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How hard is Math 55?

gnrfangnrfan Posts: 357Registered User Member
edited March 2011 in Harvard University
Is it harder than Calc BC?
Post edited by gnrfan on
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Replies to: How hard is Math 55?

  • kakashikakashi Posts: 29Registered User New Member
    lol. i can't tell if you're serious or not. it's insanely rigorous. the psets are like 50 pages on latex.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    Have you learned linear algebra yet? Is topology harder than Calc BC? Is abstract algebra harder than Calc BC?

    How many proofs do you write for your AP calculus BC class? What kinds of things do you prove? Have you proved all the field properties and definitions of operations for the complex number system starting from the Peano axioms?
  • AdmiralAdmiral Posts: 720Registered User Member
    Hahahahahaha... sorry.

    No high school class comes anywhere close to a mid to high-level college course in the subject. Not only is Math 55 harder than BC Calc, but so is Math 25, Math 23, Math 21, Math 20, Math 19... Math 1 is similar, from what I've heard.

    The actual workload in college is generally smaller than it is in high school, particularly when you consider how much more free time you have (fewer classes that meet fewer times a week), but the material is much, much harder almost universally. Don't assume that just because you're taking AP courses that you know how difficult a subject can get.
  • mbaboymbaboy Posts: 35Registered User Junior Member
    Calc BC is joke.

    College math better be a lot harder.
  • maritemarite Posts: 21,586Registered User Senior Member
    The average workload for Math 55 is 15-20 hours per week. This year, some 50+ students shopped Math 55. By week 3, there were 20+; by week 4 or 5, there were 12 left.
  • AdmiralAdmiral Posts: 720Registered User Member
    "Calc BC is joke.

    College math better be a lot harder."

    mbaboy- The difficulty of Calculus BC depends largely on the school- some go beyond the material required for the AP test, while others barely prepare their students at all. However, I can guarantee you this- if you want to find a challenging math course in college, you DEFINITELY will find one.

    I've been at Harvard almost three months now, and one complaint I've never heard is "This class is too easy"- that's something we left back in high school. (Of course, there are some classes that are pretty easy, mostly a subset of classes meant to fill core requirements for people that don't specialize in the subject, but in general it's very, very easy to construct a challenging courseload.
  • HannaHanna Posts: 11,370Registered User Senior Member
    >one complaint I've never heard is "This class is too easy"

    That's true -- not because there are no easy classes, but because you know they're easy when you sign up and you've chosen an easy class for a reason (like...you're taking Math 55 the same semester!), so there's nothing to complain about.
  • glorytoGodglorytoGod Posts: 96Registered User Junior Member
    totally agree. Like my BC Calc teacher is craaazzzyyyyy hard! She goes WAY beyond the AP test. Seriously, we took a sample AP test four months into the class, and only 2 people in my class (out of 30) did not get a 5. It's crazy.
  • johnshadejohnshade Posts: 380Registered User Junior Member
    I don't know what Math 55 is like these days but it was insane when I took it a few decades ago. I remember getting a 57 on one test -- and it was the highest grade in the class! Our professor, Konrad Osterwalder, was so disgusted that he gave us another test on the same material and I scored 55! Even this was charitable, as I mostly just moved symbols around on paper without much notion of what they meant. I never did succeed in understanding the calculus of manifolds. It was an early warning that I was not destined to be the next Euler.
  • twochickenstwochickens Posts: 124Registered User Junior Member
    Hmm, "I mostly just moved symbols around on paper without much notion of what they meant"

    That testifies to the difficulty of math 55 but doesn't put the class in a good light.
    Everybody learns something from a horribly hard situation, like a test that bad, but why is it that you were left "without much notion of what [the symbols] meant" if you were taking a class you were interested in, at a good university, where there must have been good teachers and advisors?
    Though the class is paced for talented people, it sounds like you were egged on, not taught, through the material.
  • OptimusPrimeOptimusPrime Posts: 336Registered User Member
    Let's have a *****-measuring contest for how difficult our math classes are! Awesome!
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    johnshade, what did you read about mathematics besides what was assigned?
  • johnshadejohnshade Posts: 380Registered User Junior Member
    Well, I think that I hit the wall with the calculus of manifolds. Math had always come easily to me before that and I was unprepared with coping strategies (or alternative learning strategies) when it suddenly got damnably difficult. I also subscribe to the theory that I saw mentioned recently that some people think better discretely and others think better continuously. With the single exception of real analysis, which I did very well in, I did much better in the discrete courses (e.g, algebra,* logic) than the continuous courses (complex analysis). I also think the quality of undergraduate pedagogy in the Harvard math department was highly variable -- I may not have been particularly bright, but my Math 55 classmates were. And I read a lot outside class, token, and got far more from that than from many of my classes. To be fair, I was too stubborn and proud to ask for help, from classmates, TAs or professors; this was by far my biggest academic mistake.

    * "Algebra" here is groups, rings, etc, not HS algebra.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    I also subscribe to the theory that I saw mentioned recently that some people think better discretely and others think better continuously.

    I have also heard it said that there is a great divide between learners who prefer geometry and learners who prefer algebra. I'm on the geometry side of that divide.
  • twochickenstwochickens Posts: 124Registered User Junior Member
    "the quality of undergraduate pedagogy in the Harvard math department was highly variable -- I may not have been particularly bright, but my Math 55 classmates were."

    What do you mean? Do you mean the pedagogy was variable, period? Or that it actually worked for some students (who needed teaching and didn’t know the stuff already) but not for you? Or did these bright students not need any pedagogy at all, so their success does not testify to the quality of pedagogy?
    I am applying to college to study math, and naturally I am concerned about what the experience is like for math majors…so, seriously, is the most advanced first year math class (math 55) divided into two groups of students who either don’t get anything from the pedagogy because they don’t need it or don’t get anything from the pedagogy and consequently fall behind?
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