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Thread: Online linear algebra or in-class matrix algebra?

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    Online linear algebra or in-class matrix algebra?

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    Hello everyone,

    I want to strengthen my application for the next cycle of economics phd applications by taking math courses. My current math background: solid grades (A) in a few undergraduate courses that basically cover Chiang's textbook taken a decade ago (I am in my early 30s) and an 800 score in the math part of the GRE.

    This fall I will enroll in a real analysis class at a local university (I will prepare for that through self-study). This summer, given my crazy work schedule, I have two options: an online linear algebra course at EPGY or a matrix algebra class at a local university, which will cover: systems of linear equations, matrices, determinants, introduction to vector spaces and linear transformations, applications. I only have time for one of the two options.

    Which would work best for my application? Any advice welcome!

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    Is the class at your local university purely applied? Taking a version that contains some theory/proofs (rather than just calculations) would probably be beneficial.

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    Your matrix algebra course sounds like a first course in linear algebra! Post both course describtions for a better advise. I can tell you right off the bat thet you'll definitely linear algebra with all the stuff you mentioned above! An online version of linear algebra is still linear algebra! Just go ahead and post more info so that we can give you a more informed advise.

    Excuse my ignorance on this, but what is "EPGY"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by EconBeach View Post
    Excuse my ignorance on this, but what is "EPGY"?
    EPGY is Stanford's distance learning program that's specifically targeted, albeit not exclusive, to gifted high school students. It gives them the opportunity to take advanced college-level courses, like real analysis, in high shcool.

    While there certainly is a lot of value in taking a proof-oriented math course, I wouldn't say that the decision between the two classes is really all that clear cut. A course that focuses on the computational aspects of linear algebra would be very helpful in a lot of grad econ courses, especially in econometrics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chisquared View Post
    EPGY is Stanford's distance learning program that's specifically targeted, albeit not exclusive, to gifted high school students. It gives them the opportunity to take advanced college-level courses, like real analysis, in high shcool.

    While there certainly is a lot of value in taking a proof-oriented math course, I wouldn't say that the decision between the two classes is really all that clear cut. A course that focuses on the computational aspects of linear algebra would be very helpful in a lot of grad econ courses, especially in econometrics.
    But only if that computation is associated with programming ... otherwise, its a moot exercise, because an online linear algebra course is unlikely to cover programming in Matlab and especially STATA.

    Take the course. The outside option is getting a cheap linear algebra book (here is one for $.75 + shipping: Half.com: Linear Algebra with Applications by Steven J. Leon (1994, Book, Illustrated)(9780023698316): Steven J. Leon: Books -- and here is one that is free that goes over a great deal of topics you will use down the road: http://www.math.byu.edu/~klkuttle/Linearalgebra.pdf -- though it is a little on the advanced side) and teaching yourself--a more than viable option with opencourseware to supplement from MIT, Yale, or Stanford.
    Servere est vivere. Vivere est vincere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TomRod View Post
    But only if that computation is associated with programming ... otherwise, its a moot exercise, because an online linear algebra course is unlikely to cover programming in Matlab and especially STATA.

    Take the course. The outside option is getting a cheap linear algebra book (here is one for $.75 + shipping: Half.com: Linear Algebra with Applications by Steven J. Leon (1994, Book, Illustrated)(9780023698316): Steven J. Leon: Books -- and here is one that is free that goes over a great deal of topics you will use down the road: http://www.math.byu.edu/~klkuttle/Linearalgebra.pdf -- though it is a little on the advanced side) and teaching yourself--a more than viable option with opencourseware to supplement from MIT, Yale, or Stanford.
    I think that if he/she hasn't had a formal class in linear alg (or if the course was a very long time ago), taking the course (whether online or at a local university) may be beneficial for admissions chances (even if he/she could obtain the same level of understanding from a self-study).

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    Quote Originally Posted by econoecon View Post
    I think that if he/she hasn't had a formal class in linear alg (or if the course was a very long time ago), taking the course (whether online or at a local university) may be beneficial for admissions chances (even if he/she could obtain the same level of understanding from a self-study).
    I don't know how much it would help admission chances over other signals, but it would definitely increase the OP's personal ability and confidence in things linear algebra.
    Servere est vivere. Vivere est vincere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chisquared View Post
    While there certainly is a lot of value in taking a proof-oriented math course, I wouldn't say that the decision between the two classes is really all that clear cut. A course that focuses on the computational aspects of linear algebra would be very helpful in a lot of grad econ courses, especially in econometrics.
    Agree that a course focusing on the computational espects of linear algebra is important, but, i think what this person needs is the basic standard first course in linear algebra. Once you have that, you can then advance to something like numerical methods (numerical analysis) which deals with the computational aspects of LA. From my experience, an online course in LA was still very proof oriented and it did involve a lot of MatLab! I guess you better check to see exactly what you're getting! That said, i agree with TomRod, if you can teach yourself the beginning course (more power to you!) then you should go for it and take the more advanced course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TomRod View Post
    I don't know how much it would help admission chances over other signals, but it would definitely increase the OP's personal ability and confidence in things linear algebra.
    Definitely agree! Actually, if the person takes a more advanced course in LA he/she can explain that in their SoP by telling them that a beginning course in LA was not challenging therefore he/she decided to take the next advanced course! This actually might be a pretty good signal after all!

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    Quote Originally Posted by EconBeach View Post
    Definitely agree! Actually, if the person takes a more advanced course in LA he/she can explain that in their SoP by telling them that a beginning course in LA was not challenging therefore he/she decided to take the next advanced course! This actually might be a pretty good signal after all!
    I agree that an advanced linear alg class + real analysis would be optimal. However, if he/she doesn't feel like he/she has time to take the advanced linear alg course (as he/she mentioned a very crazy work schedule) in addition to taking real analysis + doing a self-study of basic linear alg, I think that taking basic linear alg for a grade would be better than only doing a self-study of linear alg and not having a grade in any sort (basic of advanced) of linear alg. Taking more difficult classes is always better, but at the same time if one has a crazy work schedule, it is best to not take more difficult classes than one is capable of handling.

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