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NUS Math Module Review: MA4252 Advanced Ordinary Differential Equations

Assessment and workload:

– Midterm test, open book, unspecified weightage. (80/100, should be 1 of the lowest in class)

– Final exam, open book, unspecified weightage.

– No webcast as it is held in a small tutorial room with only 12 students at the end of the course

– Prof Yu allows both scientific and graphic calculators.


– This module is extremely difficult. I rank it on par with MA2101. I have quite a bit to rant. Firstly, Prof Yu or maybe the Math department chooses to use an ancient textbook written by the Russian genius mathematician Vladimir Arnold. That book has good reviews but to me and most (if not all) of my peers have difficulty understanding it. It is just not an undergraduate-friendly textbook. The book assumes a lot of knowledge on the student’s part and many concepts are trivialised. Examples are very brief too. Secondly, this module is not what I thought I signed up for. I was expecting a semi-computational module but it turned out to be so theorectical because of the textbook used. The concepts covered are: Basic notions of differential equations and dynamical systems, then basic theorems that generalise differential equations and basic theories about dynamical systems. Lastly, linear systems are covered, but with more advanced concepts such as Lyapunov/asymptotic stability, and some interesting and somewhat unexpected applications of ODEs.

– Prof Yu teaches this module horribly in comparison to MA3220. He does understand the concepts taught in the book, but fails to convey the concepts. Most of us don’t understand what he is explaining. He also trivialises difficult concepts. His notation is inconsistent and I get lost in it. A consolation is that he tries his best to make life easier for us by telling us to know how to do the immensely difficult questions in the textbook. Prof Yu does not provide lecture notes but asks us to somehow get a copy of the textbook.

– The biggest grouse I have with this module would be tutorials. Because they’re non existent! Prof Yu only had 1 tutorial with us and then he decided to use the rest of the 10 tutorial sessions to teach more things, because he claims this module is an ‘advanced’ module. As such, we are left to fend for ourselves and thankfully I have friends who did the module with me. Despite so, we have no idea how to present the answers on paper or if our understanding of concepts are correct.

– The midterm test was manageable to me but I lost 10 marks for being blind. Scored an 80/100 but I guess that’s the 2nd lowest in class. Prof Yu tried making it easy for us by giving us hints and also by marking leniently.

– Final exam was supposed to be very manageable according to the 2 friends I have. However I made the mistake of not bringing the Laplace table as I prefer that method. The final exam was unpredictable as usual, similar to MA3220. I could only do 2/6 full questions and considering everybody seems to find the paper manageable, I think I’ll fail this module for only being able to do 2/6 questions properly. The last 2 questions were very tedious computational questions which I couldn’t do, 1 of which (in my opinion) could have been done using the Laplace transform method taught in MA3220.

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