Michael Thaddeus

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Nov 2019

Michael Thaddeus is amazing! I would say it is slightly more work than other linear classes but totally worth it for engaging lectures, super helpful notes to copy on the blackboard, homeworks that reinforce concepts and stretch you a bit, and not bad exams. Exception: don't take it with him if you hate (informal) proofs.

Dec 2018

First off, I would absolutely recommend Bayer, Schrader, or Elliot if you do not have previous experience with proof structuring. This ate a couple people. There is a problem set every week, and you should expect to see the help room jammed on Thursday afternoons, almost comically considering that the vast majority of people are there for one class. For context on grading, he nearly forgot to put up an A-range on the board after our second midterm, which might have been a little closer to a freudian slip than I'm comfortable with! He also always had a D-range. The dents in the car: I would strongly recommend reading through the previous reviews to the bottom. Some students have commented that he hides his grading profile, and gives little to no context on where the class is at. This seems very accurate to me. The problem sets and midterms were given little context by the classes, or even the book for that matter. While the final was more manageable, it really did feel like an exercise in survival despite the amount you studied. I think Thaddeus would be an awesome analysis teacher, but before most students have that level of experience, he really throws sticks in the wheel. He's clearly not used to giving computational examples to proxy proofs and made a painful number of mistakes on the board every class. TL;DR: Don't take him if you don't have a ton of time to wrangle together normal context. Good guy, interesting guy, funny guy, grades like a train.

May 2017

This class was challenging yet enjoyable. Thaddeus is very thorough, goes at a good pace, and manages to be quite entertaining. He is very clear and efficient in the proofs he gives and draws nice diagrams where appropriate. Where the material was more challenging, e.g. Galois theory, he slowed down to give lots of examples, which was helpful. He tries to encourage participation, which may or may not have been successful, and answers questions effectively, both in class and during office hours. In fact, if you knock on his door anytime, he will take the time to answer your question if it is not too long. My only complaint is that in Algebra I we spent a bit too much time on introductory material (propositional logic, equivalence relations, elementary number theory) so that midterm 1 did not cover groups at all. Nevertheless, probably the best professor to take Algebra with. Everyone in the class really liked him; a lot of us are going on to his Topology class next semester.

Jan 2010

This semester is single-variable calculus and some linear algebra from a rigorous standpoint. If you are interested in applications of math and not proofs, this is not the class for you. He freely admits that he doesn't care about the former. If you want to be a math major, take this class so you can tell early on whether you actually want to have 3.5 more semesters of abstraction. This course is based on Apostol. This is not the best textbook out there (maybe second-best) if you want a deep and rigorous understanding of single-variable calculus, although it works. I'd prefer a different choice, but it's what Columbia has at the moment, and it works fine. Thaddeus is an awesome lecturer. A number of people dropped the class but came to classes anyway just to hear him speak. He is engaging, funny, thorough, and excellent at explaining things. He's also quite friendly and receptive to questions, as long as they are not stupid ones. I know that a large number of people will disagree with me on this one, but the class is not as hard as anyone else says it is, at least if you've ever seen a proof before. The psets, the midterms, and the final are all pretty easy, although somehow the median on the final was a 57/100. Given that this is the course recommended to math majors and supposedly the hardest math course available to freshmen here, I hoped that this would be really hardcore, possibly on the level of Harvard's Math 55. It is not. There was around one difficult problem set (out of 13), and aside from that, there were no challenging-to-impossible problems that you had to turn in. It's by no means an easy course, but I wanted more difficulty.

Dec 2009

Thaddeus' enthusiasm for mathematics and his patience with students make for a perfect professor. In addition to the scheduled weekly office hours, he encourages students to knock on his door whenever confused and tries his very best to help and enlighten you by offering explanations in a different way. His quirky, hot outfits and obsession with wearing a glove while writing with chalk on the blackboard add to the entertainment. On top of that, he weaves together proofs of theorems so elegantly that will absolutely dazzle you. On the last day of classes for the fall semester, he read poetry on Euclid by Wordsworth towards the end of the period and received a huge round of applause by the entire class, which shows how much everybody loves him. But, a huge warning - this class is especially difficult for people who have not been exposed extensively to the theoretical aspects of calculus and not meant for slackers. You've got to work and think smarter and harder than you have done before because the basic foundations of proofs can take some time to sink in. The homework are graded somewhat harshly by the TA, who is picky with little details here and there, but this is understandable given the care you need in constructing legitimate proofs. Studying from the corrections to the mistakes can help better your understanding of the material. The exams are difficult and one suspects that the average must be pretty low. But the problem is that Thaddeus does not announce averages due to the unhealthy competition it would bring about and offers no concrete indication of how you are doing in class until after the first midterm (the last date for dropping a class in CC), so Columbia College students are taking a big risk. For SEAS students, many dropped out later in the semester given the longer deadline for dropping a class. So, in conclusion, this course is for people who simply enjoy the spirit of learning and not obsessed with getting the highest grades possible to boost their GPA. This is not like high school when you can always take the hardest classes and skate by with an A, but the new stuff you learn is definitely much cooler and interesting than anything you've been exposed to previously.

Dec 2009

The course is, in a nutshell, must for math or physics major but not very much so to most other students who 'love mathematics' and want to take hard course. Especially, if you primarily want do something like econ and try to concentrate on math or applied math JUST because they are used a lot in econ, I'll say it's useless. Or if you think you are good at math and you have to take math but you do NOT want to major in math, just take calc 4 and feel good about yourselves; you will either think this is not real mathematics because it doesn't feature sharp drawings or intuitions, or give up your love of mathematics. However, this is the real math, which features rigorous proofs of everything we use. If you are going to be math major but doesn't like proofs, just bear with it, since every math class after this would be proof-oriented. The course is basically elementary analysis and algebra. It is rather challenging because it basically sets up your mathematical foundation in two semesters in a rigorous way. It's definitely not easy; another warning for those who doesn't really need those things. Grades are not that generous either, and hard work often doesn't pay off right away, but it does pay off eventually, at least I believe. If you seek only A, it could be risky. About the professor- He is a nice guy. He has some quirky sides, but they are not harmful to students and rather funny. He is not desperate to convey those intuitions and graphs like high school instructors, which could come off as being 'not good' or 'not passionate', but he does explain physical nature of definitions and theorems when needed. The course is hard, but might have been little harder if it weren't for him.

Jun 2007

Thaddeus is a nice guy who genuinely loves the subject and shows it in class. His lectures, while difficult are actually quite clear so as long as you copy down the board and pay somewhat attention as he explains it you should understand the material. The only problem is his grading setup: no homework or midterm which is really cool but since there is no graded homework it's hard to motivate yourself to do it. But you definitely should do the homework because they are a big help for his 8 30-minute pop quizzes given during class. These are really annoying because they can be unexpected and detailed. He is very proof-oriented rather than focusing on just problem solving which I found annoying. All that said I struggled with around a 50% quiz average but I studied for the final and after the curve I ended with a B in the class. Good professor if he just changes his pop quiz system.

Apr 2007

Oh my god. I usually read Culpa reviews of teachers I've had so I can see how credible Culpa actually is. This is the first time where I completely disagree with mose of the reviewers. Perhaps Math Majors love him, but I concentrate in math and I thought he was God awful. GOD AWFUL! For one, he failed so many people. His "curve" was nonexistent (and it's not like Jorgenson's Calc classes where a Curve wasn't could get a C-/D after studying for days). His tests were rididuclous. His teaching strategy was awful seeing as how he rushed through each topic and expected you to just understand what he was saying. I do NOT recommend him AT ALL!!! I pity the fool that takes Mr. T.

Mar 2007

I'll sum it up: Thaddeus is the kind of professor that math majors love, and everyone else fears. He's easily the hottest person in the math department and he's hilarious, and you will appreciate his many ways of explaining things. I loved how he tied Green's/Stokes'/Gauss' theorems together with a diagram. But his grading: oy. Nobody knew how they were doing in the class because he never announced averages on exams. I did ask a TA once, who told me that the average on the first exam was a 53% or so, and that exam was very easy compared with the second one. MThad gave vague ideas as to how you were doing in the class by giving ranges and corresponding grades afterwards--it was something like 88-100% is an A etc. We all thought he was kidding, but the curve in his class is light to say the least. I was totally blindsighted by my final grade.

Jan 2007

I agree with the previous reviewers. I did well on all of the homeworks, went to every single class, studied my ass off for the tests and practically choked on my turkey when I saw my final grade. It was a full grade and a half lower than I would reasonably expect. Yes, he is an engaging professor and seems like a really nice guy... I learned a lot but grades-wise he ate me for breakfast. merry christmas.

Jan 2007

I think the previous reviewer was a bit harsh, although there is some truth in what he/she wrote. The material in Calculus IV, especially the second half, is a good deal harder than what you've seen in earlier calculus courses, and Thaddeus perhaps makes it seem even harder than it is by asking very, very difficult questions on his exams, usually as difficult as the most difficult homework problems. I have to wonder whether anyone out of the roughly 100 students taking this course made an A. If indeed some A's were handed out, I'll bet there were not many. Thaddeus's exams were by far the hardest I've ever had, and he doesn't seem to apply much of a curve. I'm not sure what pedagogic purpose this serves other than to demoralize. You can work very, very hard in this course, diligently do all the homework, study hard for the exams, and still not do well, which seems a bit unfair. On the brighter side, I found Thaddeus an expert, engaging, even witty lecturer. I enjoyed his lectures and think they were quite helpful in reinforcing and expanding on the text. He also seems like a very nice guy. He just appears to have very high standards as to what constitutes excellence. I suppose that's his prerogative as a professor. My prerogative as a student is to try to avoid taking him in the future.

Nov 2006

I need to begin by making two things clear: math in general is somewhat difficult to teach, and Calc IV specifically is difficult in both teachable-ness and content. Thaddeus is the worst math teacher I have ever had. (Previous teachers: Ross (excellent prof) and Neel (good, slightly boring)). Thaddeus makes the material so much more difficult than it really needs to be. He ends up losing the class 10 mins into the period with his mistakes and overall poor teaching skills. I understand he was a Calc IV HONORS teacher. That is VERY different from regular Calc IV. You might think of me as a bitter student with a bad grade etc but I never finished the course with him, I dropped it. The earlier reviews are all for the proof oriented Calc IV class and Thaddeus may be a decent prof in such a class but is definitely not suited for a non-proof oriented class. In class, he basically proved things without doing real examples (this was even after I went up to him and requested it and he agreed). Proofs are interesting but you cannot take class time up completely for it especially when you are teaching a very abstract, visually oriented math class. In short, take Calc IV with another professor, dont take any basic calc class with Thaddeus. Take his proof class at your own risk =)

May 2006

i have taken 5 classes with thaddeus (too bad he went on sabbatical senior year, otherwise i might have taken more). these five semesters of "thaddeology" have helped me build a very rigorous and exciting foundation for studying higher math, and also introduced me to one particular way of thinking and talking about math. thaddeus is a very nice guy (i'm writing this because there seem to be many people who find him a little intimidating, but don't worry), very willing to answer your questions, and lectures very clearly. he encourages class participation, asking questions to the audience, and creating a question-friendly atmosphere. he lectures with notes, but not from a book, and organizes his presentations very well so that they are not that hard to follow. he is very available during office hours: i remember him answering my silly set-theory questions freshman year with the same patience as the (probably equally stupid) questions about serre duality or sheaf cohomology later on. honors 3+4: his lectures were vey engaging, and this definitely turned several students into math majors. thaddeus is a very eloquent speaker, and this actually helped my english as much as lithum did. although the lectures were fast (or so we thought), they were very funny at times: at the end of first semester, he read poetry to us, and at the end of second semester, he gave away fig newtons and leibniz cookies, to celebrate the inventors of calculus. i would say he is surely the best choice if you would like to learn calculus. topology: on we went after honors, to enjoy more thaddeo-mathematical theatre. the original plan was to take differential topology as well in the spring, but for some god-awfully trivial reason that class was cancelled. the one semester of basic topology was a very nice undergraduate class, taught at a faster pace than honors. professor thaddeus seems to work very hard (just walk by the department at 2 am and look at which offices are still lit), which suggests that he wants his students to do the same. i remember spending a lot of time on the homework assignments, maybe too much. fewer problems might have given me more time to digest the material, but then worrying about finishing homeworks is a sign of undergraduate immaturity. although the material isn't that exciting (point-set topology), this class was probably the best organized one. i have a friend who is planning on typing up the lecture notes. thus, it is probably a very good idea to take an (advanced) undergraduate course with thaddeus. commutative algebra: the journey continued, and the few undergraduates left tackled their first graduate-level class and (of course) had to struggle a lot. thaddeus' lectures were still very clear, but also very detail-heavy (maybe because of all the undergraduates there), which made some of us lose focus on the conceptual understanding of the material. he covered a lot of topics, and expected very hard work from us. but commutative algebra is a subject that never ends - maybe realizing this is far more important than knowing the few selected topics that this course taught. (i have seen the final for the same class a year later with jacquet, and it's much, much easier than ours.) algebraic geometry: only very few of the undergraduates from honors continued all the way to this course. algebraic geometry made me work harder than for most of the undergraduate courses combined. following the lectures was not too hard as usual, but the homeworks were a huge workload. during the last month, thaddeus started (finally) to not focus too much on the details, and left out various proofs. personal conclusion about grad courses: i later took other graduate courses, which emphasized the global picture of the material, and didn't focus on the local details ("the proof can be found in any book on[subject name]"). they also didn't include any homeworks, and i learned a lot more in those courses (basically from studying all day in butler - on many days, and more importantly, talking with grad students). my guess is that now, i would prefer these grad courses over thaddeus-style ones. but i also feel that taking two grad classes with thaddeus made me mathematically very mature. this maturity was absolutely necessary to get into a rhythm of properly working through, and truly beginning to grasp unknown mathematical theories and thoughts. if you feel you lack this maturity, taking a grad course with thaddeus wouldn't be a bad idea. he truly is a very amazing teacher, and columbia is lucky to have him. finally, i know that math professors read culpa a lot. thus, i would like to thank him for the very enjoyable five-semester journey!

Jan 2005

Michael Thaddeus is a terrific speaker. He gives some of the most well- presented, organized, simple, and interesting lectures on terrific topics. There is one problem with his classes, which while not minor, is not insurmountable, he doesn't deal as well with questions from students as many professors. He will always answer questions, but he can be intimidating with his responses and the aura he presents. Even so, I would still highly reccommend taking classes with Prof. Thaddeus, as he gives some of the best classes I have taken.

May 2004

Amazing Professor. Fantastic Professor. Best professor in the whole department, maybe even the whole school. Explains things really ,really well. A subject that will really turn you on to math, since it is everythign you already know from an advanced proof-oriented viewpoint.

Nov 2003

This is the first math course I've enjoyed in years. Say goodbye to computations, drills, and half-assed explanations. If you want to understand calculus, this class will make you go "ohhhhh". Be warned, however, you will be required to put in the necessary time and effort. Professor Thaddeus is organized and coherent as a lecturer. The entire class consists of definitions, theorems, and proofs, and he goes through many, many blackboards every lecture. His presentation is clear, rigorous when needed, and all-around excellent. Beware, however, that the homeworks are not easy, especially if you have never taken a proof-based course before. If you do not enjoy mathematics or prefer to ape manipulations and plug-and-chug, this is not the course for you; you need to think a lot here. I'm not sure if an engineer who has never taken MV calc before should take this class, because you don't really learn how to do the calculations. It's definitely a great math major/physics major course. Highly recommended.

Apr 2003

I just wanted to add the set of glowing reviews of this professor. He was the best teacher I had this year and quite possibly the best teacher I have ever had. The lectures are just incredibly organized and clear and he gives them in such a natural way that you get the feeling that it is effortless on his part although he obviously spent a great effort on preparing the lectures for the class. He knows just when to be rigorous and just when to be hand-wavy while always explaining what he is doing so you can understand the distinction. He is very lively and says some funny things and he always breaks the chalk.

Mar 2003

Without a doubt, the best math teacher I've ever had. He's always energetic, friendly, enthusiastic, understanding, and funny. He genuinely cares about both the students' understanding and the rigor of the logic upon which the course is based. Although I love Math, I was slightly intimidated going into an entirely proof-based class, but Thaddeus makes such an endeavor seem not only easy, but natural. I definitely struggle with the homework assignments, but I honestly don't care because I love this class so much. Every other Math class I've taken here has been completely subpar, but every day I go to this class I am reminded why I'm interested in the field and am given new insights as to how interconnected it all is. I wish he could teach every other Math class I take, because I couldn't imagine lacking the precision and comprehensiveness of Thaddeus' lectures. I only hope that I will be able to appreciate other Math professors in semesters to come. Honestly, if you don't think you're good at Math but are interested in its more theoretical aspects, definitely audit or pass/fail this class. You probably would be completely scared off by the problem sets, but honestly they're the kind of thing that are ten times easier when you don't freak out. Just interest yourself (if necessary) in the concepts and the proofs will follow naturally. This is easier said than done, of course, but my enthusiasm for Thaddeus and his course makes me unhesitant to make such idealistic statements. The only reason I dread the final is that it will be my last contact with this class. If he doesn't teach any advanced classes while I'm a student here, I might have to switch majors. Okay, I think I've made my point. Thaddeus rules.

Jan 2003

This is the class that has made me decide to major in math. This is how much I loved his class. It's 5:30 in the morning, my friends are over and I'm writing this. This class is for those diligent, yet modest minds who believe in the beauty of knowledge and proof. You'll know who you are after the first few weeks... From his flowing golden locks, to his quirky clothes, to his jovial jokes and prose reading, to his smiles, his vivacious personality only added to his truly amazing lectures. Never have I seen a person so eager to teach, but one who can teach in such an effective and congenial manner. The ambiance in class was alway one of ease, relaxation. Go to office hours. Don't go to recitation. Although the TAs are smart, they're stupidly boring and useless, although they do grade well. I mean they grade hard, but reading over your graded homework does help the most when studying. Get ready to be put to the test. Take notes (copious unhealthy amounts!!), and ASK pertinent questions. I've never put so much effort into a class before, but I've also never had such a wonderful teacher before and never have I benefited so greatly. Take him if you ever see him teaching.

Jan 2003

This class is like no other math class I've ever taken. Having done all the material it's supposed to cover was no help, except maybe having a conceptual understanding of linear algebra. There are no problems; there are only proofs. Doing the work at first was tough; high school courses really don't prepare for this completely different kind of problem. Many people drop after the first few weeks, and those who stay are antagonized by the harsh grading of nit-picking TA's. Those who have always done well in math may have trouble spending 6 hours on a problem and getting zero points for it. The excruciating detail of the grading does, however, cause students to re-check proofs, so that when the midterm does come around, they find out that they've really learned something. If you're thinking about taking this class, do it only if you're thinking about majoring in math, and only if you're willing to do the work. Copying from people in a study group all the time will kill you on the midterm. Thaddeus does a great job teaching the class; his lectures are organized so that he squeezes as much into the time as he can, so expect to write notes for the full class. Problems and proofs are often intimidating, and Thaddeus is always willing to help in office hours, and often just provides words of encouragement. He really seems to want students to do well, and to get into what they're working on. He ended the semester by reading a poem. He also seems to be one of the few in the department who speak clear English. It's probably easier for him to be the "good guy" in the class since the TA's grade everything but the exams. This class is really, really hard; I worked harder for it than any other class, but I also got the most out of it. If you decide to drop, it's not hard, and you're definitely in good company.