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I found that Scavia was neither a good nor bad lecturer. He taught at a breakneck speed, and if I did not come to class without at least skimming the textbook section, I was lost. Oftentimes it felt like he was talking to the whiteboard rather than lecturing the class, and did not always pause to answer questions. He does have a moderately thick Italian accent, but that was rarely an issue for me.
The topics in this class are fundamental for many majors, so it is pertinent that you understand his lectures. Luckily he lectures directly from the textbook, just less clearly. I also spent hours upon hours learning from YouTube University, which was critical to understanding lecture.
Scavia expects you to have not just a decent grasp of the materials needed for this class, but a superb grasp. I came into this class with a pretty poor mathematical background. There were some instances involving trigonometry, integration methods, or factorials that I never learned in high school, but had to quickly learn to keep up with the pace of his class. If you have a good mathematical background (took 31A or AP Calc BC prior) unlike me, however, you should be comfortable with the first half of this class. The second half (Series) builds upon the first, and requires quite a bit of memorization and conceptual understanding.
Speaking of conceptual understanding, Scavia lectures and tests in a very theoretical way. His lectures included proofs of the concepts, involving greek characters/mathematical symbols that he did not explain the meanings of - he assumed we knew what they meant already. My advice for these confusing parts of lecture is to just ignore it as it will not be on the homework or tests.
There were a few occasions where I asked Scavia (over email) to clarify a topic I was unfamiliar with, and he said "Check chapter _ of the textbook" which was not helpful. Similarly, his office hours were frequent, and very similar to his lectures, which is either good or bad depending on how you like his teaching style. There were instances where he would say solving some problems with certain methods "takes just a bit of magic," which was funny, but not very helpful.
Regarding his tests, there were two midterms worth 20% each, a final worth 45% (and homework at 15%). The tests were difficult. Problems were an amalgamation of concepts across several homework sets, so being able to do the homework (which is straight from the textbook) is critical. Tests were both multiple choice and free response. Multiple choice was more conceptual and often had trick questions, and he was very stringent with giving partial credit on the free response questions.
Overall, Scavia is a professor who is efficient and concise, to the detriment of the majority of his students.
He could afford to record his lectures. He also made lecture notes but they were not very legible and hard to read. A lot of important examples were also not covered in the notes. Was quite lenient when it came to curving but it was a struggle to learn in this class.
Overall, I feel like Prof. Scavia was a great professor, especially considering this was his first quarter lecturing. I'll organize the rest of this review into a couple different categories to best explain the experience taking this class. Prior, I would like to mention that I did have prior knowledge going into this class as I took AP Calc BC in high school, and also, I did attend every single lecture and all but three office hours.
The following is how grades were determined for the class:
15% Homework (your best 5 assignments out of 7 total for 3% each)
20% Midterm 1
20% Midterm 2
1% Extra Credit if you completed the course evaluations
There were 195 students left in the class by the end of the quarter; the following is the grade breakdown:
90 students earned an A- or higher (the top 8 students were given an A+)
50 students earned a B- through B+
40 students earned a C- through C+
10 students got a D+ or lower.
I feel like Professor Scavia's lectures were valuable to go to. Each lecture, he would cover topics pretty clearly and succinctly and would go over multiple example problems to illustrate concepts. There were rarely any times where I left his lecture and felt confused about the topics covered (namely Taylor and MacLaurin Series). There were some little moments where I feel like Professor Scavia could have slowed down or emphasized small things. For instance, when we were first learning either Series or Sequences, he was writing a theorem and used Latin? Greek? symbols to say "for every", "such that", "there exists", and if you missed what they meant as he was writing them, you would have no idea what the phrase or overall theorem states.
Overall, I am glad that I woke up early to attend Professor Scavia's 8:00am lectures most days as they greatly helped in my understanding of the class.
Professor Scavia held office hours twice a week. During his office hours, you could ask him to solve any math question or re-explain certain concepts from class, and for the problems, he would show how to solve them step-by-step, which was helpful when I was confused after lecture or had trouble with setting up certain homework problems. When it was close to exams, Professor Scavia would finish his office hours when everyone was out of questions rather than ending at the stated end time, which was incredibly kind and allowed for everyone who attended to clear up any confusion they had.
Fairness and Difficulty
Homework assignments were normally 12-16 questions, and there were 7 total throughout the course. HW would be graded on accuracy with students also earning a few points per assignment for completing all problems. There were only 4-5 questions graded for accuracy on each assignment. To be more lenient to students, only students' best five assignments would be counted towards their final grade, and if you felt there was a mistake made when grading your assignment, you could submit a regrade request for specific problems to potentially earn back points. Students were not told prior which problems would be graded for accuracy to encourage us to complete everything as best we can. There was a fair range in difficulty between the problems, and the problems selected for grading usually were representative of that range of difficulty.
With regards to tests, they -- especially the final -- were pretty difficult. To make up for this, you could submit regrade requests within 24 hours of the test results being posted. I specifically earned back three points on the first midterm by submitting a regrade request on a problem that I felt I was harshly graded on. Also, Professor Scavia scaled everyone's grade on both midterms up by 20% and on the final by 8.89% (which led to a 12% increase in your overall grade). This scaling of grades is what allowed me -- and I assume many other students -- to get an A overall in the class.
Professor Scavia made two key changes to be fair and considerate to students when the TA strike started. First, homework assignments due after the TA strike started, two out of seven assignments, were be graded for completion only rather than for accuracy. Second, students who attended lecture one day were allowed to vote for what format we wanted the second midterm to be: multiple choice or free response. A majority ended up voting for multiple choice, so we had multiple choice questions on both the second midterm and final along with some free response since the Math Department did not permit MCQ only tests.
I personally thought this class was OK. Professor Scavia's lectures are decently clear if you pay close attention, and he's willing to answer questions and engage with students. His first midterm was honestly very difficult and he curved it up by 20%. His second midterm was okay (probably because of the TA strike). The final was difficult but reasonable and I personally thought I could've done better if I paid closer attention in lecture.
Personally I thought that his limit problems were the hardest, so if you plan on taking this class I recommend paying close attention in those lectures.
Scavia is an absolute G. A goddamn legend. His classes are a little quick, but that is the only way for him to complete the course material on time. If you are able to keep up with his, pace you will understand everything he teaches. His class notes are very well organized and are really all you need to understand the material. I would highly recommend taking his class.
As someone coming into this class having never taking calculus BC in high school, wow was I lost. I felt that I was at a severe disadvantage as the overwhelming majority of students in the class had already taking BC in high school.
I taught myself almost everything from this class because Scavia went through everything so quickly and I could not keep up. He did not explain reasoning behind things the majority of the time, and for someone with no background knowledge of BC I was incredibly confused. I poured several hours a day into studying for this class and especially since the TAs were on strike, I had a really hard time in this class. Scavia’s office hours were not helpful to me as his teaching was very unclear.
I think the midterm scaling for grades was fair, but the final was horrific. It was barely scaled and I have never walked away from a test knowing I bombed yet knowing I studied so hard.
Nothing against Scavia as a person, but I feel that he was a very ineffective teacher.
I was bummed that I struggled so hard in this class, this was the first C I'd ever gotten in a class. My issues with Scavia were the following :
-taught to the whiteboard, not to the class
-was never accessible one-on-one, unless you talked to him right after class, where he would be kind of rude or give short answers. Although he was very responsive over email which I appreciated.
-did nothing about filling in the knowledge gap due to the TA strike/no discussions
-curved the final (60% average, but took up 45% of our grade) by 4%
-didn't drop the lowest test score or offer alternate exam times
I wish him the best (and understand that some of it was from me adjusting to a new school,) but the Math department could've done way better.
Scavia was a reasonable professor. Keep in mind that nearly all of the students who took his F2022 section are first year, first quarter students, myself included, so some of the difficulty associated with the class could be adjustment-related.
The problem sets were fine. They usually took me about an hour to an hour and a half depending how many tricky problems there were. It usually was 3-4 basic problems and 1-2 challenging problems per chapter, totaling about 15 questions per homework. It's easy to break up throughout the week and generally pertinent to lectures and exams. The grader graded like 2 problems per set and could be harsh at times, but with the lowest two grades dropped it wasn't an issue. He goes over many of the problems in office hours so if you ask about a specific problem or just hang in the back you can get over half of the solutions just by showing up and paying attention. Honestly, the bulk of the workload of this class is just individual time that you choose to study (which I certainly feel is necessary; the homework questions alone are not enough to prepare for the average student)
Scavia is a good lecturer. He writes things out clearly and is typically pretty good at breaking down the topics. He's not exceedingly engaging and doesn't always pause for people to ask questions, but if you can keep up with his pace, I think he's very clear. Sometimes, I felt like he had a little trouble going off script when people would ask questions, but he did always make an earnest effort to explain if someone asked a question, and was always patient with some, frankly, incredibly stupid questions. I showed up to every lecture except one, so I don't know if this is a class that you could get away with skipping, but personally, I felt like it was valuable and saved me many hours of studying. Classes are also not recorded.
For essentially all of the questions, I felt that I knew where to start. Still, his questions can be very algebraically complicated. It's important to have a very good, detailed grasp on algebraic concepts and basic precalc things (limits, completing the square, factoring). The detail-oriented performed the best on his exams. Still, I performed dead-average on both of the midterm exams, and his curve was very generous. In both exams, I scored a 70% that was curved up to a 90%, or essentially a 8% grade boost to my final grade. I ended up with exactly a 90% for my final grade. You can make algebraic mistakes on your exam and still fare well with your final grade. They're challenging but definitely not impossible; there were a few 100% on each test. He's also a really fast grader. I got some grades back within 6 hours of the exam.
On office hours:
I only went twice because my lectures overlapped with it. It's super helpful for homework questions that you would ordinarily get stuck on. Sometimes I found that he would solve problems in ways that weren't really in the scope of what we had learned or in a more "intuitive" way than a formulaic way, which could bother me because this class is honestly pretty bound to rules, theorems, and formulas. Still, office hours were generally positive and I wish I could have gone more.
Final thoughts: I'd taken AP Calc BC two years before taking this class and I thought it would save me some studying. I did no outside studying besides 3-4 hours the night before each exam, but this class was a huge nailbiter for me, and I barely pulled an A-. I would really recommend at least 2-3 hours of outside studying per week to keep you at the level of confidence with algebra and complicated applications of topics that will show up on your exams. I'm also a math major, so I am probably a bit quicker with concepts than other students, so studying is a must. Scavia is nice, reasonable, and you definitely can do well in this class granted the curve and some studying.
I would say that the curves Scavia offered was definitely great, which is mentioned by many other reviews. However, be PREPARED to study on your own in order to fully understand the materials. I spend hours reading the textbook before each homework and exam. His lessons are great, as he offers a lot of examples. However, I personally wasn’t able to follow his pace. He went quite fast on each topic in my personal opinion, but it wasn’t completely his fault as we have the quarter system.
Even though I received a good grade in this class, I would not say this class or professor was easy. The homework was manageable and not too much; however, the grader was quite harsh, so you definitely needed to double check your work if you wanted full points.
Although the homework wasn’t too much, unless you are naturally gifted at math, studying will take up a lot of your time if you want to get a good grade. Scavia goes quite fast, shows a lot of theory, does not necessarily show his steps in between unless asked, which makes new concepts confusing, and even told us the wrong equation or practice problem in lectures, further adding to the class’s general confusion. His office hours did not help as much either as his explanations made me walk out of the office hours more confused than I started.
One plus about him though is his flexibility. His exams are quite difficult because, even though he pulls the root of the problem from homework and lecture problems, he always adds an extra layer to them to make them more difficult and, in some cases, confusing. However, though he initially stated in his syllabus he would only do one curve at the end, he curved each midterm and final in response to the class’s grade distribution and average, so that helped a lot and, in my opinion, evened out some of the difficulty.
Overall, if there is another professor that is easier, I would highly recommend going with the other professor. While Scavia’s class is doable if you put hours into studying and practicing all of the textbook’s end of chapter practice problems, he is a difficult professor to learn from. I came into this class having only taken Calc AB and relied a lot on YouTube videos to explain new concepts and the textbook problems to get practice. Beware, even if you have taken Calc BC, this can still be a very difficult class.