Course image MA3E7:Problem Solving 2016/17

Status for Mathematics students: List B for third years. If numbers permit second and fourth years may take this module as an unusual option, but confirmation will only be given at the start of Term 2.

Commitment: 10 two hour and10 one hour seminars (including some assessed problem solving)

Assessment: 10% from weekley seminars, 40% from assignment, 50% two hour exam in June

Prerequisites: None

This module gives you the opportunity to engage in mathematical problem solving and to develop problem solving skills through reflecting on a set of heuristics. You will work both individually and in groups on mathematical problems, drawing out the strategies you use and comparing them with other approaches.

General aims
This module will enable you to develop your problem solving skills; use explicit strategies for beginning, working on and reflecting on mathematical problems; draw together mathematical and reasoning techniques to explore open ended problems; use and develop schema of heuristics for problem solving.

This module provides an underpinning for subsequent mathematical modules. It should provide you with the confidence to tackle unfamiliar problems, think through solutions and present rigorous and convincing arguments for your conjectures. While only small amounts of mathematical content will be used in this course which will extend directly into other courses, the skills developed should have wide ranging applicability.

Intended Outcomes

Learning objectives

The intended outcomes are that by the end of the module you should be able to:

  • Use an explicit problem solving scheme to control your approach to mathematical problems
  • Explain the role played by different phases of problem solving
  • Critically evaluate your own problem solving practice


The module runs in term 2, weeks 1-10

Thursday 14:00-15:00 OC0.04 (new teaching and learning building)
Friday 15:00-17:00 OC0.04

Most weeks the Thursday slot will be used for the weekly (assessed) problem session, but this will not be the case every week. You are expected to attend all three timetabled hours.

Assessment Details

  1. A flat 10% given for ‘serious attempts’ at problems during the course. Each week, you will be assigned a problem for the seminar. At then end of the seminar, you should present a ‘rubric’ of your work on that problem so far. If you submit at least 7 rubrics, deemed to be ‘serious attempts’, you will get 10%.
  2. One problem-solving assignment (40%) (deemed to be the equivalent of 2000 words) due by noon on Monday 20th March 2017 by electronic upload (pdf).
  3. A 2 hour examination in Summer Term 2017 (50%).
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