I almost admitted defeat.
Let me amend that. I admitted defeat. Like, forty or fifty times. On one activity. (Activity 17, combining differentiation rules, if anybody cares.) But I also went back for more the same number of times.
I finally conquered it confidently and moved past it, with some help from Sal Khan. But I wasn’t the only one that was nearly completely derailed by that single activity. Every few hours, somebody in the Facebook group will say that they’re really struggling with Unit 7, or just about to give up on maths completely, or feel like they understood maths until one activity made them feel like an utter moron. Practically without fail, they’re all staring at activity 17 in panic.
When I go from understanding everything well (or well enough) to understanding nothing, I typically assume that I’ve skipped a major step without realising it. But when nearly everybody has the same experiences, I feel more comfortable thinking that it isn’t just me. There was either a foundational piece left out, or simply too steep a learning curve.
It highlights the importance of not relying solely on one source for information. The Open University often seems fanatical in its defence of its material always being individually sufficient and superior to all other sources. (This is only my opinion from anecdotal observation.) For example, any suggestion in the official MST-124 forums to check out an external resource on a topic is swiftly refuted by tutors on the course, and original OU materials are reiterated. Without fail.
In my experience, no one source has all the right answers, and no one way of learning is right for everybody. When doing assignments, it’s important to prepare them based on the information you’re instructed to peruse. But for understanding, make sure you find whatever resource you can find that helps you understand. If there’s something fundamentally different from what’s in the OU materials, it’s an excellent opportunity to open a dialogue with the tutor and gain a considerably deeper understand of the nuances involved in the reasons for the difference.
It took me five. days. to get past activity 17 using OU materials. It took me about two hours on Khan Academy. Find what works for you. Self-reflection on how I learn is one of the most valuable skills I’ve developed so far.
Mark, thanks for taking the time to write this blog. I’ve pretty much had a crisis event courtesy of unit 7 tonight. Expressing to my wife that if this is the frustration and dejection I’m getting at stage 1, how screwed would I be at stage 2 and 3, and do I really want to go through all of that?
Lo and behold, the infamous activity 17 strikes again.
Your blog has given me renewed confidence to keep plugging away. For now anyway