Sunday, January 04, 2009

QLA -Quarcoo Linear Algebra. Are you thinking of taking this Course?

I did told you that I was going to have a blog on my last semester courses. Well, I took 19 credits last semester. I did pre-register the previous semester, but for a reason not very clear pre-registration did not work for lots of the students. Rumors went that the Samuels portal crashed. The Samuels portal is the AUN students’ registration portal. It was by developed by some Pakistanis who are also pioneer students of AUN. You may want to read about it here. I was supposed to take micro-economics last semester but the class was filled. I was asked to be on a wait list that another section will be opened. I then wrote my name down. As at on Friday the last day for add a course, no new section was opened. Just then I began to think of adding another course. On Monday, the following week, I went to the registrar’s office to check if the micro-economics class was still opened. There were some students still registering however. So, I was convinced that it was not late officially, not knowing that those ones had some grace. They probably had some problems with their registeration or something. In the evening, I met Dr Joseph Quarcoo who asked whether I was not taking Linear Algebra. I told him I had not done Calculus 3. He told me that it was not a prerequisite and that one of my mates Daniel Iyade who took calculus 1 with him was doing it. I was very surprise to hear this. Why didn’t Daniel told me that he was going to add it? I asked. Then I made up my mind to add it. I had missed a week of class. But it doesn’t matter I taught. I will still be able to survive. I had not known that it was a sort of very abstract course. I was then in my way to hell as I dashed into the registrar’s office to collect the “add and drop form”. And so, filled in the course I was about to add and other requirement. Then I was told I cannot add more than 18 credits unless the dean approved it. I met the dean who said he cannot add it because it was already late to add a course. Then I sent a mail to the academics vice-president complaining of my inability to add other courses while I had taught another section was going to be opened for micro-economics. At last, on Tuesday morning, I was added to the class. In the afternoon, I met Daniel and asked him why he had not told me he would be doing Linear Algebra and he said it was the dean that suggested that he do it. He said he was about to drop it. He was already complaining. But it is algebra now, I told him. He told me that it was not as I think and that if he had known he would not have been doing it in that third semester of his. That same day, I went to the book store to get the textbook. Little did I knew that it was going to be the course that I was going to spend about 70% of my study time in and at last, I dropped the course. I actually dropped the course on the day of the final exam!!! What a tragedy. I was just tired and bored to prepare for finals. I was on a D and just felt trying hard to study for finals would not produce the desired result. It might even make me perform poorly in other courses which ultimately will reduce my CGPA. I had met the professor some days before the finals and he has said he could give me a WP (Withdrawal Pass) if I am considering dropping. I told him I was doing 19 credits and it was responsible for my seemingly not catching up in the course and he understood. On the final day of the exam, I worked into the exam hall and told him that I have made up my mind to drop. I came late for the exam anyway and it was obvious that I had no intention of writing the exam.

During the semester, the course Linear Algebra, which I coined as QLA which stands for Quarcoo Linear Algebra was that though that I was considering changing my major. Dr Quarcoo was known as the toughest AUN professor. And the course Linear Algebra was a very abstract course despite. You can imagine a tough professor and a tackle an abstract course. Of course it is the students that will sufferer just as the saying: “when two elephants fight, it is the ground that will always suffer”. I was thinking this could be the hardest course in life and wondered what rocket science or any other though course could be. I was also seeking for any advice to help me sail through. This made me to ask yahoo group a question. You may read the question I asked in the yahoo group and the feedback I got:

Eruditprince:( My yahoo username:)
(title of question) What major is generally for smart persons? Is Linear Algebra generally hard or is just me that is dull?
I use to think that physics, engineering and computer science are for people who are naturally gifted for them. ie. good mathematics persons. A course like linear algebra is kinda very abstract for me to comprehend. Am I dull or the course is generally hard? How may I help myself? Do I change my major?

Gymdudenc: Linear algebra can seem basic, or it can seem quite difficult depending on who is introducing it to you. For instance, I tried it the first time as a freshman at USC with a man who spent the entire first day talking about subspaces. He also did not provide one non-abstract example the entire class. 2 girls even cried during this class - though he was very rude to them. I dropped it immediately. The next year I transferred to a different university and took it again, and this time it was introduced correctly and I breezed through it. So it may not be you that is dull. If you professor started off with a review of matricies and vectors, and started you off solving systems, finding inverses, adjoints, transposes, etc of matricies .....and then started talking about vector spaces, subspaces, spanning sets, basis, diagonalization, and maybe THEN the tough stuff, then he or she has done it correctly. Otherwise you may well feel lost in a sea of confusion.If they have followed this format and you are still sinking, remember that linear algebra is cumulative just like high school algebra. See if you can try to narrow down where your most basic problem lies. If rank, spanning sets, and other introductory ideas are giving you fits you can forget about hermitian operators and real hard stuff.Make SURE you are solid with matrix manipulation, as you'll work with them extensively. Make sure you know properties of determinants like det(AB)=det(A)det(B) and that A^(-1) exists iff det(A) not equal to 0. Make sure you know the definition of a vector space, and the definition of a subspace. Make sure you know lots of examples of vector spaces and subspaces, as professors LOVE to ask for examples of such. If you can do these things, you should get through any introductory linear algebra course as the final should test mostly the basics. Now, if you're taking advanced linear algebra or a linear algebra graduate seminar, you gotta know undergrad LA inside and out!!!!Also, I assume you ARE reading your book. If it is too in the clouds for you, go to the library and look for another text book. There are some real nice linear algebra books out there (modern day) written with the idea in mind that not all taking linear algebra intend to become mathematicians - and most are incorporating some differential equations into it.

Sally: Engineering is the hardest major because it is basically having a major in Mathematics and a major in Science

doug_donaghue: Having spent a few years teaching college math, I have to say that Gymdude pretty much nailed it.Fact is... There is a -huge- difference between being able to do a thing and teach a thing. (And that's true in everything, not just math) I don't think I ever taught Diff.Eq. without someone asking at least one question that made me actually wonder if I understood it as well as I thought I did☺ And the fact is that for all my students said that they learned from me, I usually learned even more from them.Try another teacher. And remember that everybody 'learns' differently because no two people ever have the exact same referential background to which they relate new knowledge. The wise teacher knows how to say the same thing at least 3 or 4 different ways. After the 3'rd or 4'th time, if you see all of the headlights in the class are on, you're ready to move on to the next item. If not, you should start asking yourself, "What am I doing wrong?"The other problem is that -way- too many teachers are willing to give a student a passing grade just to get rid of them. And all that does is screw the student up even more later on. You really have to have it all together before you start to hit the more abstract areas. Don't be afraid to go find one of the 'worked problem' outlines (either in a bookstore or online) and work through a few of the problems. Don't just look at them, take paper and pencil and do the steps to make certain you understand what was done and, more importantly, -why- it was done that way.

shinsplints99: I consider myself pretty good at math. I've got over 60 college credit hours in math. Linear Algebra kicked my butt. It's very difficult to "visualize" the concepts. It's VERY abstract. It requires a lot of memorization. Get the REA Linear Algebra Problem Solver. There are examples of EVERY type of problem you'll encounter. You can get it at many used book stores, or even your local library. If you can't find it at a used or new bookstore, try looking at It's only one course, so don't use it to decide if you should change your major. Look at how you do in your other math courses. They will be a better meter of how you'll do.

Of these, it was Gymdudenc who really hit it at the point. He really explain it deep and I love his answer. I think any computer science major doing Linear Algebra this semester should consider his advice if/when they have problem.

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