Monday, 3 August 2015

M303 Alternative (And free)

I have been asked my opinions about M303 the new pure maths course which started last year. Given my car crash with the old topology course which I just scraped a pass at, and my dropping out of M381 I have to say my experience of pure maths at the OU has not been a particularly happy one. Looking at the fora it would seem that M303 has had a number of people criticise it. I suspect part of it is the intrinsic nature of pure maths which really does require quite a different mind set to some one like me who likes the calculational side of things and not the endless forest of definition, lemma, proof that seems to be part of pure maths. However M303 does seem to give some one like me a second bite of the cherry. But I can't see me doing it. It would be 60 points of relentless slog. On the other hand it would be nice to learn about rings fields etc and the more advanced parts of group theory such as the Sylow theorems.

There is in fact an alternative supplied by Saylor Academy

which has a number of maths courses free of charge. Unfortunately Saylor have changed their support for a lot of courses and the maths courses have been moved to legacy which means that Saylor will no longer give exams on these topics, Nevertheless if one wants a structured guide to maths at undergraduate level then this would appear to provide an alternative.

The maths options

MA231 Abstract Algebra I

MA231 Abstract Algebra II

would appear to cover the algebra and group theory topics of M303 if not more as the two courses go up to Galois theory.

The main text is Judson

But there are links to you tube lectures and other goodies.

Obviously doing this wont give you a real qualification but as it's free and structured, you wont be overwhelmed with having to do all the exercises. At 4 - 5 hours per week it should be possible to do these two courses in a year.

Anyway I have started hopefully I will finish


  1. Hi Chris, I just stumbled across Saylor today. I'm looking to start undergrad Maths while working full-time in the IT industry. I had a scan through the material and could tell right away that it was top notch quality. I was so disappointed when it dawned on me that Saylor no longer supports the full math major. So looks like I'll have to trundle back to the OU :-(

  2. Yeah its a real pity on the other hand at least they are keeping the material open who knows they might be persuaded to change their minds or someone else might take over

  3. I've just been chatting to Sean from Saylor and it turns out that they are in the process of making the 2hr final exams accessible again for legacy courses. That makes a big difference and I think I will now embark on Saylor in the expectation that the final exams are forthcoming. Math is not the kind of subject that changes much anyway, at least not at the level I'll be studying at!

  4. That;s really good news thanks for finding this out

  5. Fyi this is the full quote from Sean -

    "We actually will make the legacy course final exams available pretty soon. One of our staff members is cleaning up the HTML and getting it ready for being hosted on GitHub in Markdown then converted to Jekyll format for ultimate display in...HTML. Such is the world we now live in!"