Professor Mal is pretty good at teaching the material for 156A. Make sure you go to lecture because a lot of his exam problems incorporate stuff he discussed in lecture. Many students made a mistake on the first exam, in which he told us many times not to make that mistake in lecture. Make sure you do the homework on your own and carefully because many of the problems end up on the midterms. Caution: The two midterms have pretty high averages, while the final was on the difficult side. One simple mistake can cost you a lot of points. I would advise you not to rely on the textbook too much because Mal says there's a lot of mistakes in the book.
Fall 2020 - Prof. Mal is a lenient grader. Although his TA may tell you this course does not have any curve, but Prof. Mal will make most students get at least B-. If according to our real grade in mid and final, more than 50% of students will get less than B. The mean grades of midterm are around 76% (for MS/PhD) and 62% (for MSOL). The course slides were produced in 2008 and contain many errors. The lectures were recorded in 2014. Maybe due to the COVID, the class experience is not good. We only meet Prof. Mal two times in mid review and final review. Office hours are conducted by TA. The regular lectures have been recorded and no live meeting...Frankly speaking, even if you go over the lecture recordings, you still can't solve the hw. The TA office hour is the place where I learned most things. Prof. Mal is a good man. Maybe his in-prison class will be better.