professor
Corrin Clarkson

Oct 2013

In general, Calculus IV is much harder contentwise then Calculus III / Linear Algebra / Differential Equations (1000 level for non-math majors) at Columbia (Corrin is of this school of thought as well), and there were definitely students who hit their respective intellectual ceiling. In particular, though, the problems on the exams have the same computational rigor as the homework, which means even if you know the relevant concepts in play, there is ample room to foul up the execution of the resulting equations under a binding time constraint. On net, her approach to Calc IV requires a strong, working command of Calculus I-III (including trigonometric) concepts as well as the ability to generate non-trivial proofs. Having some exposure to at least one higher computational math course outside the calculus sequence was definitely beneficial for most students, in my opinion. Day to day, Corrin’s classes consisted of a necessarily terse coverage of key formulae (for the sake of time) followed by extended blackboard work in small groups (half the class). This is contrary to the standard approach for most undergraduate math courses at Columbia, where class length lectures either have either an exact or close fidelity to the text. Accordingly, you must do the assigned reading from Stuart or Friedman as the case may be. Merely taking good notes and participating actively in group work will make the problem sets unnecessarily challenging and the exams nearly impossible. A failure to come to terms with the outside work / attention that this approach entails combined with the mathematical maturity issues outlined above drove a strong attrition rate in the course (about half the students dropped). That said, final course grades were generous for those that stuck it out (admittedly, the stronger portion of the class).

Apr 2013

I registered for her Precalc section (Fall '11) and it was brutal. She is a nice person and very helpful if you go to see her (she used to do individual tutoring), but the homework problems were just ridiculous. I remember she gave us a problem from the applications section of the chapter on Fundamentals (kind of basic stuff) and, after several tries, she could not even come up with a solution, even after consulting the solutions manual. I mean, maybe it was a problem with the book itself, which is not the best at explaining concepts and operations, but... I was so discouraged by my first homework grades that eventually I stopped going to class and did not even take the midterm. I was definitely not able to understand her at class. It was like she was teaching a graduate math course to a bunch of college freshmen. Although she reached out and tried to help me out, it was too late. That speaks to her interest for her students and all that character stuff, but academically... uff!

Jul 2012

Avoid Corrin like the plague!! In all my years as a student, from kindergarten until this very moment, I have never experienced an instructor as horrible as Corrin Clarkson. Her lectures were, at best, confusing and, at worst, a complete waste of time. She moved so quickly during her lectures that she left no time for anyone to digest what she was saying and when she was asked questions about what she was doing, she would become condescending and wouldn't even answer the question. I would prepare for class by reading the chapters and would feel somewhat confident in my knowledge of the material only to walk out of class feeling completely confused. She is such a HORRIBLE instructor that I had to pay for a tutor to make sure I understood the material because her lectures were useless. Her homework assignments were complicated, bordering on the obscene. Twice per week, she would assign 15 to 20 core problems and additional 3 challenge problems, in both cases picking some of the most difficult questions from each section. She expected a minimum of 12 hours per assignment for the core problems, but it would take an average of 20 hours in total. The messed up part is that she only graded a random selection of 10 of the problems and 1 of the challenge problems. What's even worse than that is that she had homework due on both the day of the midterm and the final and the material on the homework was covered in the exam. She had scheduled the mid-term for a Thursday and most of us in the class asked to see if she could schedule it for the Monday so we could do the homework and have time to study and she refused. She didn't want to reschedule it because her mom was coming in to town and because the curve would even it out. REALLY?!?! I thought the point of school was to learn. I guess not in Corrin's class. Two specific incidents sealed Corrin as the worst instructor ever: 1. She, out of whatever small amount of kindness exists in her heart, assigned the homework, due Monday, and the final homework, due on Thursday (the day of the final) the weekend before the final so that we could complete it and have time to study. She hadn't lectured on the material. I was able to complete both assignments over the weekend. I walked in to class, confident that I knew the material. I walked out of class feeling like I got hit by a confusion truck. I realized that she made no sense and that she has no idea how to teach. 2. She gave us practice exams for the final (which were not good indicators of the final). We asked her if she could solve one of the problems on the board, as the answer wasn't given in the solutions. She tired but she couldn't solve it after trying to work through it for about 10 minutes. How is it that someone who teaches calculus can't solve a problem from one of her own practice tests? Bottom line: Corrin is neither a fair grader nor a good teacher and has no redeeming qualities as an instructor. She really should not be teaching.