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Preparing for Linear Algebra

  1. Apr 3, 2008 #1
    I hear nightmare stories about the class, so I'd like to prepare for it during the summer break. Any recommendations on books or tips on what to focus/study would be of help. Or just any ideas in particular on how to prepare for the class.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2008 #2
    Well, i am only a freshman and i will be taking Linear Algebra next Fall. I also bought a book online on linear algebra, it is pretty basic, since it was pretty cheap( I could not afford a more decent one) but i think it will give me a quite good feel of what's in there.

    Introduction to Linear Algebra (5th Edition) - Lee W. Johnson; Hardcover

    This is the book that i am planning in working on during the summer, if your interested to have a look.
    But from what i have seen so far in Linear Algebra it is not as hard as some people claim it to be. There will be harder...lol..
  4. Apr 3, 2008 #3
    If this is for an introductory course I'd recommend

    Linear Algebra: A Modern Introduction by David Poole

    I used this text for my intro Linear Algebra course last semester. The proofs are very clear and it is a great text for self study.
  5. Apr 3, 2008 #4

    That seems to be a good book, but it costs a fortune, at least for me!
  6. Apr 3, 2008 #5


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    Linear Algebra is fairly straightforward.
  7. Apr 3, 2008 #6
    You should be able to just go to you local library and grab a book. I don't think you will have too much trouble self studying it. Some of the proofs are a bit abstract if you have never done any proof oriented math before.
  8. Apr 3, 2008 #7
    Since the op wants to self teach it during the summer, i don't think he will be able to take any books from the school's library, unless he/she will be taking any courses during that period. At least this is what the librarian told me. I was planning also to take some books from my school's library, for there are some great ones, but unfortunately they wont allow me to take any.
  9. Apr 3, 2008 #8

    Well, it also depends with which book you are working, and whether it is designated for undergraduate level. This is only my opinion though!
  10. Apr 3, 2008 #9
    Linear Algebra should really only be 'hard' for you if you haven't taken any abstract math courses before. It'll take some time to adjust to, but once you start seeing the big picture you'll find it quite straightforward as Vid said.

    Honestly, I had a significantly harder time with the Calculus sequence that with Linear Algebra. But then again I only took one semester of it. Things are probably much deeper in a Linear Algebra II course.
  11. Apr 3, 2008 #10
    The difference between the first and second Linear Algebra courses at my school is kind of like the difference between college algebra and abstract algebra. It can be a killer.

    Anyway, if linear algebra book prices are getting you down, why not try this'n?
  12. Apr 3, 2008 #11
    Repeat after me:

    I will do all the homework, even if it is not graded.

    I will do all the homework, even if it is not graded.

    I will do all the homework, even if it is not graded.

    I will do all the homework, even if it is not graded.

    I will do all the homework, even if it is not graded.

    I will do all the homework, even if it is not graded.

    You'll be fine.

    Michael Courtney
  13. Apr 3, 2008 #12
    Do you think it would be okay to take this as a summer course? Two of my friends have taken it at the University of Houston, and both said it was easy. (regular semester though)
  14. Apr 3, 2008 #13
    If you can find out what book will be used for the class and maybe some lecture notes/homework assignments you could work ahead that way. I do not think you will have much of a problem with a first course in linear algebra though if you just keep up with the lectures, text readings, and HW (much like any class really).
  15. Apr 3, 2008 #14
    I personally think "Linear Algebra Done Right" is a good book by Sheldon Axler for some prep work.
  16. Apr 3, 2008 #15
    Thanks for the replies. I'll check out the link in more detail in a bit & the book recommendations. Thanks again ^_^.
  17. Apr 3, 2008 #16
    whats difficult about linear algebra?
  18. Apr 3, 2008 #17
    Linear algebra (at least, the lower division class I had) was the first time we actually dealt with n-dimensional things. I mean the class before this at the time was Calculus III and unless you had a good foundation in abstracting to higher dimensions, it was a different experience taking a class dealing with stuff like that.

    However, the actual "work" wasn't hard, but that all depends on the actual person. Some don't grasp it as fast as others. Many IMO are still stuck in the "plug and chug" sense until they get into a class like this.

    We also didn't get into actual proof writing until we got into this class. I had a solid foundation in proof writing in high-school so it wasn't daunting, but I know a few students who did have trouble in writing proofs.
  19. Apr 4, 2008 #18
    I don't know in which Linear Algebra, Linear Operators and their bijection to Matrices is included, but this knows how to be difficult!
  20. Apr 4, 2008 #19
    This depends very much on how the material is presented and if its constructed using matrices rather that a more abstract construction found in upper division courses.

    Personally, I like "Linear Algebra" by Friedberg, Insel, and Spence though it starts the material with vector spaces which may confuse someone just starting the subject. A more tangible read is proabably Bretscher which has many examples.
  21. Apr 4, 2008 #20
  22. Apr 4, 2008 #21
    Man, I got a B in LA because I didn't do the homework(HW isn't graded lol).
  23. Apr 5, 2008 #22
    Well i don't know what do you mean by "HW isn't graded", but in my school hw actually consists of 25% of the grade...lol....
  24. Apr 5, 2008 #23
    I mean, HW is assigned to help us with understanding. But it doesn't count. The grade consists of tests, quizzes, and a final( of which i think i bombed) that worth 40% of the course.
  25. Apr 5, 2008 #24


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    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    If a student does not do his homework, then he does not learn.

    Remember, the original question in this thread were "what's hard about linear algebra?" and "How do you prepare for Linear Algebra?"
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2008
  26. Apr 6, 2008 #25
    Probably THE best book out there for LA. Axler gives the most thorough treatment for LA for an undergrad book. The title of the book sounds lame, but it is a gem. You don't even get to use determinants until the very end of the book, because using them is a cop out.

    Students have difficulty with LA because it is the one of the first abstract math courses they take in which they actually have to do proofs.

    I'd recommend buying a used copy of Axler's book. It is soft back, small, and should be very cheap. If you can understand 70% of what is in Axler's book by yourself, you should be able to ace any LA class.
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