Math 251 (Phillips): Some important information on this course

This is not the course home page or course description (the course home page is here), but rather a list of a few important things about how this course will operate which may be different from what you expect.

Contents:

The most important information

If you are having trouble getting into Math 251

If you are having trouble getting into Math 251:
  1. Keep trying to get in via DuckWeb. Places continually open up and disappear; you want to catch one before it disappears. Don't just try one class time; try all possible times. You can always try to change later.
  2. Watch for the opening of a new section of Math 251, or for the opening of a previously closed section.
  3. If you are still not in by the first day of classes, choose a section and attend that course. Keep trying to get in via DuckWeb, since people will be moving around a lot during the first few days of classes.
  4. Only after all this has failed should you approach an instructor and ask for an override. (Instructor policies on overrides vary.)

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Common final exam (sort of)

Math 251 has had a common final exam in the past, into which I had only a little input. The procedures have been changed a little since: now there is a common general form of the final exam, but with small variation allowed. I don't yet know details, and probably won't until near the end of the quarter. You should assume, though, that I have much less influence on the final exam than might be expected.

The following is the Fall 2015 official policy on grading and the common final exam, written by the course coordinator (with no input from me). It was also in effect the last time I taught this course (Spring 2016). I don't yet know what replaces it for this quarter, now that the system has been changed.

Regarding the assignment of letter grades, in order to uniformize grading standards across the many sections of MA251 we will use the following procedure. All MA251 sections will take the same final exam, which will be graded collectively by the instructors on a scale of 90=A, 80=B, 70=C, 60=D (if necessary, a curve will be decided collectively by the instructors). For any given section, the number of A/B/C/D/F grades given in the course will roughly match the corresponding number of letter grades earned on the final exam. So if a section with 20 students gets 7 As, 6 Bs, 5 Cs, and 2 Ds on the final exam, then the instructor will be allowed to award a maximum of 7 As, 6 Bs, 5 Cs, and 2 Ds for total course grades (with a little leeway allowed for borderline cases). If the instructor only felt that 5 As were appropriate, he or she could roll the extra two As down into the B bracket, and similarly for the other letter grades.

This system removes the unfairness that can result if one instructor is a very easy grader and another instructor is a very difficult grader.

Note that the system encourages and rewards strong performances on the final; if 15 students in the same class studied hard and got As on the final, then the instructor could give 15 As for the total course grade.

As a last point, in extreme cases instructors might be allowed to deviate from this system in consultation with the lead course instructor.

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No grades posted on the web

I don't use Blackboard or its replacement (Canvas). This means: (Other Math 251 instructors may use Canvas. If this is important to you, find out.)

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Pretest: midterm zero

Midterm zero is usually unique to my class. It will be review; only 20 minutes long. For those who know the material of the prerequisites, it should be an easy way to start the quarter with a high grade. See the sample posted on the course website, and read its instructions. Note in particular that calculators and note cards are not allowed, that there is no partial credit, and that it is graded on an absolute scale. Two attempts will be allowed, Monday of the second week and Monday of the third week.

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Get an old edition of the book and save money

Homework problems will be on WeBWorK, a computer system, or posted on my course website. Different editions of the textbook mainly differ in the numbering of the problems; since this doesn't matter, an older (and much cheaper) edition of the book is essentially as good as the current (expensive) edition. In fact, you can probably use a textbook by a different author covering the right topics (almost all of them do), as long as it is intended for a calculus course for scientists and engineers, treats differentiation before integration, and you can figure out which sections contain the material being treated at any time in class. (Ask me if you have questions. I don't know the other textbooks, so you would have to bring me a book you have questions about.)

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Additional important information

No calculators

Calculators are prohibited on exams and quizzes.

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Correct notation is part of the grade

Using correct notation throughout will be part of your grade. Many students are careless with notation. More information on notation is here. I suggest reading it now.

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I don't read html or encoded email or Microsoft Word documents

I read only plain text email--no encoding, no html, no Microsoft Word documents, etc. More information in the course description, or here. See this page for how to send math questions in plain text email.

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This page maintained by N. Christopher Phillips, email. Please email plain text (7 bit ASCII) only (no web page coded files, Microsoft Word documents, binary characters, etc.; see here for more).

Last significant change 26 March 2016.