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Math Help - Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

  1. #1
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    Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

    So I have to take intro to linear algebra this upcoming semester and there is only 1 professor that is teaching the class. The problem is that he can't teach (or he doesn't teach, i guess) and he uses wikipedia to teach his math class .

    Here's his reviews on RMP: *Palacios - San Diego State University - RateMyProfessors.com

    The class is Math 254 -Introduction to Linear Algebra

    Course Description: Matrix algebra, Gaussian elimination, determinants, vector spaces, linear transformations, orthogonality, eigenvalues, and eigenvectors.

    Should I just take the class with this professor or take it at a community college? I don't want to get a bad grade because of a bad prof (that has already happened to me twice). I have to take it this semester because it is a prerequisite for the upper division courses that I need to take next fall.
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    Re: Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

    Do you expect others do decide for you?
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    Re: Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

    i'm not going to tell you what you should do. what i will tell you, is that the standards for employment at community colleges are often lower than for universities, so taking the course elsewhere is no guarantee you will find a better professor.

    what i will recommend is: take some initiative. don't rely on the professor to "teach it to you", be motivated to learn it, by whatever means necessary. you are not limited to learning linear algebra from just the text you use in class, you are free to read as many books on the subject as you please, until you find one that works for you. there are online resources, online textbooks and online class notes available everywhere (one site that comes up frequently here is: Pauls Online Notes : Linear Algebra).

    another good supplement is Khan Academy which has thousands of helpful videos, on many mathematical topics, including several on linear algebra. and don't forget about us. we're not supposed to do your homework, but if there is some principle you don't understand, we'll give you all the help the rules allow (just don't expect us to do the teaching...many of the posters here have their own homework to do, and we're not an unpaid tutor service).

    there's also some good folks (some of who post here as well) at physicsforums.com, which has a very good math section.

    don't stress about the grade. learn the material, and you will get a good grade. it really is that simple.
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  4. #4
    A Plied Mathematician
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    Re: Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deveno View Post
    i'm not going to tell you what you should do. what i will tell you, is that the standards for employment at community colleges are often lower than for universities, so taking the course elsewhere is no guarantee you will find a better professor.
    True, although I would argue that the kind of person who takes a job teaching at a community college goes there because they want to teach, and not necessarily do research. I did my first year at a community college, and every single teacher was good. When I went to college, I had one or two teachers who weren't quite so good. Then I went to graduate school at a university, and found even more teachers who weren't very good. It's extremely rare to find someone equally good at teaching and research. And since most universities tend to reward good research more than good teaching, the result is predictable. Morris Kline wrote about this in his book Why the Professor Can't Teach.

    what i will recommend is: take some initiative. don't rely on the professor to "teach it to you", be motivated to learn it, by whatever means necessary. you are not limited to learning linear algebra from just the text you use in class, you are free to read as many books on the subject as you please, until you find one that works for you. there are online resources, online textbooks and online class notes available everywhere (one site that comes up frequently here is: Pauls Online Notes : Linear Algebra).

    another good supplement is Khan Academy which has thousands of helpful videos, on many mathematical topics, including several on linear algebra. and don't forget about us. we're not supposed to do your homework, but if there is some principle you don't understand, we'll give you all the help the rules allow (just don't expect us to do the teaching...many of the posters here have their own homework to do, and we're not an unpaid tutor service).

    there's also some good folks (some of who post here as well) at physicsforums.com, which has a very good math section.

    don't stress about the grade. learn the material, and you will get a good grade. it really is that simple.
    Totally agree with the not stressing about good grades, and worrying more about learning the material. That's what's considerably more important in life.
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    Re: Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

    I agree with Ackbeet. To say professor's at a community college can't teach as well as professors at a University, isn't correct. The institution doesn't make the teacher. Some people are great at teaching and some of those people work at community colleges.
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    Re: Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

    i don't mean to imply that community college instructors are necessarily inferior. there's just no guarantee. the original poster could just as easily run into a bad instructor there, as he faces in his upcoming courses. it's not clear if San Diego State University will count the class towards his upper division pre-requisites or not, although it might be a fair bet he has researched this already.

    it is true that the tenure track positions are geared to personnel who publish, which is perhaps, a slight to the students that suffer on account of it. and i am not saying he should, or shouldn't. i read some of the reviews of the professor in question....they weren't encouraging.
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  7. #7
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    Re: Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

    I find it interesting that one of the "reviews" say "If you are a math major you will like him a lot". Sounds to me like he is an excellent teacher who does not "pamper" the class.
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  8. #8
    MHF Contributor Swlabr's Avatar
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    Re: Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

    Quote Originally Posted by HallsofIvy View Post
    I find it interesting that one of the "reviews" say "If you are a math major you will like him a lot". Sounds to me like he is an excellent teacher who does not "pamper" the class.
    I like the reviewer who said "Gets frustrated when students don't know basic calc."

    I think you're right though - he seems to push students, and naturally students don't like being pushed. There is another review which says, basically, that the material in the exam bore no resemblance to the stuff they had been taught...but in many ways that should be the case. You shouldn't be learning stuff by rote, you should instead be able to apply what you have learned to a whole host of stuff!

    That said, I think it is not helpful getting students to use wikipedia. So much of the advanced maths stuff isn't quite correct...
    Last edited by Swlabr; November 14th 2011 at 05:15 AM.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Tinyboss's Avatar
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    Re: Should I take Intro to Linear Algebra at a community college?

    I'll tell you something about the subject rather than the instructor: I firmly believe that everyone who wants to do math ought to take linear algebra at least twice. Once as early as possible to get comfortable with vector spaces, linear maps, bases, matrices, and all that good stuff. Then a second time in grad school when you can truly appreciate how fundamentally applicable it is to nearly every other branch of mathematics.

    In practice, people don't typically take linear algebra in grad school, so instead you just learn to appreciate it better as time goes by. It's impossible to truly "get" linear algebra your first time through, since it's so early in your education. But the more you put into it that first time, the easier it'll be to piece together what's really going on as you see how it pervades everything else you study.

    And I will say one thing about the instructor: if this guy is known for catering to the math majors, then he's a good guy to take linear algebra with.
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