Is Linear Algebra Hard? Technically Not But It Can Feel Hard
Linear algebra is about the properties of vector spaces and matrices and it is, along with calculus, fundamental to all higher mathematics. Calculus is considered the hardest mathematics subject in high school with only a small percentage of students reaching calc.
So the big question, “Is linear algebra hard?” Linear algebra is not hard! Most linear algebra concepts can be visualized by very visual students, such as imagining vectors in three dimensions, who will find it easier to understand than calc. Once you get the hang of writing out matrices, vectors, and other objects, associating them to the basic image of vectors as arrows can be very intuitive.
Some students would say that linear algebra is harder than calculus, read more the find out why!
Is Linear Algebra a Hard Class In College?
Linear algebra, compared to other math classes, is generally seen as being one of the easier college math courses. The difficulty will depend on your prior knowledge in maths, the professor, and college. If you have taken and done well in math classes such as single and multivariable calc, discrete maths, or an intro to proofs, then, linear algebra shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, the professor and caliber of the college will also dictate the pace and difficulty of the assessment tasks or exams. The faster the pace, the more material you need to learn in a shorter time while exams that are more proof-based will be more difficult.
Is Linear Algebra Harder Than Calculus?
The answer to this question is dependent on your situation, for example, a student with a major in maths, physical, or computer science would usually be taught more difficult content than single-variable calc, usually known as calculus 1 and 2.
Linear algebra studies straight lines relating to linear equations while calculus is about consistently changing variables relating to derivatives, integrals, vectors, matrices, and parametric curves. The reason why some people consider linear algebra course harder than calculus is that linear algebra:
- Is usually the first course into rigorous proof so it is a new way of thinking
- Is less just about computations or performing rote mathematical operations than how calc is taught
- Has fewer free materials online to help you go through problems
- Is not taught in high school, so many have more exposure to calculus than linear algebra
In the end, it is difficult to conclude the answer to “Is linear algebra harder than calculus?” as that is very subjective. However, the mathematical concepts in linear algebra themselves are not particularly harder than calculus however these are usually newer concepts with fewer free resources available.
In more detail, the following are some factors that may the difficulty of your linear algebra course:
It Depends On Which Department You Take It With
The difficulty of your linear algebra course will depend on the department you take it in, for example, linear algebra within the math department will more likely be more abstract and ask for more proofs in exams which would be more difficult. Meanwhile, the computer science department will more likely focus on the computational nature of linear algebra. linear algebra is more abstract and they ask for more proofs on exams. If you learn linear algebra from the computer science department you may find it more abstract than linear algebra.
It Depends on What You Already Know
Just like calculus, the difficulty of linear algebra will depend on your level of mathematical maturity and previous exposure to solving math proofs. If you haven’t taken many math classes in college yet, it is more likely that you’ll find the classes more challenging but of course, it doesn’t mean you will do badly.
On the other hand, if you have completed and achieved good grades in other lower-division maths courses such as single and multivariable calculus, discrete maths, or an intro course to proofs, you will most likely do well in linear algebra. You may even notice that there are overlaps at the beginning of the multivariable calculus course.
It Will Depend a Lot On The Professor
The difficulty of your college linear algebra class will really depend on your professor. The pace, content, materials, homework, exam, and even guidance on what you need to study are all dictated by your professor.
Since this is usually the first course students are exposed to proofs in college, professors who focus a lot on proofs will make your classes and exams a lot more difficult. A good way to assess the professor is to check professor rating sites, asking your peers/students who have taken this course before, and checking faculty social media groups. Just be fast, the classes with higher-rated professors fill up fast.
It Will Also Depend On The College
For linear algebra, high-caliber colleges or ones with low acceptances rates tend to speed through more content in less time. In this case, classes usually more challenging and require more study time. On the other hand, colleges with higher acceptance rates tend to get through less content in more time so it is likely to be much easier.
However, the college does not guarantee or fully determine the difficulty of your linear algebra class as the professor will still be a major factor.
Linear Algebra Vs Multivariable Calculus
Linear algebra is the study of vectors and allows us to solve systems modeled with multiple linear equations while in multivariable calculus we introduce two or more independent variables to expand single-variable calculus and be able to apply it to a three-dimensional coordinate system.
Tips for succeeding in a linear algebra course
Prioritize What The Professor Gives You
In most cases, materials given to you by the professor will be in the exam so before taking the exam, make sure to prioritize these materials. Sometimes the professor will provide a study guide, be sure to follow it!
Plan Out The Semester As Soon As You Can
Always look through the syllabus for all your courses before your semester starts! Planning will allow you to spot any difficult or busy weeks and gives you an idea of when your exams or homework is due. This way you won’t miss any assessments and know when you need to start studying for any exams.
Make Sure To Do Well On The Homework
Many students do not take homework seriously at all. Make sure to do well on the homework you will boost your grade up. By doing well it will make up for poor exams and score better on those which will be harder to get a top 10. Do well on homework to bump up your grade in linear algebra and make sure you get a good grade.
Get Assistance When You Need It
Get help when you are stuck!
First, put in the effort to find a solution yourself to understand what you don’t get. This will make the solution more satisfying to finally get and it shows to the professor that you are putting an effort into the class.
Sometimes when you still don’t understand or fail to find a solution, sleep on it, you’ll be surprised how well this works.
Read The Textbook Before Jumping To The Problems
Spend time reading through the chapter in your textbook before you attempt the problems. In linear algebra class, the professor may not have time to cover everything that was in the book and it is always good to make sure you read again and ensure understand the fundamental concepts. So don’t jump straight into the homework problems, spending some time understanding the concept will make more advanced concepts easier to comprehend and thus solve.
Always ask why you need to solve the maths the way it is being shown.