After reading the other reviews about Professor Casti, I was nervous to take his class and didn't know what to expect. Well, I must be a total weirdo because I actually enjoyed his class very much and thought he was hilarious. There were so many times I found myself laughing out loud during his class (this semester was over Zoom), and I was thoroughly entertained by his jokes. Maybe we just have a similar sense of humor. On an academic level, Casti is a genius. I can see why others would have a difficult time with his class. He's really into physics, theorems, proofs, and is extremely careful with the way he words things so as not to make any misstatements, but this can be confusing or difficult to understand if you don't speak the language. Much of his teaching style consists of laying out theorems and proofs then doing a few worked examples. For most students I think this should be supplemented with reading the chapters independently and perhaps watching some tutorials online. Casti is generous with his time, and I could tell he really wanted all of us to succeed, but we had to work for it. Not an easy A, but an achievable A if you put in the time and effort. He held office hours twice per week and always did an extra review session before each exam. He'd often stay after class to finish working through a few more problems if we wanted him to. Additionally, he uploaded practice exams from years prior for us to practice with and assigned additional problem sets that we could do for practice (no grade, no EC). If you want to pass the class, doing the homework and exams working from his notes could get you through. If you want an A, you need to put in more effort (not because of Casti, just because this is a difficult class). I would read each section/chapter of the book and watch additional tutorials online to gain a deeper understanding of the material because it was difficult for me. I recommend doing some trig review prior to taking this class because he sure does like trig and expects you to know basic angles, the unit circle, and special triangles. I did not know these things prior to taking this class but I did a lot of review outside of class and finally got a grip on them. Also, pay attention to the theorems because he likes to test on them (ex: "explain why this theorem applies or doesn't apply"). This is great because once you understand the meaning of the theorems, everything makes sense and the concepts become much easier. Overall, I found Casti to be quite endearing and I really respect his knowledge and experience. You will have a better time in his class if you enter it with an open mind and are ready to work hard.
His classes are painful. He is not good at teaching. Very condescending and has a clear preference for the men in the class. Incredibly rude. Thinks he's funny but simply isn't. Holds you overtime every single class. He crammed the last 5 lectures out of 12 into 1 because we were behind on the syllabus so we went over the content of 5 lectures in one class two days before the final. He also crammed the homework at the end because we were behind on the content. Basically, we had 4 homework sets, and a final the last two weeks of class while learning the last many topics in a rush. He is not patient and doesn't create a comfortable environment to ask questions. Assumes you will learn a whole concept just by seeing it once as a side comment.
I'm a little conflicted in my review and opinion of Professor Casti - probably because my personal opinion and academic opinion are also slightly contrasting. Let me explain: He is absolutely brilliant, probably one of the more intelligent math professors I have had the honor studying under. And, despite having a monumental family crisis, my advisor falling off the face of the earth, and missing tons of class time, he was extremely empathetic and understanding. He went above and beyond to accommodate my being able to stay in the class. Not a ton of professors will take that extra step. With that being said, he is an extremely tough grader (and so are his TA(s)), his lectures are difficult to follow, and he doesn't respond well to questions, in or outside of class. Personally, I don't think he means to be condescending, but it often comes off that way. He sorta expects you to just understand the material without much reinforcement, which leaves most of the learning on your own time. The class is comprised of 10-11 homework assignments, a midterm and a final. Though both exams have the hardest examples of anything possibly done in class - which would be fine if you got partial credit, but you don't. Very difficult class.
I am rather tardy to the party here in my review of Prof Casti's teaching chops. I took his Calculus 1 class, summer 2013. I write this because I think BY FAR Casti's class is the best I have had at CU. Mowch's Bio class lectures were good, but her exams are unfair compared to Casti's. He isn't personalizing the course to such an extent that it leaves out students who do not approach learning the way he does. This is not the case with Mowsch. Its her way or the highway. But, I digress.... I'm now about to finish my postbac premed courses, and well, Casti still takes first place. Mind you, I hear there are great profs to be had if you are at CU proper and taking the Core classes. Sadly, I am one of those people you see at the airport running to catch a red-eye with one foot wedged in the closing airbus door. My life has been one of so much curiosity that I find that career-wise, in the world we live in, I must now get serious, and hence, I am an older student with no time to take the classes I would really like to take from the utterly riveting profs out there, which I enviably here exist. I'm treating my time here as a sort of technical school; so I can make enough money to write my poetry. May I not be struck by lighting for this. Now about Casti: everything is written out on the chalkboard. So unless you are asleep (which you cannot be because he's very animated, funny, and engaging), or have some sort of deficiency (hand-eye coordination, broken arm, personal calamity, etc.) there should be no problem keeping up with his lecture, which is crystalline in its directness, authenticity, accuracy, and detail. He is very generous of heart. How can anyone not appreciate that?! The man is sweating through his shirt every lecture because of the effort of writing across the board all class period. He does this because he believes this is the best and only way to truly learn calculus. There is no Powerpoint slide. He isn't lazy in any sense of the word. His exams are fair. If you did the homework and understood his emphasized concept in his lectures you should get an "A" in this course. There really is no reason not to, because believe me when I say that this isn't my forte; and if I can do it, you certainly can. It is possible to get a 100 on his exams. This does not mean the class is easy. Please don't misconstrue what I am saying here. You have to work for the A, but this you should know from being at CU, no? I didn't have to read the book. In fact, I would have stopped after Chapter 2, but I'm way too uptight for that. So I gave the book a cursory nod, reread my notes a couple of times and redid a few key problems (which will become apparent to you after rereading the notes and having done them once prior). You must do the homework to do well. All of it. Casti really knows his calculus backwards and forwards, and I understood everything he gave in class just from his explanation and my notes of his lectures. If I needed clarification, I stayed after class and asked. This is a professor with a plan. He knows exactly what he's going to do each day, and it gets done efficiently. You are expected to participate; shy people you will just have to get over it, and you egotistical lot (myself, sometimes included here), you will have to check yours at the door. Looking stupid or giving a wrong answer means nothing to this professor. He has your best interest at heart, and you will never be made a fool of. He simply is too down-to-earth for that sort of pompous lack of generosity. The final is cumulative. But so is his review session. He gives extra time on the exams. It's not about rushing through and getting it wrong. He isn't trying to trick you. He's a very reasonable person.
Imagine a blond Ben Stiller (same idiotic sense of humor by the way) trying to teach you the higher points of Linear Algebra. You might have already gotten the feeling that this little story will not have a happy end, and I would say that you are at least partly correct. Professor Casti thinks he is funny; and most of the time, that's a problem. He's the type of smart-a** who just can't help to make stupid puns and jokes throughout the lecture. The upside to this is, of course, that now and then, he actually scores on his humor, which in turn lightens up the mood of the class a little. That aside, his teaching is relatively average. Instead of actually explaining the key concepts presented in an understandable way, he likes to ride his theorems and proofs. Being the fluff that he is, he tends to make quite a few errors during the lectures and he is relatively sloppy with his notation, which at times can be somewhat annoying and potentially confusing. When it comes to notes, this is also the type of professor who likes quantity over quality, so expect to be writing for 150 minutes straight during his class. Since he follows the required book (Sadun) almost to the dot, there is little else to turn to if you can't grasp a concept in its entirety. To make matters worse, the book is pretty pathetic. So, to make a long story short: Â• Professor: B<BR> Â• Book: C<BR> Â• Overall Class: B<BR> Professor Casti is adjunct faculty, so he's pretty hard to get a hold of outside the classroom. However, he did hold a review session for both the midterm and the final, so that was a fair move on his part. Homeworks are sporadically assigned throughout the semester, seven in total. Generally, I would say that they are of moderate difficulty, but very generously graded by the TA. So, start early on them, and youÂ’ll do just fine.
In my opinion, Alex Casti could not teach his way out of a paper bag. He goes through material very quickly, often skipping steps and not explaining key points. This combined with his inane sense of humor make this class a really unbearable experience. Almost nothing was learned during the course of the semester and any motivated student would be able to cover all of the material that Casti covered within a few days of motivated study. I definitely do not recommend this class.