Still climbing onto the shoulders of giants

It was year 2005/2006: I was taking further maths in JC under Mr Wee when he showed some video clips about linear algebra (what we were learning about at that time) to us during lecture. In addition to the math content I also remembered how he told us about this initiative by MIT, the OpenCourseWare, where some course content (including video lectures) from the university were being uploaded and made available for free to the public. Thinking back, this was pretty remarkable (youtube was still in its infancy). I recall at that time, finding the experience pretty interesting (MIT is nerd heaven after all, so there’s the brand name recognition. Plus the video lecture was challenging but engaging: something I’d sure hope to experience when I get to university), but that’s about it. After all, who has time during JC do much more on top of academic and social life!

JC came and went, and then the army and university. I have mainly forgotten about those videos until I was preparing for my masters program. I tried to fill in the gaps in my mathematical knowledge as I was transitioning from an engineering degree to mathematics (having mainly been exposed to only calculus/analysis and combinatorics/graph theory during my undergraduate days). After a bit of research, I happened onto the same linear algebra videos on MIT OpenCourseWare from all those years. This was a time where HD videos were just starting to get popular and more and more universities are starting to put up their material online (I myself have just finished an online course on programming with Python on Udacity while procrastinating on my final year project). So the video, at least the technical aspects (like the resolution), were dated. But the content material was fantastic and Professor Gilbert Strang (the lecturer for the linear algebra course) immediately vaulted himself into my personal list of favorite professors for the way they taught and made you think about rather deep concepts.

So that period of time came and went as well, as with my masters program and I’m now some years into tutoring full time. It certainly piqued my interest when I saw Professor Strang bubble up my youtube feed a few days ago with a newly uploaded video from MIT OpenCourseWare. “Intro: A New Way to Start Linear Algebra”. I didn’t need to take much convincing to click it to check it out. Sure brings back those fond memories of learning for me. Professor Strang has aged considerably since I first saw him (it’s been 15 years or so!) but it’s nice to see him still healthy and sharp and engaging as ever. And it’s so motivational, to find that after so many years, he’s found a new way to approach the topic (when his original way was already pretty darn good!) that brings about further insight into the subject.

And that brought about a round of personal reflection on my side. As I get better at my craft I’ve also been dabbling into some side projects (this website being one of them, with recording youtube videos and working on an app the more recent ones) the past couple of years. The recent circuit breaker measures, while making lessons and teaching in general slightly more challenging, has also given me more time to devote to these projects. Let’s hope I’d eventually get around to even a fraction of what Prof Strang has been able to accomplish as I continually improve myself in this pursuit of mathematics/teaching.

Check out the Professor Strang’s lectures yourself here: