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A-Level Mathematics: Looking for a Distance Learning Provider


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#1 stitchs   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1266

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 03:50 PM

Hello,

I wasn't too sure where to post this topic, as it is sort of a Math based question, but more to do with education. I apologise if I have mis-posted and am willing for the topic to be moved into the appropriate area.

This might be for a UK only audience. I have always regretted not doing A-Level Maths when presented the opportunity as college, I feel that it could have aided my University career in programming tenfold. Anyhow, I digress, what I would like to know is: are there any Distance Learning providers that anyone could recommend, maybe from personal experience with said companies, or through their reputations. I have had a browse at a few (ICS, Oxford Open Learning, Oxford College etc.) with them all being highly recommended/avoidable based on reviews.

Any light in this fog would be greatly appreciated, as I don't want to spend money on a provider that may do me more harm than good.

Regards,

Stitchs.

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#2 Mr_Nick   Members   -  Reputation: 242

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 09:06 PM

Hey stitchs,

I went with the National Extension College (nec.ac.uk) a few years back. I had a tutor I could talk to on the phone and would send coursework for marking every month or two.
It wasn't cheap but they sent all the required books.
I did A-level maths. The following year though I thought the cost of using a distance learner wasnt worth it, so when I did further maths I just looked at the exam board's website for the modules and bought the Heineman books that covered each one (they were excellent). If you prefer working from a book then I recommend it as its a lot cheaper.
The exam board was Edexcel and were fine. When it comes to exams you'll want to book early to be safe. The NEC (did/does) have a list of places where you can take your exams.

Goodluck!

#3 stitchs   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1266

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Posted 05 August 2012 - 04:54 AM

Thanks for your reply.

I'm curious, what would you say you got from the Distance Learning provider, as opposed to the book only route, and vice-versa. Do you feel that being (self) 'taught' maths in a lesson-esque format had its advantages? Were the books clear and concise enough, or did you have issues with some portions where having that tutor support would have been ideal. I ask because I'm wondering, maybe to take the same route as you, as I have not done maths since GCSE's 2005.

Also, what did you achieve in both sets of exams that you took? What was your final marks for the distance learning, as well as the self-taught approach?

Are you able to provide samples of the materials you received from the NEC?

Regards,

Stitchs.

#4 Mr_Nick   Members   -  Reputation: 242

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 12:29 AM

Sorry for late reply
I got A's in both cases :)
89% for distance learnng and 88% self taught (not statistically significant!)
I actually got a B at GCSE that i'd done 4 & 5 years earlier.

It really depends on your strongest learning style. After a while with the distance learning I
found I very rarely needed help hence the reason I dropped it.
Are you working full-time/part-time/unemployed? If you don't have much time it might be best
to get a tutor. I was only p/t so getting stuck wasn't much of a prob. Of course you could
make use of forums like this if you get stuck.

What level are you at now? Have you done any graphics/physics programming? If some of the
pure/core modules and mechanics modules will be a doddle.

There might be better distance learners than the NEC so I can't help you with which to choose.
If you go self taught youll have near complete control over which modules you choose. Either
way you'll spend most of your time learning from the text.
'Fraid I threw out my stuff when I went to uni but I was sent the texts, a couple of work
books to summarise things and practice stuff, and coursework sheets.
However, when I did further maths, the Edexcel website provides summary formula's etc and
practice/past papers (invaluable - cant state that enough). In both cases, it was the practice
papers that I found to be the best gauge of my progress. Also the specs tell you specifaclly
what you need to know for the exam.

If you just want to try things out self-taught, do this:
Go to an exam board website (Edxcel, AQA etc). Get the module specs for A-level maths.
Pick 1 or 2 modules that are part of A-level maths (unless things have changed they're called
the 'core' modules).
Buy the required texts (usually 1 book for each module)
Work through the books.
Do past/practice papers after.
If you'll feeling confident near xmas, book to take the exams in January.
Then you should know if self taught works.
If not, you might (got no idea) have to wait till following september to embark with distance
learning.

Anyway, if its programming in general you're looking to enhance, Id highly recommend the
'decision maths' modules [search amazon 'decision maths heineman']. They cover stuff like
binary searches, algorithms for bin packing, finding the shortest route across a network of
nodes. (also useful for AI)
If its physics, then the mechanics modules and pure/core modules.
Oh and statistics module 1 is an easy way to get some marks.
You can re-take modules and you get the higher mark of the 2 modules.
If you go self-taught, send me ur email and ill try and find the latest info you'll need (else
Ill some old pdf's).

Remember, maths is largely a subject you train at rather than a bunch of facts to memorise so practice practice practice! (thats what got me my A's). Read and re-read material, writing notes as you go. Do the practice questions/check your answers, then write up what you know (important for your understanding and essential for revision). That will also help it stick. If you're stuck, do the examples, side-by-side with the books examples. Its better than just reading them.
So, got the time? Self-taught is fine.
Time v. limited? Distance learning or you could spread the A-level over up to 3 years.

#5 BenS1   Members   -  Reputation: 319

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 08:14 AM

I'm also considering doing Math A-Level from home.

I've actually already got a Math A-Level (About 15 years ago) but I can't rmeember a lot of it, and it always seems to hold me back when I'm doing games programming plus a lot of the highly paid financial programming jobs in London are heavy on Maths too, so I thought I might do MAth A-Level again, and this time hopefully I'll get a better grade too (As I actually want to do it this time).

Actually, I thought about going one step further and doing A-Level Maths and Further Maths (That used to count as 2 A-Levels when I was at school, I presume it still does?). At least that way I'll have something extra to put on my CV. However I can't seem to find any distance\home learning providers that offer Further Maths A-Level.

Thanks
Ben

#6 stitchs   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1266

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 03:32 PM

Thanks so much for your advice MrNick. It is very interesting to read!!

I work full-time at 35 hours a week, I get 2 days off, so it's not impossible to find the time. What I am currently doing is working through a GCSE Maths revision guide (CGP) and working from cover to cover. I've had to repeat the first chapter exam 3 times (even though it's basic, I'm really rusty!) and just 100%'d it tonight. I have looked at some of the units, also for GCSE, and I have found they're teaching topics, such as Surds, when they never even mentioned them to us in 2005.

I did sign up for ICS, but I found they're materials somewhat difficult to grasp (a lot of facts with little explanation behind it) and I didn't have the time, currently, to spend 8 hours a day on it. That was returned and now I'm looking for a reliable, reputable distance learner for when I complete 'GCSE'.

Ideally I would like to improve programming, I struggle with most you've mentioned, which is why I have decided to take this step. I like the idea of doing Pure as options because I touched on Matrices in my university course and understand they are great to know for 3D programming. I have a Maths pack from my first year which I really need to re-read because, if it has all the information needed for 'Pure', then I'll go for mechanics to improve my understanding there, and tackle the pack in full aswell, thereby giving myself the best of both worlds.

I don't like the idea of statistics and don't think it will be as useful for what I would like however, I do see where you are coming from with what you say: "Get the easy marks, get a good grade for the CV, and study the Mechanics/Pure from textbooks at my own pace, that wouldn't be detrimental to the exam marks." This is what I believe you are saying? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Once again, thanks so much for your continued input.

Regards,

Stitchs.

#7 Mr_Nick   Members   -  Reputation: 242

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 10:37 AM

Yeah thats basically what I meant. I know what its like being rusty but you'll soon be fluent in it. As I said, look at the Edxcel (or other body) specs as they briefly summarise the subjects covered so you can choose what modules you'd like to study, as well as what modules are compulsory.

I just saw on the Edxcel website they have an 'ask the expert' service now. Also they may have distance/evening learning courses for the maths. Cambridge learning mite also be worth a look. The titles of the books Edxcel specifies are the same as the module names so you can't go wrong.

It's difficult for info to actually stick if you just work through summary booklets. You're own notes will be more useful to you, and the act of writing stuff down in itself really helps stuff stick.
If I remember, the pure/core modules cover a lot on calculus; especially for calculating areas, volumes (& a zillion other things). If you like maths, its really interesting.
The decision maths modules are probably the most straight forward to learn. Everything is explained in an algorithmic way. So thats more about memorising stuff. I did 1 year of a maths/physics/comp science degree, and it was stuff related to the decision maths that came up in comp science, so yeah it would certainly help improve programming.
I dont think the mechanics modules introduce vectors until module 3. Before that its more distance & angle.

At least with self taught, you can pick and choose what modules to do exams in Jan & May, as well as spread the A-level out if need be. Its much easier to revise if you do say 2 exams in Jan, and 4 in May.
You can book exams through a company called 'Pearson VUE'. They have places all over the UK. When I did, I basically had a whole room to myself (apart from once when there was a hot girl :))

@BenS1, the only place Ive seen you can do further maths is if you went to a 6th form college. Otherwise you'll have to go down the self-taught route (which only requires slightly more self-organisation than distance learning). Also if you're interested, you can do 3 A-levels in maths; maths, further maths, further maths additional. Is it possible you could do a 1-year foundation (distance) degree?

#8 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 11:30 PM

The best distance/self learning is sitting in your local bookstore.

C dominates the world of linear procedural computing, which won't advance. The future lies in MASSIVE parallelism.





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