A picture of me.

Alex Townsend

Associate Professor

Cornell University


Malott 589



At MIT and Cornell I have taught several graduate courses as well as two undergraduate courses. My classes are designed to be challenging, interactive, and fun. I often tell the human stories behind mathematical ideas along the way. I have excellent student ratings. In 2018, I received the Junior Faculty Teaching Award for "his clear, insightful, entertaining, and compelling lecturing and for his empathy and responsiveness"

Fall 2019-2021: Undergraduate linear algebra classes

I have been teaching a range of linear algebra classes and encorporating data science related applications into the curriculum. In Fall 2021, it was part of an active learning initiative.

Spring 2020: MATH 6220. Overall student rating 5/5

A graduate course on kernel-based learning through the lens of functional analysis.

MIT OCW: Rapidly decreasing singular values

One lecture about low rank matrices in Gil Strang's 18.065 course, available on YouTube: Video

Fall 2018: MATH 2930. Overall student rating 4.17/5

An undergraduate course on differential equations for engineers involving both ODE and PDE techinques.

Spring 2018: MATH 2220. Overall student rating 4.32/5

A first-year multivariable calculus course for STEM (but not necessarily math) majors. It is a mixture of rigorous mathematical proofs and applications.

Spring 2017 and 2019: MATH 6140. Overall student rating 4.95/5

An upper-level graduate course on the top-ten algorithms from the 20th century, covering classics like the Metropolis algorithm, QR algorithm, and the fast multipole method.

Fall 2016: MATH 4250. Overall student rating 4.83/5

An upper-level undergraduate course in numerical analysis. Derrick Lin, a student from the course, made a song about some of the stuff we did in the class:
I also received a heart-warming thank you letter.

Fall 2015: 18.06. Overall student rating 6.1/7.

A service course on linear algebra with 220 students, regularly taught by Gil Strang. Here is the course webpage.


Fall 2015: 18.336. Overall student rating 6.9/7.

Small graduate course on fast numerical methods for solving PDEs and integral equations. Here is the course webpage.

Spring 2015: 18.085. Overall student rating 6.5/7.

Large graduate course for teaching computational science to engineers. Here is the course webpage.

In one class I showed the chebsnake game. Anyone can download it from here as it comes with Chebfun. (Creator: Stefan Güttel. Video is courtesy of Jenny Liu.)

Jan 2015: Approximation theory in practice

A short 3-day course on modern approximation theory.

Fall 2014: 18.336. Overall student rating 7/7.

A graduate class on fast numerical methods for solving PDEs and integral equations.

Jan 2014: KAUST WEP

Nick Hale and I ran a week-long Chebfun tutorial in the Winter Enrichment Programme (WEP) at KAUST in Jeddah.