Rajesh Kumar

Optimizing life, one day after the next

Spring '08 Post Mortem

25 Aug 2008

In April 2008 I suddenly grew overly ambitious and decided to add four extra courses for a total of eight courses and two labs when I was required to add only one by my program. People called me nuts. Now there might be some truth to that remark, but I'd like to still argue otherwise and encourage you to read the earlier post on Hidden Depths to see my rationale. Nonetheless, I had a stash of peanuts hidden away in my cupboard to remind me that I might be nuts all the same.

The term is over now and I passed all eight courses. And I did exceptionally well in both labs. And my average dropped only 6.5% which isn't too shabby considering how bad the profs were and how bad one of the labs was. Here I propose a post-mortem.

Explaining the NE 344 Massacre

The entire 3A nano class was massacred by the NE 344 Electronic Circuits and Integration final exam. I still passed but I got a horribly disastrous mark that stands out quite ostentatiously on my transcript. I'm going to have a tough time explaining that line on my transcript to my interviewers next term.

It's really challenging to explain a failure without sounding like you're fishing for excuses. Nevertheless, here I make a feeble attempt.

Explaining the MATH 239 Success

Now that the bad news is out of the way, let's move on to the good news, i.e. MATH 239 Introduction to Combinatorics. This course is supposedly hard and a lot of CS students for whom this course in mandatory often have to take it twice. It was so hard that when I finally managed to get perfect on the very last assignment of the term, it was the best thing that had happened to me that week. I loved the course because it taught me how to think. It forced blood into parts of my brain I didn't know existed.

Software companies like Yahoo, Google, Amazon and Microsoft all love to ask questions during their interviews that draw from concepts taught in this course. Questions like 'how do you detect cycles in a graph' or 'how do you find the shortest cycle in a graph assuming one exists' or 'what is the probability of a candidate winning an election if there are n other candidates also running' become so easy to answer after you've taken this course.

This course covered a lot of topics (~100), perhaps the most I've ever covered in a course before. My satisfaction for this course is the highest in all the 36 courses I've taken so far at Waterloo because I can't think of even a single thing that was bad about this course. Educators, learn from these guys on how to deliver a course correctly!

I managed to do really well in MATH 239 (96%) for which I had 3.5 days before the final exam to basically memorize the entire course left to right.

Let's take a look at the algorithm I followed:

Definitely not an easy algorithm to adhere to, at least not persistently, but I tried it and it worked better than Flitwick's charms. That's what matters at the end.

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