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Writing Maths

Introduction

As soon as you start studying mathematics you are faced with the problem of what you are going to write down. This is particularly true of Open University units, which are usually interspersed with questions for you to answer in order to check how you are getting on. Before you start writing you have to decide the answers to questions like these.

  • Are you writing just enough to get the answer?
  • Are you writing the solution to a problem for someone else, perhaps your tutor, to read?
  • Do you want to be able to use your solution yourself when you are revising for an exam later?
You need to make these choices for yourself, and in different situations the answer will be different.

When you are writing a solution for yourself
If you are using a technique you know well, such as solving a pair of simultaneous linear equations, you may well write down the minimum amount, because you do not need to remind yourself of what to do. However, if you have just met a new technique or strategy you may want to annotate your solution with exactly what you have done, to remind yourself the next time you use the technique.

When you are writing for a tutor
Don’t assume anything. Write down all the steps in the argument, and explain why you have done so. You will usually find that there is a similar example in the unit which shows you the amount of detail that you need to include.