Linear algebra check in

September 17, 2018 | minutes read

I signed up for linear algebra online course through the University of North Iowa, where I’ll be taking my second university level math course, the first being discrete mathematics. I enrolled in this course because it’s a fundamental course that’s typically required of all aspiring computer science students. Moreover, linear algebra is essential (from what I hear) for taking upper division computer science courses such as machine learning.

Up until now, I’ve expressed interested in machine learning. However, polled my colleagues, asking them what they consider their favorite computer science course and an overwhelming majority voted for machine learning. So with that in mind, coupled with the fact that Amazon offers a machine learning university for full time employees, I figure I should establish a foundation in the mathematics required for machine learning so that in the future, say my second or third year into my masters (at Georgia Tech OMSCS), I can enroll in the course knowing that I’ve met the underlying requirements.

What’s funny is that a few years ago, about five or six, I had asked my uncle (who’s a rocket scientist at Boeing) what mathematics course I should take in preparation for a masters in computer science. This is long before I officially applied for a masters, when I was just toying with the idea of returning back for academia to pursue a masters in computer science. Anyways, he had recommended that I take linear algebra but to be honest, at that time, I was intimidated since I have mixed feelings when it comes to my mathematical maturity.

Because when I was a young boy, and up until high school, I (in a sense) flourished in mathematics. I considered it one of my easiest subjects, from elementary all the way up until my senior year in high school. I would sit down at the table, quickly scribble in my answers, with relatively no effort.  But looking back, I never truly took the time to understood mathematics: not algebra, not geometry, not trigonometry, not calculus. None of it.  Did I score high on the homework and exams? Yes. But back then, I had zero desire to understand how or why I was solving the problems or learning the subject. And because math “came easy” to me, I blasted through all the homework, many times solving the problem based off of intuition only. This type of mentality handicapped me later on in my senior year of high school, in AP Calculus. This course kicked me in the butt. Like other high level courses, calculus built on top of other branches of mathematics, courses that I had taken the previous years. And because I didn’t put in the effort in those other courses, I found myself completely lost and confused and frustrated during calculus. I mean, I could mechanically solve for the derivative or integral, but I had zero clue as to why I was doing it and I had zero clue of how to apply these concepts.

Anyways, I’m now taking linear algebra and like other areas of my life, rebuilding my relationship — with mathematics. So far, I’m about three weeks into the course, the three weeks focusing on the following topics: adding matrices, multiplying matrices, converting matrices to echelon form, converting matrices into row echelon form, and transposing matrices from one dimension to another.

I’m Matt Chung. I’m a software engineer, seasoned technology leader, and father currently based in Seattle and London. I love to share what I know. I write about topic developing scalable & fail-safe software running in the AWS cloud, digital organization as a mechanism for unlocking your creativity, and maximizing our full potentials with personal development habits.

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