how you can get top marks on your ePortfolio entries and therefore your TMAs.  (It also makes it very, very clear that if you want to half-arse it and just paste a screen shot and a three-line summary, you’re still going to pass TM129.  Welcome to university!)

So how does this fit into TMA00?  You’re asked to make an ePortfolio entry.  Not a fake one, and not a TMA00 specific one.  You’re supposed to read through the ePortfolio and choose any one activity to give a go.  I’d like to shake the hand of the genius who dreamed that up.  It’s a brilliant way to engage the students in A) familiarising themselves with the types of activities contained therein, B) the relative effort levels required, and C) give some thought as to what will be required to complete them.  If they’d asked students to do those things, about a quarter would probably actually spend any thought on it.

I chose an activity from the networking block (of course) and it was something I’d done a million times before: Diagramming my home network.  The trouble with this (and I suspect most things in the networking block … and the Linux block … and possibly the robotics block …) is that if I’ve done those things a million times, how am I going to learn anything, and how am I going to tie not learning anything to my learning objectives?  (Without lying, I mean.  I could take the coward’s way out, but there’s no challenge in that.)

I’m keen to see how my tutor responds to my solution.  To paraphrase Kirk, I changed the conditions of the TMA.  I set myself a challenge that yielded the same result as the proferred activity, but did it in a different way than directed.  (I also did it the way that I was directed, just to cover all the bases.)  I then tied the learning outcomes to the self-created task, and wrote about that, instead.  I highly suspect this will work, but I’ll let you know.

(To be clear, though, students are told to discuss the skills and knowledge displayed by the activity, not to discuss what was learned.)

Anyway, it’s not the only TMA work I’ve done this week.  I’ve also done half of MST124’s TMA01.  I’ve decided to use Word for my TMAs, since that’s likely the only place I’ll need to use written maths skills in the future.  I’ve finished Unit 1, and will complete the rest of the TMA after the module starts and I get through Unit 2.

Whilst many of my TM129 peers received their module materials yesterday, I’m still (sort of) waiting for mine.  I’m only sort of waiting, because A) the James May show on the DVD is on YouTube, B) I already have an e-copy of the Microsoft Networking Essentials book, and C) the I, Robot book was a favourite of mine in junior high school.  As these are the only three things in the box, I can probably stop worrying.

I’ve looked a bit at the TM129 online materials, which starts on the Robotics block, but I’m not really bothered by it.  My studying will be very similar in style to TU100 (active reading through bullet-point notes, combined with activities stored in a OneNote notebook on the cloud), so while I probably will start the study a bit early, it’s not really necessary.

MST124, on the other hand … I can’t really figure out how to study this.  The first half of the module or so is going to be revision.  (That’s “review” to any other Yanks in the audience.)  I’ve spent a few hours this weekend trying to “study” it, but all I’m really doing is glancing over the descriptions, then working on the activities.  As it’s all review, I haven’t come across anything that I can’t do, yet, so I don’t know what to do when that happens.

I’ve got two weeks to study each unit, more or less, and there are twelve units.  In that time, I need to get through around 100 pages of text, a few hundred exercises (or at least several dozen), possibly sit through a tutorial, and get through either half of a TMA or an iCMA.  There’s probably more than a few exercises in Maxima thrown in, as well.  It’s not bad at all, it’s just not obvious where to put my time, especially when I’ll have to split it with TM129.  (Thank goodness there isn’t much actual learning to do in TM129.)

I think the first thing I’ll do is hope for recorded online TMAs.  If I can watch a recorded online TMA, I skip the roughly 30% of the time that the tutors give over to sitting around waiting for people to work on examples.  I watched two revision boot-camp tutorials this week, and easily saved 40 minutes on each of them by skipping over empty sections, and more time skipping parts not relevant to me.  The only questions I ever ask during tutorials anyway are those to do with policy.  I mostly sit in because I know the tutors will drop TMA-specific hints.

Next, until I get to differentiation, I’m going to work backwards when necessary.  I’d like to do all the activities in the books to make sure there are no blindspots, and because practice is the best way to retain maths skills.  If there is a blind spot, I’ll back up and run through it, encorporating external resources as necessary.

Finally, once I get to and past differentiation, I think I’m just going to wing it.  Read without notes, try exercises, and practice, practice, practice.  Taking notes just doesn’t make sense to me with maths.  The closest I’ll come is following along the examples with a pen in hand.  I may alternate weeks between MST124 and TM129, as splitting days may throw off my rhythm.

We’ll see how it goes.  My intent is to stay one unit ahead throughout the module.  I’ve fallen afoul of getting too far ahead before, and the motivational issues that causes.  It can also make it a headache for revision.

The school I work at is in its second week of the year, things are held together with Sellotape and bailing wire and just about functional, so of course I spent most of my morning dodging in and out of the new module sites for TM129 and MST124.

The nearly-default Moodle theme I familiarised myself with last year has been reskinned with a flat theme.  It’s easy on the eyes and extremely usable on mobile platforms, so thumbs up from me.  (Actually, the high level of usability makes the rest of the OU site a bit embarrassing, really.)  Great UX planning.

MST-124 is about what I expected: A solid university course translated to an online medium.  TM-129 is also about what I expected: Chaos and insanity doled out as if to children.  Well, no, that’s what I expected.  It seems to be more like watered down squash.  It’s what you asked for, just less of it in the same sized glass.

MST-124 (Essential mathematics 1) isn’t bad.  It’s an obviously mature module which has honed its methods over decades.  There’s just the right amount of hand-holding (to me) for things like preparing assignment formatting, progressing from unit to unit, checking knowledge, and asking for help.  The ragged screams and buckets of tears from students in years past have obviously not gone unnoticed, and the result is a very logical, almost soothing trip through intermediate maths.

TM-129 (Technologies in practice) is like someone had a dream about being taught the perfect module, but got it a bit wrong when they woke up and tried to write out all the details before the dream slipped away from memory.  I’m sure somebody thinks it’s highly logical, but it’s really a bit weird.

There are three blocks in TM-129: robotics, networking, and Linux.  The only other organisation to the tutelage is by breaking it into weeks.  So there aren’t units, sections, or sessions, as such.  Just Robotics week 1, Robotics week 2, etc.  It’s my first day with it, but it seems difficult to learn the concepts in a flowing way.  Concepts appear to be explored and limited based on time, rather than a balanced or comprehensive understanding of it.

Thankfully, I’m not here to get an understanding of the topics.  As with TU100, I’m here to gain practice in learning.  I can’t see the networking information, as that’s entirely in a Microsoft book that has yet to be shipped (I hope Microsoft Press isn’t as bad as their edX team), but I don’t see any glaring omissions from the other two topics.  They’re only meant to be introductions, so it’s possible they’re as useless as OpenLearn MOOCs, or they could be dead useful.  I probably won’t be able to offer much of an objective view even after the module’s over, due to my familiarity with all three topics already.

Mostly I’m excited that I can study again.  I enjoy the process.

Despite what I said in my last post about how difficult LaTeX was to learn compared to how much use I’d probably get out of it … Well, I’d already invested the time in learning it, so why not give it a proper go?

I decided to make a proper template based off the ideas in MST125 Unit 2 (which is available for OU students to view, but they must be logged in).  For any experts out there who are bothered by the methods used, please keep in mind that this was literally my first day with LaTeX.  It gets the job done, and looks pretty … well, prettier.  Some features of the template:

  • Put your name, personal identifier, and TMA number in once, and the title section and footer on every page is updated from it
  • Typing \section{} will not just give the new section, but type Question # for you, with # being the next section number
  • Subquestions are likewise auto-incremented on every \item
  • The text font is a Helvetica sans-serif clone, but the maths font is still serif, making it easier to read

Obviously some parts will need to be cut and pasted, or otherwise modified to your needs.  The actual template I’m using, for instance, is slightly different in that it has a multi-line header instead of a footer, and it’s greyed out rather than having a delineation to match my Word template from last year. (Well, it was.  I’m starting to like this template more.)

Anyway, here’s the template I’m using for MST124.  I’m not taking MST125, so I don’t know whether or not this is part of a TMA question in and of itself.  If it is (or, frankly, even if it isn’t), please keep OU academic integrity practices in mind.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{amsmath}
\usepackage{amssymb}
\usepackage{enumitem}
\usepackage{fancyhdr}

\def\myname{Your Name} % change this
\def\identifier{F0000000} % change this to your OU personal identifier
\def\tmanumber{TMA 00} % change this to appropriate TMA number or TMA title
\def\presentation{MST124-17J} % change to module presentation or TMA subtitle

\pagestyle{fancy}
\rhead{}
\lfoot{\myname}
\cfoot{Page \thepage}
\rfoot{\identifier}
\renewcommand{\headrulewidth}{0pt}
\renewcommand{\footrulewidth}{1pt}

\author{\myname, \identifier}
\date{} % remove this line to have date printed on title section
\title{\tmanumber\\\bigskip\normalfont\large{\presentation}}

\parindent 0pt % remove for paragraph indent
\parskip 4pt % also remove this for paragraph indent

\usepackage{titlesec}
\titleformat{\section}{\normalfont\Large\bfseries}{Question \thesection}{0em}{ }

\usepackage{nimbussans}
\renewcommand*\familydefault{\sfdefault} % remove for serif font

\begin{document}
  \maketitle
  \thispagestyle{fancy}
  \section{} % writes Question and incremental number
  \begin{enumerate}[label=(\alph*)] % auto-formats item decoration
   \item First subquestion.
   \item Second subquestion.
   \item Third subquestion.
  \end{enumerate}

  \newpage
  \section{}

\end{document}

Well that was earlier than expected!  I didn’t expect them to ship the books for MST124 out for another two weeks, but they were waiting for me when I arrived home yesterday.

The box is heavy.  My son picked up just one of the books inside and grunted under the weight.  It seems to be about a quarter acre of rainforest in the box.  The box contains:

  • MST124 Book A
    • Unit 1: Algebra
    • Unit 2: Graphs and equations
    • Unit 3: Functions
  • MST124 Book B
    • Unit 4: Trigonometry
    • Unit 5: Coordinate geometry and vectors
    • Unit 6: Differentiation
  • MST124 Book C
    • Unit 7: Differentiation methods and integration
    • Unit 8: Integration methods
    • Unit 9: Matrices
  • MST124 Book D
    • Unit 10: Sequences and series
    • Unit 11: Taylor polynomials
    • Unit 12: Complex numbers
  • Computer Algebra Guide (about using Maxima)
  • Handbook (74 page cheat-sheet you can take with you into the exam)
  • MST124 Guide (as “worth while” as every other OU module guide)
  • TMA form PT3 for posting assignments (Ha!)
  • Specimen exam paper, new for this year
  • Contents list

Here’s an “unboxing” photo with a bonus of my study area:

I had a look through the guide, the handbook, and the computer algebra guide, and then searched through they Labyrinth of Hidden OU “Support” Forums to look for anything interesting to do before the site opens.

The first thing of note was that the guide actually encourages students to start as early as possible on the material (literally as soon as they get the books, and before the site opens) and stay ahead until they’re done and it’s time to revise.  Cool!  Finally a module for the hares!

I downloaded and installed Maxima, and will use it as required, but as soon as the module’s over I’ll go back to doing what I used to do: WolframAlpha.  Maxima basically takes the place of requiring everybody to buy an expensive graphing calculator.

Then I looked into typesetting.  I have a lot of conflicting thoughts on the typesetting.  The first is that during the exam, I won’t have a computer to make my work pretty, so I may want to simply practice writing it out by hand for performance sake.  As I browse through the specimen paper, I don’t think this is much of a concern.

So for computer typsetting of my TMAs, I can either use LaTeX or MS Word’s equations.  (Or OpenOffice, I suppose, but I’m intentionally using MS through this degree course.  Another option would have been to use LibreOffice with the TexMaths LaTeX plugin.)  Last night I went through the guides for both.

Going in, I thought that LaTeX would be the better solution, as everybody glows about it.  It’s more work to learn, but apparently worth it in the long run.  In my opinion, the long run would have to be very, very, very long indeed.  It took about five times as long to learn as Word, because in addition to speaking its language for the maths, you also have to build the entire document around it.  Making a decent TMA template would probably take an initial few hours to get it looking as good as Word, with researching all the required functionality.  That said, if I were doing an entire maths degree, or was writing a book or thesis, it’d probably be worth the investment.  It’s absolutely professional quality.

Word, however, was much easier, quicker to learn, and was just barely behind in professionalism.  The only drawback was that the size of dynamic brackets wasn’t as nice as it was in LaTeX.  In exchange, you get to not worry about the rest of the document, easier and more intuitive codes, the ability to avoid codes altogether and instead point-and-click, instant rendering and feedback, and the data is then extremely portable rather than locked in a PDF.  If I need to write equations in another module (as I had to on every TU100 TMA) or elsewhere in life, the Word experience is also more portable.  If I needed complete control and customisation, then I’d probably opt for LaTex, but don’t see that happening in my current life tragectory.  It’s possibly worth it to learn the LaTeX codes, however, as they can be used in the Open University forums.

There are a few pre-module tutorials they’re running through September, and I’ll probably check one or two out, but I’m not that concerned.  After the Khan Academy prep I did this summer, I’m pretty confident already with about half the module.