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6 Tips For Stepping Into MATH 115 At The University of Waterloo

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Kai Hefner
MATH 115 might possibly be the most frustrating course at the University of Waterloo. This is Linear Algebra, where you learn every possible computation and aspect of matrices, which is nothing that can’t already be done on a calculator. Here are a few tips for getting through this course.

Tip 1: Tutorials

Every Math 115 tutorial is a test, which evaluates all of the information that you learned in the previous week. These tests are done independently, and tend to be extremely hard. Each test will pick at the specific details of each topic that was taught, and stuff that was not taught in class is fair game. For these one-hour tutorials, it is advised that you come prepared with the knowledge solidified in your mind, because there is no help during these evaluations.

Tip 2: Practice Problems

Speaking of being prepared for quizzes, the practice problems are extremely useful questions that are posted every week, in an effort to prepare you for the weekly test. Many will simply do the mapleTA questions (which is an online source that supports inputting math notation), which is a good start but it may not prepare you for the tests. Weirdly enough, sometimes the mapleTA questions are the only thing one would need to do to get a good mark on the tutorial test, but sometimes the mapleTA questions are 100% useless. It is strongly recommended that one does all of the mapleTA questions, and all of the recommended textbook questions in order to prepare for each weekly test. It may be hard, but it is extremely helpful to ensure in getting a decent mark on the quizzes.

Tip 3: The Textbook

Read the textbook! This mistake is made by an innumerable amount of students in Math 115. You may think that sitting in the lectures and understanding the content is enough, but everything from the textbook is fair game for the tests. The lectures only cover about 70% of the information, and the other 30% should be covered outside of class. It doesn’t hurt to read the textbook even just to solidify the knowledge, but mostly for those tiny details that the professor will sneak into the tutorial tests.

Tip 4: Classmates

It is important to have friends in other engineering specialities who are taking Math 115. The tutorial test isn’t taken on the same hour by the entire engineering faculty on the same day. Use other students to let you know what parts of the section were on the test, or what study tools were the most useful for it. Just be sure to stay within the bounds of academic integrity ;).

Tip 5: Midterm and Final

The Math 115 midterm is considered one of the easier midterms in first year engineering. Study hard, and do all of the practice midterms, because the layout of them yearly reoccurring. The practice midterms will be able to give you a good idea of concepts that will be on the midterm versus ones that won’t. The final is a different story. The final is intense, and you need to study hard if you want to pass. Granted, if a test is worth 65% of your mark, it does have the right to be difficult. Study all that you can leading up to this exam, because it will pay off. The majority of stuff on the final will be an overview and not oriented towards details like the tutorial quizzes, which makes the final a bit easier to study for but the professors will throw tricks at you so watch out.

Tip 6: Mental Preparation

Be prepared to be annoyed at questions for hours on end. Be prepared to have to reduce a 7 by 7 matrix, because this is the kind of work you are going to have to put in. Most importantly, be prepared to not use a calculator because they are absolutely not allowed.A lot of students resent this course. It is unnessicarily difficult for something that calculators already have the ability to do. You will learn a ton of completely useless details of matrices, but you don’t have a choice in Engineering. Regardless of the view towards this course, try your hardest to get a good grade. One of the professors started out the class by telling them that 70% is the new 90%, so don’t be too let down if your grade is not looking like it did in high school.


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