Mathematical Programming is conceptually easy, but the graders and TA's will take off a lot of points for mistakes. I actually enjoyed going to lectures except when we did proofs that were never seen again for the whole hour, which you can just read and understand on your own. Grades seem to be too subjective in the sense there are several ways to approach a problem so TA's are likely to give back points for regrade. The first average of the midterm was an 80, the second was a 90, and then final was an 80. Obviously the material is not difficult, but you have to work to keep up with the average. Curve was nice: final grade >= 96 ---> A+ 90<=final grade<96 ---->A 84.5<=final grade<90--->A- 80<=final grade<84.5--->B+ 75.5<=final grade<80--->B 69<=final grade<75.5--->B- 65<=final grade<69 ---->C final grade<65 ----->C-
Professor Chudnovsky was a good professor. Not terribly exciting (she also taught this class at 9 AM), but in terms of transferring what she knew to your head, she was excellent. Her lectures were very organized, and had plenty of examples. Just make sure to get all of the general steps of each algorithm. Her midterms were ridiculously early though: the first one was after four lectures. She also doesn't appear to be the most approachable person.
Chudnovsky was not as bad as I thought she was going to be. Granted her lectures were only mildly useful (she's not very good at teaching and she usually makes mistakes), the course itself is very easy and if you take the time to understand it, you will do well. The best thing to do is to do the homework every week and become well-acquainted with the techniques. The textbook is just as useless as Chudnovsky is by the way so your success in the class basically depends the quality of your TAs. We had one really great TA so those of us who went to her office hours every week did fine. This was the end curve: X>97 A+ 90<=X<=97 A 86<=X<=89 A- 81<=X<=85 B+ 76<=X<=80 B 71<=X<=75 B- 66<=X<=70 C+ 60<=X<=65 C X<60 C- Not to shabby; the average was 85. Basically, they keys to success are: 1. Do and learn the homework! If you do this then you won't need to study much in the end. 2. DO NOT MAKE SILLY MISTAKES ON THE EXAMS. The exam averages are usually pretty high and a lot of people score in the 90s. If you make a silly mistake, its probably going to cost you 15 points. Ridiculous. 3. Go to office hours.
The class was definitely a math class, though I happen to know that the curriculum of the other graph theory class is equally un-applied (it is much easier though). If you are interested in Graph Theory specifically, you should definitely take it. Maria Chudnovsky is one of the rising stars of the field. As a teacher, she's decent. Her lectures are solid and she takes time to go over things twice if they're difficult. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of information sometimes means that problems on the homework call for answers that came from peripheral facts in class. In addition, the most difficult theorems she proves in class are almost impossible to wrap your head around the first time hearing them - they take up multiple blackboards and take some deep thinking to grasp. Homeworks are proof-based and reviewed upon handing in with students giving the solutions. These review sessions were semi-helpful, and Maria elucidated the worse-written proofs. Still, I sometimes slept through this part a little. The class when I took it was over a third PhD and masters students, so as an undergrad I was pretty intimidated. I had the impression that Maria and her TA would have given a lot of help if I had sought it more aggressively, but I didn't end up doing so. Overall: A very solid course, with a nice and helpful teacher. If you don't mind the math orientation and fairly high level of difficulty, you should definitely take it.
This course started off with really basic things but moved along very quickly, covering a broad range of material at quite a deep level. Seemed that we were getting definitions in one class, and moving on to prove some famous/important theorem the next. We got homework every 1.5 weeks or so on average, and the professor would get students to volunteer to share their answers with the class on the board, which was quite an interesting exercise. Prof Chudnovsky is brilliant and really knows her stuff. This comes across in her lucid explanations, and her live critiques of students' proofs. (Though it was sometimes cringe inducing to see a poor soul's proof being shredded to bits in front of the whole class, I can understand that it was good training for graph theorist wanabbes.) She's also very approachable and willing to explain really basic stuff if asked. Its not an easy course to get an A in, especially if you don't have some previous experience with mathematical proofs (speaking from experience here). But I'd recommend it if you're looking to learn something interesting and be intellectually inspired.
Material: Don't be mislead by the cross-listing as CSOR, this is a MATH class all the way, taught by a math person. You won't learn how to solve any real world problems using graph theory by taking this class. By "application" Prof. Chudnovsky means proving a theorem using another theorem instead of proving it only from first principles, she doesn't mean applications in real world problems. I even had an interview where having seen this course on my resume, I was asked a very reasonable (for someone who has taken a CSOR graph theory class) applied question which of course I couldn't answer properly as we totally skipped that in the class, and what was an otherwise decent interview got spoilt. Needless to say I wasn't picked for the next round and I have now actually knocked the course off of my resume. So, unless you are a math major or theoretical computer science Ph.D. student or some equivalent thereof in another department, this course is just going to be a wasted effort in terms of time and money. Probably the CS version of the class is a better option if you are a CS student or have spare electives left in OR. Grading: We were told in class that "75 is a good score in this class" and also that "you shouldn't worry too much about your grades, I know it's an advanced course, so I won't be doing averages and curves, [although it's not officially on the grading rubric] participation will count". Assuming that 75 was indeed an A-, if you end up a point or 2 short at the end of the day, don't expect to be bumped up even if you have a 100% attendance (there were only 16 students and Prof. Chudnovsky handed back homeworks in class, so she definitely knew who is who and how regularly they came to class). In summary, appearances are deceptive, Prof. Chudnovsky has a very sugary sweet personality, but when time to assign grades comes along she can be cold hearted and mean.
I was terrified of Maria after reading the two reviews about her on CULPA. In my experience, she is nothing like that. She is not only an amazing mathematician, but a charismatic, compassionate, and funny person. I was scared to take the class because I was the youngest student in the class, and she was very kind and helped me work through issues that were probably rudimentary. She probably realized that I wanted to work to do well in the course, and that is why she supported me. If you get a chance to take a class with her, I would highly recommend that you do so. She is currently one of the most illustrious individuals in her field, and can elucidate the beauty hidden within graph theory.
I completely agree with the above review. The class as a whole is curved, and so even if you don't have those random points taken off here and there you still are not guaranteed a good grade. The average on the first midterm, two standard deviations above the average on the second midterm, and one standard deviation above the average on the final still resulted in a B- for the class. Consider yourself warned.
I'm going to cut right to the chase, and tell you that this is not so much a review as a warning. Maria is not good person. In fact, I felt myself becoming religious for the wrong reasons: I wanted her to rot in hell and suffer an eternity of some kind of torment. Here's the thing. Her exams are extremely easy if you study the material at all. However, the course is curved around something, so you expect that something fishy is going to happen. Something very fishy happens. Her TA's begin taking points of for extremely silly things. Oh, did you not detail every tiny step you took to get to the answer? 5 points off. Oh, you didn't name the method you are using to answer the question, even though it's bloody obvious what you're doing? Take 5 more. See my point? The class is curved around how good you are at predicting what random thing they are going to take points off for next. If you are reading this review before taking her class, then you are lucky. You can simply avoid this non-sense by writing down every tiny detail, just to be on the safe side. If you do talk to her, as I've heard many people have done, you will not get the slightest sympathy. Not that I expect any, since I understand she cares nothing about what I think. But there's something cold about the way she talks and looks at you, that reminds me particularly of a venomous snake. Anyway, I digress. Just don't bother talking to her or her TA. He's this snooty French guy, who despises you stupid Americans.