Math 251 (Phillips)

This is the home page for N. C. Phillips' section of Math 251 at the University of Oregon, Fall quarter 2017 (CRN 13749).

Quick links:


Read this first

First read the important information about this course. Contents:

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Summary of updates (most recent first)

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Basic course information

This section contains administrative information. See below for information on learning objectives, the syllabus, exams, homework, grading, academic conduct, course documents, and important dates.

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Learning objectives

A pdf version of the learning objectives is here (TeX). It has better formatting for the mathematical expressions, and a little more information.

The single largest course goal is:

Much of the other material covered in this course is necessary for that objective. So subgoals include: Other goals include other applications of the derivative, as well as correct notation.

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This course will cover most of Chapters 2--4 of the textbook. Chapter 1 will be assumed to be known.

The following is an approximate schedule. Adjustments may be made as we go through the quarter.

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Exam and review session schedule

Exam policies for Midterm 0

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 (together with other information) (assigned as homework in the first week of classes), 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.

Complaints about the grading of any exam must be submitted in writing by the beginning of the first class period after the class in which that exam is returned.

Items (4) (answers must be simplified) and (6) (use correct notation) of the general instructions for written homework also apply to Midterm 0.

Exam policies for all exams except Midterm 0

All exams are cumulative, although they will usually emphasize the most recent material. All exams will cover material through the most recently turned in homework. No calculators or other electronic devices will be permitted on any exam. In particular, no electronic dictionaries will be permitted on any exam.

At least 80% of the points on each of Midterms 1 and 2 will be based on homework problems, on problems on separate supplementary lists (including sample exams), and on problems from all versions of Midterm 0. (I don't know about the final: I have much less say about exactly what is on it.) Note that numbers may be changed in these problems. Similarly variable names, function names, and names of people etc. in word problems may be changed. Thus, f(x) = 2x^3 could become any of f(x) = -4 x^3, f(x) = 2x^{-4}, g(x) = 2x^3, or f(t) = 2t^3. Such changes might turn a local maximum into a local minimum or result in other such reversals.

Complaints about the grading of any exam must be submitted in writing by the beginning of the first class period after the class in which that exam is returned.

Except where obviously inapplicable (such as in the parts about working with other people, or where explicitly contradicted by exam instructions), the general instructions for written homework also apply to exams.


Canvas will not be used. You should keep track of your own scores.

More information will be posted here later, including the possibility of partial point recovery on midterms (but not the final exam).

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There will be two kinds of homework. Quick links: WeBWorK; list containing links to written homework (and other documents).

Paper assignments (written homework)

Paper assignments will be turned in to me at the beginning of the class period in which they are due. Links to them are in the list of publicly available documents associated with this course. Most of them will probably be graded by a homework grader. Read the separate Instructions for written homework (pdf); here is a brief summary of the most important points: Here is a list of links for homework assignments. They won't work until the relevant assignment is posted; the links here will only be posted when they are working.
  1. Week 1 homework and solutions.
  2. Week 2 homework and solutions.
  3. Week 3 homework and solutions.
  4. Week 4 homework and solutions.
  5. Week 5 homework and solutions.
  6. Week 6 homework and solutions.
  7. Week 7 homework and solutions.
  8. Week 8 homework and solutions.
  9. Week 9 homework and solutions.
  10. Week 10 homework and solutions.


Assignments using WeBWorK will be done on the internet, here. Your WeBWorK account name is your UO email account name (without the "" part), and your password is the one you use for things like University of Oregon email. Thus, if your UO email address is "" and your password is "IHateSpam", your WeBWorK account name will be "lqwang" and your password will be "IHateSpam".

Due dates for WeBWorK assignments are as specified online, and the day of the week will vary.

The login page will fail with no explanation if cookies are off, and WeBWorK will fail if JavaScript is off. (To protect privacy, I advise deleting all cookies after you are done, for this site or anywhere else. I also advise turning JavaScript off when you leave the site.) The WeBWorK home page has links to all Fall 2017 UO courses using WeBWorK, and login instructions.

Warning: In the past there have sometimes been problems with the WeBWorK server. Most such problems are fairly minor: it is down for a few hours or overnight. Occasionally there have been much more serious problems, for example, no access for a week, completed homework lost, etc. Most quarters, nothing like this happens.

Advantages of WeBWorK:

Disadvantages of WeBWorK:

Some warnings:

About the homework:

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Grading percentages

Grading percentages:

The final exam results may limit what grades I can give

Math 251 has had a common final exam in the past. 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.

Course grade limited by final exam grade

Independently of the provisions described above for the common final exam, the course grade will not be more than one letter grade above the final exam grade.

Extra credit

There will probably be extra credit problems on the midterms. They will only be counted if you get a grade of B or better on the main part of the exam. There will probably be no extra credit problems on the final exam.

I will also award extra credit points to the first two people who catch any particular error or misprint in the book or in any of the handouts, in particular, in solutions to midterms, homework, etc. The largest amount of extra credit is given for catching mathematical mistakes. You must point out exactly where the mistake is, and how it should be fixed.

There will also be extra credit for getting perfect scores on both administrations of Midterm zero.

Extra credit will count toward the grade only for those who consistently do the homework reasonably, and only for those whose grade in the course would be at least a B- without it.

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Academic conduct

The code of student conduct and community standards is here. In this course, it is appropriate to help each other on homework as long as the work you are submitting is your own and you understand it, and, on written homework, you give the names of any people you cooperated with. It is not appropriate to help each other on exams, to look at other students' exams, or to bring unauthorized material to exams.

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Publicly available documents associated with this course

Here is a list of publicly available documents associated with this course. The material is arranged in approximate chronological order: most recent items at the bottom. Links to written homework solutions, exams, and exam solutions will not work until after the corresponding written homework has been turned in or the corresponding exam has been given, and the links to sample exams and their solutions will not work until these items have been prepared.

Most files will be pdf.

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Important dates, according to the registrar's office (not guaranteed!)

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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 above for more).

Last significant change: 24 September 2017.