Based on 29 Users
While the class is definitely doable if you have the time and the will to really learn the material, Professor Balmer is definitely not a professor I would recommend for Math 115A. His lectures were meh (definitely not the most engaging things in the universe and his delivery of the material was definitely awkward at points), and the homework was really time consuming if you actually do it (it's only marked for completion, and you don't have to do all of it).
Exams in the class were pretty awful as many of the reviews below suggest. To put things into perspective, the first midterm had an average of 50%, the second midterm had an average of 30%, and the final had an average of 47%. The class culture is pretty depressing as a result of these scores and Balmer's poor read on student understanding really shows in this respect.
If you get stuck with Balmer, here's some advice:
(1) He's not joking when he tells you to read the book. The book is 10x better at explaining the concepts than he is and if you read the assigned material beforehand, lecture will become somewhat useful for you.
(2) Do not waste your time studying with mechanical proofs because Balmer makes you complete more elaborate tasks on the exams. For example, you are much more likely to provide an example of some obscure linear transformation rather than verifying a linear transformation is indeed a linear transformation.
(3) Don't be hard on yourself after exams. No one really does well. Take a shot of vodka and let life go on. (Top score on one of the midterms was a 60%)
While I definitely survived this class with a higher grade than I would've ever dreamed of, I don't think I'll be putting myself through another Balmer class ever again to keep my sanity haha...
He is a pretty clear Lecturer, and his tests are not hard. But I did not understand why he cared about brackets and those details so much!
I missed two points during the whole quarter because of not writing the brackets and not indicating which one is Q and R for QR factorization. Because of this I missed A+ by 0.3%!!!! He is a harsh grader, he made 94% to be A and 98% to be A+. Just be careful about those brackets when you take him he is a fun of brackets!
I was kinda afraid of Balmer at first, but liked him by the end. He has an awesome french accent. I got c's on both of the midterms but got an A- in the class cause of the final. His class is very straightforward which I really liked. The same with his tests. I would definitely take him again. Just keep in mind for tests that he does not give partial credit.
Avoid Balmer if you can. I essentially taught myself the entire class. He goes over the really easy concepts in lecture and then leaves the students to figure out the hard stuff that shows up on the tests. I also had trouble understanding his accent. And I agree with the others in that he will not be flexible about anything - I had a close relative pass away unexpectedly 3 days before the midterm and he made me take it the same day as everyone else. I got a B- in this class, but I got an A in 32 B, a class which I believe to be much harder than 33 A. If you do not want to put at least 14 hours a week into this class, this professor is definitely worth avoiding.
Professor Balmer was pretty awesome as a professor. He explains well and he was sometimes funny. However, the choice of textbook for Math 33A is just atrocious. The textbook just fails at everything in explaining linear algebra, and that's why many people in any Math 33A class would have trouble in the class. I got by just because I had a better linear algebra book, which was by Anton.
For his tests, they were extremely straightforward and they're not that difficult. In fact, Balmer was going easy on us because he didn't put any proofs until the final, but the final had one or two easy proof problems. If you want to do well in the class, consult a different linear algebra even if it has to be a math 115a book and do the problems in the atrocious math 33a textbook. Also, if you're a math major, listen to his advices since they will most likely help you through your upper div classes.
Professor Balmer is unbelievably smart and extremely approachable. However, his exams are brutal. There is no partial credit and you can get marked down on the most menial of mistakes. I do like Balmer as a person and admire his ability to understand the most complex topics of mathematics, but if you're looking for a manageable (not even easy) class, walk the other way.
What the previous person said before me is true, you need to be extremely, extremely careful on not making any computational mistakes or you will get it wrong. His midterms are only out of 13 points so there is some to no partial credit. when you miss by one number you are screwed so be very careful!!! The tests are easy but you need to be careful with your numbers, thats what gets you!
He is a good professor overall and I got a A in the end. The midterms are easy, and the grade on final is very kind. He makes sure about 12% students get A!! Also, 33A is a easy class, there is no prove questions. However, I doubt his ability to teach 115 because he confused himself a little bit while proving some theories in class. He has his own humor which keeps me awake. I guess sometimes he seems to be "mean" because he is still not very confident with himself.I got full marks for both midterms and rank 15 in final exam even though I made 2 mistakes. Just study and understand the theory, it is not hard to get A.
Professor Balmer is a very smart man. He know what he is talking about and really wants you to learn. That being said, he can be a really big dick if you are not at a high level of understanding in the class. The material is very abstract in the beginning of the course and becomes more formulaic as you move on. DO NOT take his class if you are bad at making silly mistakes. Thos will absolutely kill your grade. I made one arithmetic mistake and my final grade was affected from B+ to B. Since I went to office hours he was generous and gave me my B+ back. Smart guy, kind of a dick, but definitely learned a lot.