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NUS Math Module Review: MA4235 Topics in Graph Theory

Be prepared for lots of self-stuyding because who in the world would want to spend dinner time (7 pm – 9.30 pm) in one of the most ulu LTs of NUS every Tuesday in 13 weeks? Try searching for LT21 and you’ll see what I mean. Fortunately, Prof Zhang’s notes are quite comprehensive so coming to lecture is really optional. If you decide to self-study the entire semester (like I did) it’s important to revise consistently because (a) the content covered every week is huge and (b) some topics are developed based on previous ones.

Even though this module lists MA3233 as a pre-requisite, one does not need MA3233 knowledge to understand and do well in this module. Maybe they want everyone to be more familiar with graph concepts first? Idk. Anyway, the topics Prof Zhang covered include: planar graph, matching problems and related NP-hard stuff, domination theory, edge colouring and vertex colouring, spectral graph theory and matroid theory. Since Prof Zhang does research in computational biology he also talked about phylogenetic trees. Real-life applications are introduced with every topic too.

I thoroughly enjoyed the content of every topic, but I can’t say the same about the teaching. It’s a bit strange that many algorithms and CS-related topics like P vs NP are analysed but fundamental concepts like big-O notation, computability, etc. are not mentioned despite the fact that many does not have CS background. It’s a bonus if you have CS knowledge.

Lecture pace is INSANELY SLOW to me, I decided to just self-study after 2 lectures.

Grading: 15% Homework (3 homeworks in total), 5% Tutorial Participation, and a 80% Final (no midterm yay). Tutorial questions are quite do-able. There are only 6 questions per tutorial so the work is quite light. Homework questions are just a little bit harder but still do-able. The median of homework score is usually 75/100, so I guess the bell-curve is not too steep. Questions on the final exam are surprisingly easy: some are exactly the properties proven in lecture notes or just direct application of theorems taught, some are slightly different versions of homework questions. Around 3 – 4 people left after 1 hour 45 mins in a 2.5-hour exam. The fact that ppl leave early on a 80% final says a lot about the difficulty.

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