Linear Algebra and 559

by Mike Gleicher on August 27, 2014

Linear algebra is an important mathematical foundation for computer graphics. You can’t escape it. It will come up in our very first lectures, and probably won’t leave.

Historically, we have made linear algebra a pre-requisite for CS559. We are not any more. We are going to teach you a little bit of linear algebra so that you can get by in the class.

Not requiring linear algebra in 559 is an experiment. If you feel like your lack of a linear algebra background is getting in the way of learning graphics (for example, if I use some linear terms or concepts in class without explaining them, or if I ask you to do something that I haven’t told you how to do, please let me know.

Please keep reminding me that I cannot assume that you know linear algebra, but rather, than I have to teach you the parts that you need.

That said, we will teach you linear algebra quite differently than you might learn it in a math class. We’re only going to use a few of the most basic concepts. And we’re going to focus on the geometric intuitions of what things mean in space, rather than the mathematical details. Don’t expect me to show you any proofs. You will also notice that I am a little sloppy with the details.

If you haven’t learned linear algebra before, then hopefully you will learn enough to get by in 559. And having the basic intuitions may inspire you to learn things in a more formal way.

If you have learned linear algebra before, then hopefully seeing it again will be a decent refresher. For many people, a math class tells you how to do things and lots of the formalities, but not the intuitions (that was the case for my linear algebra class in college). And maybe you can make it more interesting for yourself by trying to help others in the class.

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