This course is very thorough and challenging.The learning curve could be steep at times,but don't get frustrated.
The problem sets are structured to deepen your understanding of the materials.I partially completed it a year before,but taking it again makes me realize how important it is to review according to the forgetting curve. The course support is excellent too!
When you struggle with problem sets that "threatens" to fill your weekends,say this to yourself:
"Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands. Instead of doing what we’re good at, we should insistently seek out what we’re not good at. Then we identify the painful, difficult activities that will make us better and do those things over and over. If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and they would not distinguish the best from the rest. The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people won’t do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more." – by Geoff Colvin from "Talent is Overrated"
In China,math is the ticket to a good life.Most Chinese children from middle class background (actually, even Chinese parents who struggle to make ends meet would put their child's education above everything) have at least been exposed to Olympiad-level math by the age of 10 since it gives them a significant edge in the city-wide middle-school admission. I opted out of the program at the age of 11 after two years of understanding every word but not the whole sentence emerged out of the thin mouth of the teacher with a sphinxlike smile at the specialized weekend school for math and staying up to 1 am with my grandma (who also struggled to solve 5th grade Olympiad math problems despite graduating from medical school and generally considered intelligent) to finish assignments when everybody else seemed to do well in the class and had a normal childhood.
I need to point out that despite the tragic aura of my story, according to some of my friends,the specialized math program are the best part about childhood;it made them feel special or that they got where they are because of the foundational experience.
In China,contrary to the US,to be cool and popular,you need to excel in math and science.Your life depends on it.I can't think of one single guy whom a lot of girls have crushes is not a certified academic superstar.Caveat:From zero to one,look is still critical.
It was also the year that I started thinking about finding my comparative advantage in a zero-sum game (school admission) teeming with math geniuses who swallow math books with the same voracity I read fictions.I haven't found out yet.Talk about inequality.
I went to an okish middle school and worked so hard in the first two years that I have not been able to approach the same intensity. I neglected personal hygiene to memorize one more English word or solve one more physics problem.During our mandatory morning run around the playground (800 meters) ,I took my Chinese textbook with me so I could squeeze another poem into my hippocampus.I used torchlight during compulsory school talent show to read. I threatened to cut myself when my mom forced me to go to nonacademic events.Unsurprisingly,I was routinely the top ten in a class of 550 people.Thinking back,I was driven by fear that I would become mediocre like the rest of my peers.Chinese education system is engineered in such as way that a student is encouraged to link her self-worth with academic achievement.It could cause tremendous distress to those who have less than stellar grades.
After getting in the best high school in a city of 10 million people,I got 71/100 on the first physics midterm,which was way below the class average of 80.I remember asking the student who got 100 about how he did it.He said that he simply studied two weeks in advance and did all the problems in all the available practice books(like 4).Remember that our course load for tenth grade is 9 classes.Even if he was not smarter than me (at least in physics) before he did all the practice problems,he definitely was smarter after putting 10 more hours each week on the subject for 3 months.Now he's a physics major in a prestigious university in China.
Physics and maths,except at the Olympiad-level,is solely a matter of will and hard work. There is no talent to speak of, since the materials are presented in such a way that a person with a normal brain has enough processing power to understand and apply.
Enough personal background. My point is that even though I had certified intellectual disability at the age of 11*,it helped me build up a high tolerance for the very real physical pains of making incremental progresses on grasping abstract concepts or solving hard problems.
In an age of increasing distraction and automation, the only way to stay competitive is to work with the problems that you want to bang your head against the wall.That's the right level of intellectual challenge that will rewire your brain and make you a better problem solver.
*In the ultra-competitive Chinese system,not being exceptionally talented and hardworking could be considered a handicap since you are not gonna get in the best middle school and so on;the best universities in China has admission rate like 0.001 to 1 percent depending on whether you are from Beijing or not since universities differ only in selectiveness;the hardest to get in is the best.