Math 250A - Fall 2009
Calculus and Differential Equations I

University of Arizona

Course Website

Basic Information

In-Class Notes

This link leads you to the page housing pdf of the daily class notes. Updated regularly, so check back frequently.


Over the course both semesters of Math 250, we will aim to make extensive use of computers to perform various types of calculations relevant to calculus and differential equations (e.g., numerically integrate a hard-to-solve ODE in order to obtain an approximate solution). The primary goal is two-fold. First, the computer can help provide insight and intuition into the underlying mathematical concepts encountered during the course. Second, you will essentially write your own programs, allowing you to directly specify the operations the computer performs. Ideally, the computer becomes less of a black box and more of a tool to extend your ability to essentially explore. While previous coding experience is not necessary, any you might have (e.g., Java, HTML) will likely be useful. Our primary means of interface to the computer will be via a well-known/developed package called Matlab.

In spirit, Math 250 is not promoting the specific use of Matlab per se. But it is a fairly high-level language (as opposed to something like assembly language, or the somewhat more accessible language C) and does much of the work for you 'behind the scenes'. Thus Matlab is a good candidate for folks relatively new to any type of programming. Furthermore, Matlab is widely-used and will thus likely be of great use to you in some form or another for future endeavors (e.g., there is a good chance you will see it in future classes, thus previous experience will likely be quite advantageous) . Thus time spent now learning its use will likely be time well spent.

Matlab is available for use on many computers around campus, including those found in the libraries as well as Math room 101. Furthermore, students with their own computer (PC, Mac or Linux) can download the full version of Matlab to their own computers via a license agreement the UofA has with the developer Mathworks. This is a very nice resource to have at your finger tips and are strongly encouraged to download the software for your own use. This link will take you the UofA page with information regarding how to download the software (you will ultimately need to use your Net ID and password to access the relevant material). It requires a bit of work/patience (plus memory; the entire package including all the 'toolboxes' is a few GB). A couple tips:

The needed syntax will be presented/discussed as we progress. Some basic Matlab links/codes are included below simply for reference to see how certain types of things are done:

Matlab Projects (also see the Assignments page)

'Practical' 250A Pre-Requisites

Students coming into 250A are expected to have knowledge of the main topics covered in Calculus I (which is MATH 124/125 here at the UofA). From the course text (Hughes-Hallet et al.), this includes chapters 1.1-1.8, 2.1-2.6, 3.1-3.9, 4.1-4.3, 4.5-4.8, 5.1-5.4, and 6.1-6.5. This material will serve at the foundation to some extent for 250A. Spelling these topics out more explicitly, students coming into 250A are expected to feel comfortable with the following:
You will also find useful review info (both for 124/125 and 129) at the department's calculus webpage. This page contains study guides, review problems and useful links. Take some time to review past material and please come see me if you have reservations or might be nervous with regard to the material listed above.

Special Note (for life science and integrated science students)

While our focus over the course of 250 is providing you with a firm mathematical foundation (in calculus and differential equations), we will draw some context from a number of real world applications as well. In particular, we will use numerous example stemming from the rapidly-evolving life sciences*, which provides diverse and rich examples of complex/nonlinear/statistical/etc.... types of problems. While students of any major can take this class (with regard to future math pre-requisites), we strongly encourage students in the life sciences (or even just an interest in the life sciences!) to take 250A&B as it will hopefully help to start illuminate the deep underlying connections between biology and mathematics (a useful perspective to have for your future endeavors!). These connections carry over to numerous other courses that will likely be of interest to you down the road (e.g., Math 363 and Physiology 472).

* - life sciences is a very broadly defined term and comprises many different fields of study, such as: molecular/cellular/micro/systems biology, biomedical engineering, bioinformatics, medicine, biophysics, etc... (just to list a few)

Note: There are a handful of links at the bottom of this webpage that might be of interest to those in the life sciences.

Several Important Dates

  • Tentative Course Schedule: here (pdf)

  • Weekly quizzes (M) - (typically on Fridays)

  • 8.24.09 (M) - First day of classes
  • 8.31.09 (M) - Last day to add a class
  • 9.7.09 (M) - Labor Day (no class)
  • 9.18.09 (F) - Drop date
  • 10.16.09 (F) - Last day to drop with a W (see below)
  • 11.11.09 (W) - Veteran's Day (no classe)
  • 11.26-27.09 (Th-F) - Thanksgiving Break (no classes)
  • 12.9.09 (W) - Last day of classes

  • See below for exam dates. Note that there will be no makeups for missed exams!


    There will be 650 total possible points in the course. Point breakdowns are as follows: Final grades will be no lower than as listed below:

    HW Assignments (WebAssign)

    Click here on the ASSIGNMENTS link to get current info on assignments and WebAssign updates

    Homework problems will be assigned regularly and graded. Some will be graded online (see below), others will have to be turned in and graded by hand. Weekly quizzes (likely every Friday typically) based on homework assignments will be given in class on a weekly basis. A final score, equivalent to 100 points, will be computed from the homework and quiz results. For each assignment, homework and quiz will each contribute to 50% of the homework score. Only the 10 best homework scores will be kept.

    Online homework will be assigned and collected via WebAssign. Here is some WebAssign information that you will probably find useful. Using WebAssign will allow you to gain important practice in terms of solving problems and gaining insight into the nature of the material. These assignments will be supplemented with quizzes given in class each week.

  • Here is what you will need when you log on to webassign for the first time:
  • You will need an access code for Webassign. This code either comes with your textbook (Hughes-Hallet book, if you purchase it at the UofA bookstore) or is available online on the webassign page. It costs 19.95 (per semester).

  • This link has helpful WebAssign tips.

    Exams (tentative dates; potentially subject to change)

  • Exam 1: Wednesday, Sept.16 2009
  • Exam 2: Wednesday, Oct.14 2009
  • Exam 3: Wednesday, Nov.25 2009

  • *** Final Exam *** : Friday, Dec. 18, 8-10 AM
    Location: ILC 125 (NOTE: this is our regular MWF classroom)
    More details can be found on the HW assignment page.
    During the exams, all electronic devices (particularly cell phones) must be turned off. Silence and vibration modes are not allowed. While calculators are allowed for the exam, you can not swap a calculator with another student.

    As indicated in the course policy below, no makeup exams will be given. It is very important that you are present in class for the three exams and the final (as these determine more than 80% of your final grade!). Exceptions in extreme cases may be granted, but only upon prior approval.

    Course Policy

  • Incomplete Grades: The grade of I will be awarded if all of the following conditions are met: For general information on grades and the grading system, see the University Policy.

  • Classroom Conduct: Students at The University of Arizona are expected to conform to the standards of conduct established in the Student Code of Conduct. Prohibited conduct includes:
    1. All forms of student academic dishonesty, including cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism.
    2. Interfering with University or University-sponsored activities, including but not limited to classroom related activities, studying, teaching, research, intellectual or creative endeavor, administration, service or the provision of communication, computing or emergency services.
    3. Endangering, threatening, or causing physical harm to any member of the University community or to oneself or causing reasonable apprehension of such harm.
    4. Engaging in harassment or unlawful discriminatory activities on the basis of age, ethnicity, gender, handicapping condition, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status, or violating University rules governing harassment or discrimination.

    Students found to be in violation of the Code are subject to disciplinary action.

  • Academic Integrity: Students are responsible to be informed of University policies regarding the Code of Academic Integrity. Students found to be in violation of the Code are subject to sanctions that will be determined by the severity of the infraction. The Code of Academic Integrity will be enforced in all areas of the course, including projects, tests, and homework.

  • Students Who Require Reasonable Accommodations Based on Disability: Students planning to use accommodations for this course should privately identify themselves to their instructor within the first few days of class. These students must also provide the instructor with a letter of identification from the Disability Resource Center. This letter should include information about any accommodation that will be needed for the class, including accommodations for test taking. Students are also invited to discuss specific issues with the course instructor during regular office hours or by appointment.

  • Withdrawal Dates:

  • Helpful Slides

    Below are class slides (in pdf form) created by Prof. Jim Cushing for Math 250A (Fall 2007). That class has parallels to those here for 250A (Fall 2009) and thus these slides cover much of the same material we do. You are encouraged to look these over as a supplement to your class notes and readings from the book. You will likely find them of great help in learning this material. As the semester progresses, I will continue to post relevant slides here for you to view.

    Useful Links

    Of interest to those in the life sciences.....

    Plated lizards (Gerrhosaurus flavigularis)