Numerical Methods

May 2021

Great class. It was very difficult and time-intensive but I learned a lot. You need to be motivated and willing to put in long hours but Dr. Spiegelman is a great professor (go to his OH) and cares a lot about his students. Previous knowledge of linear algebra and ODE is very helpful but he reviews a fair bit. Overall would definitely recommend to all motivated STEM majors looking for a bit of a challenge!

Jan 2014

I have taken two courses with Van Molino. One of them was Functions of a Complex Variable, the other one Intro to Numerical Methods. And they were not only the most difficult math classes I've taken anywhere (quite a bit more difficult than PDE & Real Analysis), they were also the most frustrating, due to his inexplicable teaching style. He never posts lecture slides, the reason for which is that he believes if he posts them people will stop coming to class. But anyone who's been to class knows that these lecture slides are just outlines and are by no means reasonable substitutes for the materials one has to absorb in class. In other math classes the professors would often post the lecture notes beforehand, so I wouldn't need to worry about having to copy them down frantically in class while trying to learn the materials, which is what I did in his lectures (lots and lots of notes). Besides, I believe if some students don't want to come to lectures it's entirely their loss, having paid for their education and all. Why Van Molino would accommodate them to the detriment of the whole class is beyond me. And like the other reviewer has pointed out, most of the problems he goes over in class are quite easy. They're nothing like the problems we have to solve in our assignments and exams. When he claims the hw will take 3-4 hrs a good rule of thumb is to double that time, and I've found myself in a few instances spending more than 9 hrs on a problem set, before either giving up or heading to office hour, which is right before the class starts and hence right before hw is due. Exams are, simply put, nightmares. He doesn't give practice exams because, in his words, whatever problems he puts in practice exams will not appear in the real exams, so practice exams will not look anything like the real exams and thus serve no purpose. I can't help but feel this sophistry is really an excuse for him not to write practice exams. The real exams are horrendous. People walked out dumbfounded. I actually saw a girl cry. And many people did horribly not because they didn't take time to digest the materials, but simply because there was no way, given the way the class was designed, they could be properly prepared. Midterms and finals should be examinations of how thoroughly the students have mastered the materials, not emotional beat-downs. The only good side is Van Molino is a decent lecturer and explains things fairly well. But that doesn't tip my verdict in his favor--avoid him at all costs.

May 2013

The class material is EXCELLENT. The book is such a gem -- having me exposed to so many interesting and mind-stirring topics that I am so excited to learn and apply for my research. But that was about all the good I have about this class. The professor is TERRIBLE. As the other review mentioned, he can't answer students' questions. He simply reads off the textbook, so it seems he spends a very little time preparing for the class. His writing is so small and he writes so softly on the board so people from 3rd and up won't be able to see what we write -- let alone people who sit slightly on the side. I learn nothing from the lectures and I learn everything from the textbook. Why should we pay so much tuition to get a teacher of this quality? This class makes me question if Columbia should have some Quality Control policy to check if a professor can at least actually teach or not!

Apr 2013

One of the very few professors that strongly make me question myself if coming to Columbia is a total mistake. Reasons: 1) His lecture is a painfully boring and utterly useless experience. He mumbles all the time and speaks in such a low voice that students not in the first three rows can barely hear. Class notes are useless too. If he uses notes or the textbook while lecturing (90% percent of the time), he would literally copy everything onto the blackboard - when you go home and open the book you would find your class notes is an almost exact copy of the book. 2) He is INCAPABLE of teaching this course. Despite his try, he can rarely explain students' questions - in class or during office hours. 3) The course is way too slow. It's already late April and we are still on polynomial interpolation (which a normal numerical methods course would cover on the 4th or 5th week). I seriously doubt if he can finish this course by the end of this semester. 4) Irresponsible and terrible organization. Many students' homework got lost (mine included). The only solution he gave is to go to TAs. 5) Prepare to learn everything on your own.

Mar 2012

The only major advantage that Molino has to offer is that he speaks fluent English. Other than that, the guy is a terror. He is basically only on campus on Mondays, which means that he holds office hours right before class (which is incidentally when homework is due and exams are given). Furthermore, he doesn't post any sort of lecture notes or outline at all and rarely works with nontrivial Matlab in class. Incidentally, he doesn't give practice exams either so you're kind of in the dark to whatever terrors he deigns to throw at you. Molino and his TAs also seem extraordinarily lazy when it comes to posting solutions to assignments. They usually just scan some student's solutions and pass it off as their own.

May 2011

Deng is actually a visiting professor from Stony Brook, but I am writing this review in case Columbia decides that inviting him back would be a good idea. He is the worst professor I have ever had. I was excited to take numerical methods, but this guy does not teach. I could go on and on but I think this summarizes it: He shows you Wikipedia pages in class. He'll lecture on say, linear algebra, from an analytical standpoint, without ever getting into the NUMERICAL methods. The lectures are completely devoid of content and it shows in the fact that half the class is routinely absent; on quiz days, there is a marked uptick in the number of people in the room for the second half of class (quizes were given in-class for the second half of our double-session class). If you see Deng listed as the professor for a class you want to take, run.

May 2011

Horrible professor! Avoid class at all costs. Guest lecturers and TAs are much better at explaining information than him. Exams consist of coding on the spot, which is unheard of, even in computer science courses. Exams are poorly written and do not test you on your knowledge of the subject. Averaged to a C and plans to fail "two or three people" in the class. Wait to take this class if he teaches it in 2012.

Jul 2010

I feel I owe it to all fellow math / app math majors to write this review. Chow is the worst professor I have had at Columbia, bar none, and this class is a disaster. 1. Chow's lectures are tedious and boring: he spends too much time doing trivial algebra on the board, which do nothing to clarify concepts. He speaks in a soft monotone, and he can't tell a joke from a hole in the ground. 2. Chow very quickly establishes a favoritism in his classroom. He memorizes names of the few people willing to guess at his inane and questions, and constantly encourages "class participation," which evolves into a toolier-than-thou arms race. 3. Throughout the semester, Chow threatens the class with his willingness to fail students who aren't performing. This is a pointless threat which serves only to create unecessary stress about this class; definitely not appreciated. 4. The head TA (some PhD student named Neil Tandon) was by a huge margin the worst TA I've ever seen. This guy could barely choke out a coherent sentence, and held completely and utterly useless recitations with no attempt to clarify anything. If you have this guy, be afraid; be very afraid. 5. The material itself is interesting. Numerical Methods opens up a new perspective on solving mathematical problems. The analytic approaches of calculus are now supplemented with a new array of concerns. It's a shame, really. I know there aren't many choices when it comes to this class, but if any other slots open up (or if you can take the equivalent course in the ComSci department), don't hesitate to switch. The professor makes frequent reference in class to the fact that he doesn't need to be teaching this class. Perhaps it would be better for everyone if he didn't.

May 2010

Edmund Chow is a really good guy. He puts a lot of time and effort into this class, going above and beyond what most professors would do. The material is interesting and the book is well-written. This class was a roller coaster, though. It was stressful and miserable at times (despite engaging lectures) but at others it was hands down my favorite class. It is hard to write a review for a course like this, except to say that I wish that all of my professors were as dedicated as Prof. Chow.