Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Approximation Theory

I spent three hours of this afternoon in a church hall in Guildford. I haven't found religion - far from it. I was there on purely secular matters, taking an exam for an Open University module on Approximation Theory. A few years ago I decided to start an MSc in Mathematics to learn more about various topics that I've never formally learned before. At the time, I approached my head of department to see if the University would part-fund, and he said no. Why couldn't someone like me with a PhD just pick a book to learn a new topic? A good question, but the answer is that without the rod of the assignment deadlines, I'd never in practice get round to learning the material.

So, today was the culmination of the year of learning all about different ways of approximating functions - polynomial approximations, splines, all that kind of stuff. As ever, I didn't revise perhaps quite as much as I should have (here I am learning about all the things my students understand very well), but it was okay. The exam was fair, especially after I asked the invigilators to turn the speakers off so that I stopped hearing them cut up paper with scissors next to the microphone (I have no idea what they were doing to bide the time). I'll find out the results in December, but I'm happy with how the course went, and there are even a few ways I might bring some of what I've learnt in to my research.

It's a shame the OU are putting up their fees so highly. It's not a good time to be a player in the HE market, but I can't see that their new fee regime will be good for them. Fortunately for me the existing MSc fees will be held for current students.