Best option for completing two college math courses
June 30, 2013 11:27 AM   Subscribe

What is the best option for a working professional to complete two undergraduate level math courses - linear algebra and differential equations - in order to bolster my graduate school application?

I have decided I want to pursue a quantitative masters degree program (either systems engineering or environmental engineering) and intend to apply this fall. However, I really feel the need to bolster my quantitative skills. I have a degree in environmental science so I took a year of calculus. I want to continue through the typical sequence and take linear algebra and differential equations. My career has been fairly technical so I can make a compelling argument from that point, I'm looking to prove I have these academic requirements covered.

I was taking linear algebra at a community college but ultimately had to drop the class because I moved for a new job (but I completed the majority of the content). In general I was happy with how quickly I picked math back up as I have been out of college for five years. Most surprising was I loved the subject.

What is the best option for a working professional to take linear algebra and differential equations courses? I just moved to NYC and am currently exploring the community colleges here. Are there recommended online options? I am very much looking for the lowest price possible while still ensuring the class is worth my time. Many thanks!
posted by nowoutside to Education (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If this is for a grad school program, skip the community colleges and look to four year schools that offer the courses online.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:05 PM on June 30, 2013

Best answer: In NYC your best options will probably be CUNY schools like Hunter College and City College. I would actually be surprised if a community college here offered courses at that level, I would imagine they all stop at calculus.

NYU and Columbia also have some "extension" type courses (pay to play, so to speak) but tend to have more professional oriented offerings, perhaps not pure lin alg and diff eq.

If you need the grades on your transcript to improve your applications, CUNY would be my recommendation. If you just need to learn the material, you can definitely get what you need from open courseware and the like online.

Lin Alg is a gateway to so much fun math...
posted by telegraph at 2:10 PM on June 30, 2013

I would suggest, from my own late to the program experience, that you find the class at a four year school. Then go through the course syllabus first at the Kahn Academy so that your gpa will be appropriate for your grad school application.
posted by ptm at 2:30 PM on June 30, 2013

Best answer: I would actually be surprised if a community college here offered courses at that level, I would imagine they all stop at calculus.

They certainly do in California and here in Minneapolis. It looks like they do in NYC, too.

However, the OP should note the 'typical sequence' doesn't necessarily go linear algebra and then differential equations (or vice versa). Many places, the first two semesters of calculus are followed by multivariable calculus and then a course called linear algebra and differential equations, which in my experience is heavy on one and light on the other. (I think I had about three weeks of differential equations as an undergrad. As a grad student, I taught a course with that title that made only the slightest pretence of doing linear algebra and was all differential equations.) Though it looks like they get taught separately at that community college I linked to, so if CUNY's organised, they might all do it that way.
posted by hoyland at 2:42 PM on June 30, 2013

At the state school where I worked and was taking classes part-time, semester-long introductory courses in both linear algebra and DiffEq were required of math majors (and students in several other departments). These could be followed by proof-based, upper division courses in linear algebra, PDEs, differential forms, differential geometry, and so on.
posted by Nomyte at 3:16 PM on June 30, 2013

I'm from Massachusetts, and the community college system here is stellar. My particular CC has a partnership program with the local engineering school (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and offers top notch mathematics. So Linear Algebra, Diffy Q's , Calc123 are all offered here.

The credits from these courses all fly at other Unviersities, probably because they admissions or registrars all know that the CC offers courses that are the real deal.

I'm going to Boston University for a masters in engineering and all my math courses from the CC has transferred no problem. So I would say that it really depends on the state of your CC. Some are pretty legit.

You are going to save a ton of money by going to the CC rather than the 4 year colleges
posted by timmytacobean at 8:28 AM on July 5, 2013

PS, I was the same way with linear, I picked it up while doing my undergrad in business. I was blown away that I could even do it, and even more so that I enjoyed some of the projects. My professor had us do a project on the Pagerank algorithm, the one that Google uses developed by Larry page. It's a really interesting course!
posted by timmytacobean at 8:29 AM on July 5, 2013

My son just finished linear algebra at a community college and is about to take differential equations. I don't know about grad school -- he's 16 -- but the credits are transferring to his 4-year college just fine.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:10 AM on July 7, 2013

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