First, this was a six credits class, that should have substituted for Calculus 2, Linear Algebra and Computing. In spite of being a six credits class, the class was scheduled by the Registrar to meet as a regular three credits class, so it was impossible to cover everything. We did all Linear Algebra in three lectures. Multivariate calculus was covered in thirty minutes. Computing was totally ignored. It did not help that one third of the course was spent on Calculus 1. If you are planning to take this class, make sure that it is going to meet the regular six hours a week, as a six credits class should. I will have to take Linear Algebra again and then take Java, so this class was not a good deal for me.
That said, the professor was very knowledgeable, and prepared his lectures carefully. The lectures were theoretical, very interesting and made me eager to study and learn more math.
Unfortunately though the professor did not know how Columbia works and lacked teaching experience. Before the midterm he said: "I scheduled the midterm on midterm week on purpose, so you don't have classes". When we told him that we do have classes during midterm week, he looked at us like he could not believe that. Even if he was well meaning and he tried to engage the students, he had problem communicating with them. This was due to the fact that sometimes he was not even listening to what the students were saying. For example, once he started answering a different question from the one you had asked, there was no way to interrupt him.
At this point I would like to describe our final.
I look at the front page of the final exam and it says: "solve the following nine problems using the extra space available". Nine problems, not bad, I think. Then I open the exam (booklet would be a better word, since there are 34 pages stapled together) and I see that every problem is composed of four or five questions (numbered 1,2 3, etc.), and every question is composed of two or three sub-questions (numbered a,b,c,etc.) so the whole final is composed of maybe 70, 80 questions? I remember well the 34 pages, since we had write our name and UNI on each one of them (it takes you ten minutes just to do that).
After three hours, I expect the final to be over any minute, right? Wrong. Prof. Motta does not say anything and we all keep scribbling. Since the final is composed of at least 80 math questions there is still a lot to do for everybody. Problem is, I have something else to do. After 20 extra minutes I ponder my options:
- I could say: "please can we all stop here? I need to go".
- I could remain silent and leave while the other students keep working for who knows how long. Consider that there are only eight students in the class and that the grades are curved.
- I could remain silent and keep working. Unfortunately I can't take my phone and call my friends to tell them "Sorry guys, go ahead without me, my final is prolonged indefinitely".
What would have you done?
I chose the third option.
After about an hour (so after four hours of final) one student, the best student in the class, says: "I can keep going for the whole afternoon." The professor then looks at the class and says:
"Well, aren't you guys hungry yet? OK, ten more minutes and that's it".
I am sure that the professor meant well and wanted us to have more time to work on the problems, but he did not take into accounts that people may have other things to do.
The main problem of this class was that it was meeting only three hours a week. This was not the professor's fault. That said, while Professor Motta is an excellent lecturer, he still needs to gain experience interacting with students. He is very young so I am sure that he will improve with time and become an excellent professor.