professor
Sean Paul

Jan 2007

Like what others said below about Analysis and Optimization, Sean Paul is simply the most confusing and disorganized Math teacher I have ever seen. Though attendance was almost always full, I believe that 90% of the class did NOT understand what he was teaching, and he himself got lost from time to time when he was trying to do the never-ending proof problems in class. If you're good at self-studying and don't go to any class or rely on any notes and can still get an A, it's okay. Otherwise: avoid him!

Nov 2006

I had this Sean Paul last year and remember him mainly as the worst professor I've had so far. Maybe it was just the material, but I don't think so. If you took either AP exam I would recommend just taking calc III and getting the credit for Calc II. Most of the crap you learn in Calc II you've learned already, Sean Paul just feels it's his job to trick students with wild exceptions to common formulas.

May 2006

Sean Paul is one of the nicest men I've encountered at Columbia and one of the most accessible proffessors that I have ever had. That being said, and despite the fact that I love the guy personally, he is an incredibly confusing lecturer who can be near impossible to follow. However, the topics covered in the class are interesting and the workload is not very difficult. Before each exam you'll feel like you have no idea what's going on, but that's okay because everyone is in the same state you are. The problem sets and exams are easier than the lectures will lead you to believe and the book is actually pretty good. Often Prof. Paul will tell you in class exactly what the difficult problems on the exams and then if you go to him for help he will solve them for you. Though I had to take the class, I though it was pretty good and I would definitely recommend it as an elective.

May 2006

If you were to miss the first few classes and only look at the book, you would think this is one of the easiest math courses you have ever taken. But sit in one class with Sean Paul, and you will be lost. He is teaching relatively easy material (in terms of the material covered in the book) at a PhD level. I don't want a doctorate in math, so spare me the lectures even your neighborhood Columbia math genius can't understand, and just let me pass. If you can't remember everything you learned in Calc 3, Linear Algebra, and *gasp* even some ODE at the snap of your fingers, then forget about it. As far as the homework assignments go, they are few and far between, some are pretty long, but if you read the book, they are generally easy. Sean Paul likes to throw you off whack apparently, because after an average to slightly more difficult than average first midterm, easy second midterm, he throws in a whammy of a final. And that's where the general problem of Sean Paul come to light, the material he is teaching is not the material you are learning in the book. So the material you learn in class (which is way above the level it should be), you never actually utilize or practice, and at the same time, you wind up teaching the material for the problem sets to yourself. Tests fall somewhere in between. As far as the final went, I count only one question that actually had to do with "Analysis and Optimization." If you like class notes that are full of symbols and formulas that look cool but at the same time you are bound to forget 5 minutes later or not understand at all, then this is the class for you. If you want an actual 2000-level math class (I'd say SP's A and O is harder than some of the 3000's I've taken), look elsewhere. And if you happen to get stuck in this, keep your Calc book handy and cross your fingers. Just make sure you are prepared and remember: WHAT YOU DID IN YOUR HOMEWORK AND STUDIED IN THE BOOK WILL PROBABLY NOT BE ON THE TEST.

Apr 2006

Even I had read horrible things about him, I was one naive freshman who though I'd be fine. NO! Don't take him unless you taken BC. The first few weeks are not that bad, but then no on has no clue of what is going on.

Mar 2006

There were two ODE classes, one taught by professor Paul and another by another teacher. The other teacher had his class full to capacity (110 students). Professor Paul had literally 15 students in the Math 314 room (large lecture hall). If this wasn't enough to give a general picture, his lectures are not understandable to someone with a regular understanding of mathematics. While I can see his love for math and the topic, I did not share it and this class is reccommended only if you like the more theory and proof part of mathematics. He focuses too much on proofs, rather than hard problems with answers. His homework is erratically assigned and involved 20 - 40 problems which honestly takes a minimum of 6 hours to complete. However, he gives only a few thus it makes up for it. His homework assignments however, do teach you what you need to know and attending lectures is not neccessary (asside from finding out class bulletins as he does not use Courseworks). One thing is, I believe he tries very hard for his students, though does not realize half of them don't understand anything and he has a love for mathematics that only a few could appreciate.

Sep 2005

Sean is one crazy professor. Seriously, if you didn't take BC Calc in high school, don't even consider this class an option. After the first couple lectures, I thought I could make it, but when he starts going off into these wild proofs and random subjects in later lectures, you realize you'll be doomed if you stick through it. He gets some sort of perverse pleasure out of the stuff he does, because he's constantly doing this giggle at the board, as if to say "HA they'll never understand it if i do THIS..." He also expects you to know a ton of identities and stuff from the first class onward. In all, I'd say unless you're EXTREMELY comfortable with the subject matter from BC calc, dont even bother with SP's class. I dropped into calc 1, which is insanely easy, but you can take calc 3 if you get a C or better in 1, therefore completely avoiding calc 2. oh, someone actually screamed "SLOW DOWN!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?! SLOWWW DOWWWNNN" in the last lecture of Sean's class I went to...

May 2005

First of all, I'm going to refer to Sean as St Paul. Because I guess he just doesn't want to be associated with the rapper in his emails. Anyways, in life you win some you lose some. St Paul's a funny guy with a quirky sense of humor and real enthusiasm: plus. St Paul expects that you actually remember Stoke's Theorem and the Laplacian in polar coordinates from Calc III, and he lied about not rehashing Khun-Tucker stuff on the final: minus x 3. Kudos to those who did not sell their Stewart's calc textbook. The real problem with the class is his constant insistence that results in class can be derived with only elementary concepts from calc, lin al, and common sense. What he doesn't understand is that his use of elementary concepts are strung together by very convoluted logic. For example, he claims that one need not have taken ODE to understand that the solution to the equation y'' + c*y = 0 is a harmonic function. I invite you to solve that one without ODE (no characteristic equations). Good luck. No. Not cool St Paul, not cool. But look, the entire course can be condensed into three equations: Jensen's Inequality, the Lagrange mult eq w/ Khun Tucker conditions and the Euler-Lagrange equation. That's bascially it. BTW, you will not learn about numerical approximations in this class.

Apr 2005

I agree with previous reviewers. He is very nice and approachable during office hours....when he is there. However, I think that he is just so advanced in Math that he cannot explain things to non-math people. I took his class last semester thinking it would be easy because I had already taken AP Calculus AB. The material was the same (actaully even less than was covered on the AP exam). However, I simply could not do his exam questions. I understood the concepts (he even told me that) and my webworks were generally good after spending a lot of time on them, going to the Help Room, and working with friends. If you are a math person who can really understand concepts and apply them to very difficult problems on a test, take this class. If not, look somewhere else. Oh yeah. He was also gone almost the entire month before the final.

Jan 2005

-very sweet man, approachable. -has a lot of trouble communicating the concepts to those of us who don't speak Math on a PhD level. -a wise reviewer once said "try Barnard." i totally agree.

Jan 2005

Just gimme da lighttttt!! If you have never learned calculus before, do not take the class with him because he needs to improve the way he teaches things. Sometimes he skips important steps that some people need to see, but the class is generally easy. He is a really really easy grader and will always try to help you out if you plead with him. He's a really nice and cool guy, and he's pretty funny at times too with his subtle wit.

Jan 2005

If you are fresh out of high school, and you register for this section, I feel bad for you. Trigonometry will kill you if you don't know it, because the most advanced trig proofs are expected to be known on the tests. You will be told to look at webwork and to do sixty problems from the text before a test, which is absolutely unnecessary. Noone knows where this man gets exam questions, so I suggest finding some upperclassmen who's willing to give old ones up, so good luck. Oh yeah, this class and instructor have ruined my love for mathematics.

Jan 2005

Quite possibly the worst professor I've encountered. But possibly allows for ambiguity, doesn't it? THE worst. In my opinion Professor Paul does not grasp the concept that he is here to teach, not to simply state what we may read for ourselves in the textbook. Tough for you if you need to approach him to ask a question, too, as he refuses to answer emails or make himself approachable to his students. If you find yourself in Professor Paul's class, instead of sitting there wondering if he is using some definition of the word "intuitive" that you weren't previously aware of, switch immediately to another Calc section or look foward to moving in to the Math Help Room.

Jan 2005

F***en sucks. He does not answer questions well, he basically talks to the board...Actually, I attended the first 3 classes and never returned to class. I had someone tell me when the tests were, I did my webwork, end of interaction. I even tried to email him a few times--never a response. But I've heard that the other Calc 1 teachers suck, soooooo...try Barnard?

Nov 2004

He is a GREAT teacher. He is very approachable, he encourages participation, midterms are all covered in the homeworks (so, if you can do all of the questions on the homeworks, which are very easy, you simply get 100% from the midterms), he tries to learn the names of the students, etc. Just go ahead and take his class.

May 2004

Professor Paul is a brilliant teacher. He is one of the smartest professors I have encountered in the entire department. The course will be very difficult and challenging, even for those that are good at math, but it will also be very rewarding. You will come out feeling that you have a much deeper understanding, appreciation, and respect for math. Note: you may sometimes find yourself frustrated on homework questions. In this class, it is ok to not be able to answer all the homework questions. And it is definitely ok to not be able to answer all the exam questions.

Feb 2004

The previous review of Sean Paul's PDE class was written only one week into the semester, so how could that person be so sure? Anyway, PDE is incredibly hard, a subject for grad school - and a VERY advanced subject for undergrads. It is by no means straightforward.. Sean Paul is not a good instructor, but let's face it, he speaks English which is better than the majority of the math department. Suck it up, and wait to the end of the semester to review. PDE with anyone is a mind-expanding experience, and expect to be overwhelmed

Jan 2004

What an idiot. We were supposed to learn Partial Differential Equations, which is a relatively straightforward question if you are good with math, but he decided to teach us whatever he wants. He enjoys humiliating students and assigning work way too difficult for even the brightest of students. All the bad reviews of him below are definitely true. Anyway, if you want to learn math and get a good foundation in the subject specified, don't take him. If you already know PDE or whatever and are taking it for only-god-knows-why, then I guess he's your ideal choice. Have fun!

Nov 2003

Prof. Paul is a very good teacher who honestly wants his students to fall in love with the beauty of math, and he makes every effort to do this in lectures. But I had to drop this class after the midterm because the exam was so heavily based on the theory and proofs he was covering in class and not on the techniques we learned through the problem sets. He demands so much of his students and brings up so many difficult ideas that it drives many people away from the area; I'm no longer pursuing a math concentration because the material in this class was so over my head, and it was supposed to be a relatively easy course. Sean Paul is a great guy for math majors, but be prepared to not just understand the techniques but also be able to utilize the theories in unexpected ways. Considering the material covered, I was suprised at how little I understood what was being taught at lectures.

Nov 2003

Please do not take this class if you intend to have a life beyond mathematics. I don't consider myself a math genius, but I've done fairly well in my previous classes- in this class I wanted to sit down and cry. The first midterm was impossible (I dropped the class after that) and had nothing to do with the homeworks that take an impossible amount of time to complete.

Oct 2003

I think that Sean gets a perverse sense of pleasure from lecturing on material that is way to advanced for the students he is lecturing to. He lectures on what interests him, and he, of course, has a Ph.D. What aggravates me equally bad is the fact that we pay for this?! I can't say anything further than I wish I had read these reviews before I enrolled in Sean's class.

Oct 2003

Sean Paul is a a good guy. He's not a great teacher yet, but from my discussions, he's improving quickly. The basic material is covered very quickly in this class. Mr. Paul likes to supplement the material with devious and difficult problems. He has a thing for related rates problems (as he readily admits.) You will tear your hair out trying to solve them in class, and again when they appear on the midterm. However difficult the class seems at first blush, Mr. Paul is not out to get you and will give you points for an honest attempt at a solution to a complex problem. All in all, a manageble class with a managable professor.

Sep 2003

I agree, very difficult professor. All in his own world. When he says that the mean grade will be a B-, he sticks to it. I wouldn't take this class unless i was naturally good at math, which i'm not.

Dec 2002

I read all the bad reviews on this site but still, being a dumb freshman, decided to stay in Sean Paul's class. BIG MISTAKE. This professor simply can't teach. He goes way too fast and is all over the place. His tests are predictable, at least after the first one, but impossible. The one time I came to office hours he showed up 30 minutes late, stuck his head in, then said, "Can you wait just a second? Can the TA here help you?", and he was gone. And let's not even mention his trip to Italy for the 3 weeks before our final. I got a 5 on the BC exam and am hoping to pull a C in this class. Hard, confusing, and unhelpful- not a good combination.

Dec 2002

I enjoyed Professor Paul's class immensely. He really enjoys teaching and is always willing to repeat ideas as many times as you need to grasp them. However, if you are shaky in Calc this is definitely not the course to take. Prof. Paul always starts each lesson with the most difficult examples of the subject matter and expects you to read the chapters in advance, and know them. If you enjoy calc. and are willing to put in some outside effort, this course is very enjoyable and not difficult. If you expect to learn everything in lecture from square 1, you will be sorely disappointed.

Nov 2002

I swear that my class dwindled from 80 students to the present 28 within the first two weeks of class... and the mass exodus, I'm sure, can be directly attributed to Dr. Paul's manner of instruction. Not only did I have absolutely no clue of what he was speaking for the first month of class (in spite of the fact I took BC calc in High School and scored an easy 4 on the AP), but I left every single class depressed. His classes are usually boring. The webwork is obnoxious, though easy enough. His tests are unpleasurable, though not "horrific" as some have claimed. Interestingly enough, his teaching seems to have improved a bit over the course of the semester. He seems better at conveying points in class, and he is good about stopping and asking if there are any questions. My guess is that teaching is coming more naturally to him... if his progress continues then it might actually be an enjoyable class.... someday.

Oct 2001

Very tough to understand what he does in class, tests are impossible. Prefers sharing little tidbits about all the cool advanced math he learned as a grad student (and which is obviously way beyond his students) to teaching the stuff you need to know. He always politely asks if you have any questions, but usually answers them by saying "oh, that's really easy," rattling off a quick explanation you can't even follow let alone understand, and moving on. On the last day of class we reviewed for the final. He started by giving us a problem that he said should be really easy because it was the most basic stuff we did all semester. Only one person in the large lecture hall had any clue how to do the problem and he didn't even quite understand how to do it right. Prof. Paul's reaction was something along the lines of "hmm. that's not good. you should all know that. it's really important. hmm. okay, any questions on other topics?" The fact that he had completely failed to teach us anything escaped him. About a week before midterms, a friend of mine who was worried about the Calc IIS final (but knew IIA stuff cold) transferred in.... and, like the rest of us, had absolutely no idea how to do anything on the final. Everyone I know got terrible grades. We're not stupid or terrible at math -- we all did well in other math classes and studied a lot for this one, but even after mastering the concepts and procedures in the book, we had no idea how to do Prof. Paul's problems.

Aug 2001

I totally loved Sean. I thought he was one of the best math teachers I have ever had. I got A's both semesters, I really learned the material, and understood it well enough that I could teach it tot others. n I actually enjoyed going to lecture. Sean's a funny guy n class is always entertaining. even if the material is difficult n boring, Sean's laugh n interesting way of explaining material lightens things up. Meeting with him helps a lot. go to class so he knows who u r, cuz he knows when ppl r there n when theyre not eventhough class is big. i'm really going to miss him next year! (he'll be back in like 2 years) and i hope i'll find another math professor as great as prof. Paul. I loved math this year so much that i'm even considering majoring in it :)

Aug 2001

An extremely BORING teacher, Sean Paul bring the life out of math (not that there was much to begin with). Occasionally, Sean tries to make math interesting, but the attempts almost always end in a fireball. For example, he tried to explain cross products by doing a trick with his arm that made no sense and he felt was too complex to explain, but thought it would be fun to do. He also teaches completely irrelevant information that he cannot provide any insight upon, confusing the student as to what to know and what not to know. His midterms are pretty horrible in that they often focus on weird proof-like problems, and it usually takes several sparks of inspiration if you want to get an A. The decent thing about Sean Paul is that if you attend every class, you'll be able to follow what he wants you to know on the tests, and what not to know from the textbook. Other than that, most students think (including myself) that he is absolutely horrific.

May 2001

Sean Paul is an incompetent teacher. He is just out of graduate school, has no idea how to teach, and does not understand what it is like to not understand a subject. Any question is greeted with an "answer" that just confuses you more, and, like the class in general, you will have wished you never asked it. The TA's are unreachable (of course), and the problem sets are mysteriously graded using anything but math. the tests, like the lectures, seem to be thrown together about an hour before. if you want to learn anything, read the book, but if you want to do well, decipher what he says in class, cuz he creates tests on whatever problems seem "interesting" to him. but if you want a good laugh, listen to him laughing.

May 2001

Don't take this. Please, if you have any interest in Calculus or math whatsoever, it's like he'll vacuum it from your soul and laugh (really wierdly...) at you.

Apr 2001

A student who once loved calculus, I will study the subject no more, after Paul's class. Extremely dry and mechanical, Paul knew the material, but, it seemed, only what he had prepared the night before. He often could not explain problems - he would just write some equations from his notes on the board, and the poor students were left confused. No great teacher; not even a nice person to compensate. I would advise against taking his class.