Math at the University of Michigan isn’t your typical just-numbers-and-formulas type of math class. It’s called Michigan Math for a reason (because it’s hard and tough and difficult and formidable and, without exaggerating, the worst ordeal you will have to go through during your time in the institution). The only panacea that can alleviate some of the severity of the issue is having a professor instead of a GSI teaching you the course.
1. They have more experience
GSI (or graduate student instructors) are, more often than not, just there for the experience, to get a few months or years of work during their graduate studies, and not because it’s what they want to do. Because of that, some GSI don’t work twice as hard as a professor does. Additionally, most of them have an international nationality, and (even though that doesn’t affect their hard work and dedication), their accents are hard to understand.
2. It’ll affect your experience
If you end up stuck with a “bad” GSI, that can deeply affect your experience during the semester and your feelings towards the subject. Even though you should never let a teacher be the decisive factor in your decision to not pursue a certain major, the reality of the situation is that, on most occasions, he or she is. Don’t let one person close a door into your possible career path.
3. Professor have more time to focus on you
Since they were employed by the university for the purpose of teaching you, professors usually have more office hours, and thus more time to focus on you. They genuinely want to see you succeed, so they make a huge effort to make it happen. (Even if that means staying a few extra hours to answer some questions or making and correcting more problems for you to practice.)
4. Professors make more practice
Additionally, since a professor only teaches two or three courses (and doesn’t have to worry about graduate studies), they have more time to prepare extra practices. It might feel like a pain during the semester (having more homework than anyone taking the same class but with a GSI), the ordeal will be worth it when the exams come and you’re more than ready to face them. (And your transcript will look close to flawless because of it.)
5. Classrooms are usually smaller
Since so many people have to take Calc. 1 and Calc. 2, classes taught by GSI can usually have up to 30 people per room. Classes taught by professors are harder to get into, so they’re smaller (with up to 14-16 students per section). Having a smaller class means that the professor has more time to focus on individual problems and on explaining problems in more than one way.
The University of Michigan doesn’t offer many Math classes taught by professors, so be sure to talk with your advisor to see how you can fit one into your schedule. Even though it might be a hassle (and you might have to email one too many people), it’ll be more than worth it in the end.