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Upper division math classes

rideronthewheelrideronthewheel Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
Here's my situation; intending math/stats major, currently taking math 53 and math 54 and doing pretty well in both without excessive effort. I have always been told that I am "good at math," but of course coming to Berkeley really threw me off in terms of how much smarter everyone else is and the higher level of understanding that most professors demand on exams. Still, after the initial shock I feel like I am back on track and capable of being successful in math classes here.

In the spring I am definitely taking stat 133, stat 134 and math 110. I am having a really hard time deciding what other class I should take. I am deciding between math 55, math 104, and math 113. On the online schedule, it says that 104 and 113 only require 53 and 54, despite the fact that from what I hear they are mostly proof-based and in 55 you learn a lot about writing proofs. I have a decent background in logic and set theory but no experience with formal proof writing.

The main reason I don't want to take 55 is because it's at 8 am and I am not a morning person, so could I get away with taking 104 or 113 before 55? Which one is harder? (I know everyone says 104 is really difficult, but looking at the syllabi for both classes it seems like I've at least been exposed to the type of stuff in 104 whereas 113 is completely new material.) How necessary is 55 for upper division math classes? Why does 104 have a reputation of being impossible at Berkeley? Which professors for 104 or 113 would you recommend?

Post edited by rideronthewheel on

Replies to: Upper division math classes

  • crowslayer91crowslayer91 Registered User Posts: 1,160 Senior Member
    take 113 with williams, she's teaching 55 right now.

    also, 55 is nice to have for upper divs, but you can basically catch on to what makes a solid proof relatively quickly just by doing the homework in upperdiv classes. i feel theres a decent amount of people who skip over 55 and "get back to it eventually" (myself included). but yeah. i havent taken 104 so I can't really comment on that, but even though 113 is "new material", the first few weeks is proving stuff that even 3rd graders know, so... lol.
  • tyriontyrion Registered User Posts: 221 Junior Member
    I'm not a math major, but I know quite a few who took upper div math classes before 55, and they did just fine.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 56,637 Senior Member
    Some people do fine jumping straight into proof-heavy courses like 104 and 113. Others need a "gentler" transition by taking 55 and 110 first (the math department recommends 110 as one's first upper division math course).

    You cannot really tell how well you will do either way until you try it. You may be able to get an idea by previewing the 104 and 113 books to see if you can understand the proofs in the initial chapters.

    Of course, if you are not constrained by schedule (i.e. limited number of semesters left and long chains of prerequisites to complete), then the safest thing to do is take the "gentler" transition of 55 and 110 before 104 and 113.
  • caiacscaiacs Registered User Posts: 485 Member
    If you have no experience with formal proof writing, don't expect to do well in 104 and 113 without quite a bit of work, because you'll be graded against curves set by IMO medalists.

    While 55 has little to no overlap with 113 and absolutely no overlap with 104, it teaches a lot of crucial basic problem solving skills that you've probably never been exposed to since high school geometry. The jump to 104 and 113 is pretty big from the computation based lower div classes.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 56,637 Senior Member
    caiacs wrote:
    If you have no experience with formal proof writing, don't expect to do well in 104 and 113 without quite a bit of work, because you'll be graded against curves set by IMO medalists.

    Wouldn't said medalists be taking H104 and H113?
  • mitigatedmitigated Registered User Posts: 178 Junior Member
    ... because you'll be graded against curves set by IMO medalists.

    I think those "IMO medalists" are nonexistent at Berkeley...(maybe one bronze medalist, but probably not). Anyway, from personal experience, if you can qualify for the USAMO and successfully complete #1/#4, you shouldn't have a problem with upper division undergraduate math. You might have to study a bit though depending on your background...
  • caiacscaiacs Registered User Posts: 485 Member
    There are IMO medalist(s) and multiple time USAMO participant(s). They're rare, but they're subject to the same major requirements as all other math majors.

    The point is, there are people here who've had loads of proof writing and problem solving experience coming in as a freshman, compared to most typical American high school students, who've maybe encountered a bit of that within a year of geometry.
  • 187187 Registered User Posts: 814 Member
    I'd advise against skipping 55. After all, you will take it eventually and it'd be much better to "ease" into the transition rather than jump ahead, and then go backwards when you do take it.

    I actually skipped 55 (contrary to my advice), and I regret it in the end. Taking 55 after finishing all my upper div's was rather stupid.. It was such an easy class (it would still be easy if I hadn't taken the upper div's first) and I feel that 55 would have been pretty useful for 113 specifically (Euclidean algorithm, gcd, Euler's totient function, well-ordering principle, etc.). Going over the basics in 55, I realized that there were quite a few things that would've been very helpful to know when I actually took the upper divs.

    Also, be sure to throw in some of your breadth requirements. That is, maybe take a breadth or two as your remaining class. Just like 55, you will have to take them eventually, and it's better to get them over with rather than taking them throughout your 4 years (or just shoving them into your Senior year). Plus, it eases your schedule if you think it might be too cumbersome. Nothing wrong with taking some breadths since you'll have to do them anyways.
    Wouldn't said medalists be taking H104 and H113?
    Not necessarily. The H classes are offered only during a specific semester (Fall or Spring) and sometimes that semester simply isn't convenient.
  • rideronthewheelrideronthewheel Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    187- I've already taken all my breadth requirements and my AC, and in order to graduate on time I have to take four classes/semester that are specifically needed for my majors, so unfortunately I don't have the flexibility to take something other than math 55, 104 or 113 this next semester.
  • JetForcegeminixJetForcegeminix Registered User Posts: 1,294 Senior Member
    to answer your questions:

    math 55 is not necessary. I've actually never taken Math 55 (declared before it was required) but was successful in my other upper divs. I learned all that i needed to know about proofs in math 110.

    Also, 104 and 113 are not impossible. I took both of them during the same semester and got A's. Ultimately, it depends on your professors but I did not find 104 to be particularly difficult. 113 with Auroux was challenging but in the end he had a very generous curve.
  • 187187 Registered User Posts: 814 Member
    Just to note, as many others commented, going to upper divs before 55 isn't too hard and it's not that uncommon. But if you are going to take 55 eventually, then why not just do it first? (save for the 8am part) You might be taking an unnecessarily "jump" into upper divs when you don't really need to. But it's all preference I guess.
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