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Rethink taking this class if you are a newbie to math looking for an exposure to advanced topics, like I did. Although math 31A is the only pre-req for this class, if you want to survive it's best to have taken ALL the lower div math classes and gotten an A in all of them. Since I have done all this but still struggled, I would recommend taking an upper-div or two before as well.
Each week we do a different topic in math (number theory, analysis, geometry, combinatorics, etc). I don't like the way that the material was introduced. It was incredibly rushed; all we "learn" are "tricks" to solve particular "problems" in each subject. Mathematics is not about memorizing tricks, it's about understanding what you're being asked and how utilizing different methods/theorems will bring you to the solution. This fundamental aspect is completely disregarded in this class.
The nice thing about this class is exams aren't terrible, the practice exams are great preparation as the exams have questions word-for-word from the practice ones. Homework is time consuming but interesting.
As a lecturer, Sarkar is the personification of chaos. Not very organized, rushes, sloppy penmanship, and always goes overtime which was annoying. Since it goes so fast, you'd be completely lost if you haven't had a previous exposure to these topics before.
Class environment was not conductive to collaboration, diversity, and a growth mindset. Students got quite a negative response when sharing a proposal or idea that was "wrong". I got laughed at a couple times when trying to engage, so eventually I just stopped participating all together. And from this class I got to fully experienced the disappointing lack of diversity in mathematics. As someone of minority in the field in multiple aspects, I will just say without giving details that I did not feel like the environment was inclusive towards people of similar backgrounds to me.
So if you have experience with competition math, and had an exposure to most of the topics discussed, you will do well. If you're more like me, I don't want to discourage you from taking the course if you're intent on it, but you are in for a wild ride. I barely escaped with that P.
Each Math 100 lecture consists of Professor Sarkar teaching approximately 3 new "tricks" for each respective topic. Each week a new topic is covered as well, from induction and pigeonhole principle to number theory to analysis. Professor Sarkar typically introduces each new topic with basic theorems and a proof thereof. Immediately thereafter, he introduces problems concerning the learned material. He typically lets the class motivate the discussion behind each problem, allowing for adequate class participation.
Concerning homework, you are assigned a problem set of 10 problems from that week's topic due the next Wednesday each week. The problems, in my opinion, are a happy medium between challenging yet doable. They vary from medium AMC level problems to problems straight from the Putnam. Overall, I'd definitely recommend this class to anybody who is interested in competition math, whether you seek to take the Putnam or not. Previous competition math experience is definitely useful, such as participation in AMC or AIME, but not necessary.
I took this course as a freshman with the objective of preparing for the Putnam and it certainly helped me. The class is mandatory pass/no pass and you require 60% to pass, which is extremely easy.
That being said, the material is definitely not easy and solving problems on the homework, midterm and final require a lot of creativity. My math contest experience before this class was limited (I did well on the AMC 12 but quite poorly on the AIME). However, I did manage to get 2-3 questions on the Putnam after this class.
The professor is very good. He is definitely very smart and explains the tricks and concepts required for problem solving quite well.
Some background with basic number theory, group theory, geometry and inequalities may help but is certainly not required. The workload isn't much: it's 10 problems a week. However, you may occasionally get stuck on a problem.
If you just want to pass the class, it takes hardly any effort. But if you want to get the most out of the class, pay attention to all the lectures and try solving Putnam problems related to the topics covered. A very good class to take if you enjoy math.
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