Back in the classroom, kind of

Last night I had my first “class” at U of O. They’ve recommended that I take an optional, free, non-credit math course to make sure my math chops are up to speed when real classes start. I’m not sure what the criteria for that recommendation are, but it won’t kill me to brush up on some things (especially matrix algebra and calculus, which I haven’t used in a decade, and financial formulas which I haven’t used since high school). I did have one particularly bad semester during my undergrad in which I did poorly in a couple math courses (including an 8AM calculus course), and while the problems there were non-academic — I switched majors right after that semester — that might have raised a red flag.

I’ve put the course outline below a cut at the bottom of this post so you can see what sort of things they include. I think I’m going to be a little bored. The class is taught online in WebCT, but since it is everyone’s first encounter with the university and with WebCT they asked everyone to come in for an optional one-hour orientation session, which is why “class” is in quotes in my first sentence there. There were only about 20 people at the session, and about 3/4 were francophone, which I found interesting — the first module of the course covers math that would have been required for the GMAT, but francophone applicants aren’t required to write the GMAT.

It felt odd to be back on campus and in a lecture hall again. Good odd, but odd nonetheless. This course was formerly a for-credit, 12-week, 6-hour-per-week lectureclass, so I’m glad they’re doing it online.

The course description for those interested:

This online course replaces MBA 5580 and MBA 5180. The first element of the course features an online entry diagnostic to gage the student’s familiarity with mathematics for business. The course is made up of four modules.

Module 1: Basic Math. This module aims to give all students foundational mathematical concepts needed in quantitative courses. Specific topics include exponents & radicals, fractions, factoring, linear and quadratic equations, functions & graphs, matrix algebra & solving linear systems.

Zzzzzz. There is no way to get an acceptable GMAT score without knowing all of that other than matrix algebra. Oh well.

Module 2: Excel for Statistics. This module aims to help the students get familiar with Excel as a tool for doing statistical analysis. Specific topics include typing data, using formulas, using built-in functions, selecting, naming and copying cells, using the fill-handle, sorting, making charts, printing worksheets, and creating or modifying pivot tables. A sample set of data is provided to conduct the tutorial and students are expected to complete all the steps in the tutorial.

This one will probably be helpful — I’ve had almost no reason to use Excel regularly, so having actual work to do on real data will let me learn my way around.

Module 3: Math for Finance. This module aims to help the student get familiar with mathematical formulas and concepts used in finance. Specific topics include exponentials and logarithms, compounded interest, effective rates, present value of money, annuities, and perpetuities. Examples from finance are used to demonstrate the relevance of the concepts introduced.

Should be easy enough. Obviously I don’t do a lot of this day to day, so gaining familiarity will be helpful.

Module 4: Calculus for Microeconomics. This module aims to give foundational calculus concepts which will be needed in teaching Microeconomics. Specific topics include curve intercepts, limits and continuity, first and second order derivatives of basic functions (polynomials, exponentials, logs, and rational), basic integrals and area calculations, curve sketching and determination of maxima/minima of a function. Examples from microeconomics are used to demonstrate the relevance of the concepts introduced.

This is the part I’m looking forward to. It bugs me that I haven’t really done much calculus since high school, and if I didn’t have this course I’d be brushing up on it myself anyhow. Now I just have to remember to get to the bookstore to buy the textbook!

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