MU123 vs MST124

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Since signing up with the Open University, the hardest choice has been between the two mathematics modules, MU123 Discovering Mathematics or MST124 Essential Mathematics 1. Apart from when to study each module in Stage 1 of the computing and IT degree, everything else was relatively straightforward.

MU123 appears to be a gentle start from GCSE level that slowly builds up to encroach into AS or A Level maths. In contrast, MST124 assumes you are more comfortable with maths, quickly recapping GCSE knowledge before proceeding quite rapidly into A-level territory and, possibly, beyond.

The Open University recognises this is a difficult choice for many students. Consequently, there’s plenty of guidance, sample materials and even a helpful ‘are you ready’ quiz on its website. In general, the Open University recommends MU123 if you haven’t studied maths for a while, not gone beyond GCSE level or lack confidence in your mathematical abilities.

I breezed the MU123 ‘are you ready quiz’ but had to abandon the one for MST124. I struggled to remember formulas that I had (presumably) studied long ago. In fact, I took my GCSE maths exam closer to the Open University’s 25th anniversary. I’m now beginning my studies in its 50th anniversary year.

I could, in theory, have spent some time before the course started covering the topics in MU123 to enable me to start MST124 with confidence. If I was already working in computing and IT, or had extensive prior knowledge, I might have taken the risk with MST124.

I did consider other options. One was to study MU123 on its own as a ‘taster’ for the Open University before the start of the course in October. However, by the time I had thought of this, it was too late to enrol in the February start.

I also considered studying MST124 in the second year of Stage 1, which would have given me a balanced 60 credits per year. I would have had extra time to prepare. However, I wanted to study the maths module as early as possible to help me with the maths content of the computing modules.

I learned from reading the experiences of students who had studied MST124 that it had felt like a 60 not a 30-credit module. It seems that, after the first couple of units, it has somewhat of a steep learning curve. I had a quick look at some of the sample chapters available on the Open University website. At least in terms of the number of pages, it has roughly double the content of MU123.

In the end, MU123 seemed like the right choice for me.

Nevertheless, I did wonder whether my choice of maths module would affect which computing modules I could study later in the course. The advice I received from speaking to the student support team and on the official forums is that either MU123 or MST124 is enough. Essentially, it doesn’t matter.

The Open University doesn’t say it will stop you from taking any of the modules later in the course if you have only studied MU123. That said, some stages 2 and 3 modules have a higher maths content than others. For these modules, I plan to focus on the relevant maths topics before they start.

So, I enrolled on MU123 starting in October, alongside TM111. Studying both these modules together takes me over the 16 to 18 hours of study per week that the Open University advises for part-time students. With the condensed TM111 expected to take about 14 hours of study per week and MU123 about eight, this comes to an estimated 22 hours.

Yet, I will never be studying more than two modules at any one time, with TM112 following directly on from TM111 in April.

It does mean, though, a comparatively light second year of Stage 1 for me, with only TM129. Maybe a chance to focus on other things.

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  1. Thank you for this Post! I’m not sure what I’m doing but I begin right now a BsC in Computing and IT in Open University with TM111 and (right now I’m sure) MU123 for my first year. I have full time job, family and 39 years old, I’ve studied a MsC in Psychology but Computing was always my real passion. So I have got a little bit challenge opposite because english is not my native language (I’m Spanish and live in Madrid). But I hope that this adventure will be a fulfilling one. Thanks a lot for the review!

    1. Thanks Jesus. Yes, I have also found studying later in life to be more challenging because of having to juggle other responsibilities at the same time as my studies. So I am doubly impressed that you are studying in a second language! Don’t worry, I am sure you will find that your tutors and fellow students to be just as supportive as they have been in my experience. I believe that is part of what makes studying with the Open University so enjoyable. Good luck with TM111 and MU123!

  2. Hi, Luke!

    Thank you for the information regarding the two maths modules. I’m about to start TM111 only in April (not my choice but the university had a block on my account because I didn’t finish a previous module or two and would only lift it on the condition that I pass a 30 credit module and then my restrictions will be totally lifted), just waiting for Student Finance Wales to get back to me to make sure the fees are covered (they let me down badly last time as they got back to me AFTER the course had started, which put me in bad stead with the OU I’m sure) as I’m not currently in a position to pay the tuition fees and anything else needed of me, although thankfully I already have a decent laptop.

    TM111 looks pretty straightforward with very few TMAs and ICMAs and lasts from 2nd April to mid-late September which is quite short. Have you noticed how every module for this course (BSc (Hons) Computing and IT Q62) is 30 credits? That’s unusual to me. I would have thought there would be at least one module with 60 credits.

    I’m having the same dilemma. MU123 was almost too easy but MST124 required the quadratic formula and I wasn’t sure whether it was cheating to just look it up, so I got stuck there. I have to choose one of them, so my thinking is to do MU123 and TM112 in October (I just hope I’m not punished later down the line for not pursuing MST124 as there will be gaps in my mathematical knowledge and I already have an A grade GCSE, albeit from 1993), but then that leaves me with the same issue as yourself!

    i.e. what do I do with TM129? That starts in Feb 2023 but nothing else does 😐 OR could I do that at the same time as the other two as it also starts in Oct 2022? I’m not currently in employment for medical reasons so I have the time to take 90 credits (but no more) and don’t want to go back to just doing 30 credits in a session. I’m not going to rush anything but I want to try to get it done in 4-5 years given I’m in my 40s. Do you know if it’s feasible to study TM112 and TM129 at the same time? Or should I wait until Feb 2023 to start TM129?

    And am I the only one who finds all the routes from level 2 modules quite overwhelming and daunting lol. I don’t know where to start with those but in 18 months or less I will need to know. I know that I’m more interested in programming and possibly databases. I’m not really management material, truth be told.

    Anyway, I’m glad I found your page! Seems you’re quite some way into the course so it will be a very useful resource for me to look at your experiences as that might give me a guide as to which route I want to take and how many credits I can handle in an academic year.

    Cheers and good luck with everything!

    Mark 🙂

    1. Thanks Mark, happy to help. Yes, you’re right. Computing and IT have completed to switch to all 30 credit modules. The precursor to TM111 and TM122, TU100 My Digital Life, was, as far as I am aware, the last 60 credit module on the BSc (Hons) Computing and IT.

      I think if I was in your position, I would, having started with TM111 in April, do TM112 and MU23 starting in October. The reasons being that TM112 is designed to be studied straight after TM111 and is a definite step up so I would prefer to study it alongside MU123 rather than TM129.

      Then, I would do TM129 starting in February. Since TM112 will finish in March, there will only be one to two months at most where I am doing three modules at once. MU123 will finish at the end of May (when the EMA is due in, no exam unlike MST124), so I would just have TM129 until September.

      To my mind, that would be the most efficient way and mean being able to start Level Two modules in October 2023. Managing two modules a year from then on, completing the degree in roughly four to five years is feasible.

      I am not finding my choice of MU123 to have come back to bite me so far. The big test will be M269, which I plan to start in October, and possibly some of the Level Three modules, such as TM351 Data Management and Analysis. However, I have found that the Level Two modules have been good at telling you what previous knowledge or maths you need and even build in a quick refresher or point you towards sources of help.

      If you are more interested in programming, then you will probably want to do Level Two modules like M250, TT284 and M269. Though that’s a lot of programming! There is more maths in these modules than in others but the Open University do say that either MU123 or MST124 is sufficient to cope with the level of maths in the rest of the course.

      Anyway, I wish you the best of luck starting your degree in April and hope it all goes well!

      1. Thank you for getting back to me, Luke 🙂

        I think that’s the best course of action. A very kind person at the OU already suggested I take MU123/TM112 together in October and given that TM129 is only five months, I won’t be doing three modules at once for long, as you say. So my plan is to start that in Feb 2023 and then move on to level 2 study in the autumn of 2023. So with a minimum of 60 credits a calendar year from then onwards, I’d be on course to finish my degree no later than the spring/summer of 2027.

        I have plenty of time on my hands but of course the trickiest thing about studying too many credits at once (particularly in this degree) is that you could be juggling 3 rather different subject areas at once. So I probably won’t be making a habit of it 🙂 The workload would be fine but having all these different areas of study at once could be overwhelming so it’s something I have to give serious thought to once I move on to the more difficult modules.

        As for my route, yes, I really want to learn programming a lot, but I think Broad is the way to go, because which ever option I choose afterwards, I’ll have the whole selection of courses to choose from once I reach level 3 study. And I might find I enjoy some things more than I previously imagined and vice-versa. It’s a big change for me after being a law student in the dim and distant past.

        Thank you for your good advice and best wishes. I wish you the same success on your level 2 courses and beyond!

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