General Information

Title: MA2550: Calculus I
Time: MWF 9:05-9:55AM, T 12:30-1:45PM
Location: Hyde 314 (MWF), Boyd 144 (T)

Course Information and Policies


A satisfactory grade in MA2140 or Level 3 placement on the PSU Placement Test with high school precalculus mathematics. Note: if credit has been granted for either MA2490 or MA2500 (Applied Calculus I or Applied Calculus II, respectively), consent of the Mathematics Chair is required in order to receive credit for this class.

Course Description

A first calculus course concentrating on limits, continuity, the derivative and integration. Applications are made to classical problems in physics and other sciences. We will occasionally make use of software packages, like Sage, which is capable of doing symbolic mathematics.


We will be using Calculus: Early Transcendentals, 7th edition (Thomson/Brooks Cole) by James Stewart. In addition, we will be using WebAssign, which is an online homework system. You have four options for purchasing the textbook; each of which comes bundled with WebAssign. For more information, go here.

I expect you to be reading the textbook. I will not be covering every detail of the textbook and the only way to achieve a sufficient understanding of the material is to be digesting the reading in a meaningful way. You should be seeking clarification about the material in the textbook whenever necessary by asking questions in class or posting questions to the course forum.


The primary objective of this course is to aid students in becoming confident and competent in solving problems that require techniques developed in calculus. Successful completion of MA2550 provides students with skills necessary for upper division mathematics courses, such as MA2560: Calculus II. In general, calculus is a study of functions. The main tools are differentiation, which measures instantaneous change in a function, and integration, which gauges the cumulative effect of that change. The crowning achievement of first semester calculus is the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, which explains how differentiation and integration are related. Students will have a working understanding of limits and continuity. Students will also be able to utilize various techniques to differentiate and integrate numerous functions including trigonometric functions. In addition, students will understand and be able to apply the Mean Value Theorem, the First and Second Derivative Tests, and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus in both theoretical problems and applications. Also, the purpose of any mathematics class is to challenge and train the mind. Learning mathematics enhances critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Quantitative Reasoning Connection (QRCO)

MA2550 satisfies the Quantitative Reasoning Connection (QRCO) requirement of the PSU General Education Program. Students will enhance their ability to analyze quantitative material, and use quantitative techniques to solve problems.

From the course catalog: Mathematics finds application in all fields of scholarship. All disciplines make use of quantitative reasoning in some way and to some extent.

Students take a three-credit Quantitative Reasoning (Q) course specified as required for their major. This course may be taught within the major discipline or not. It might teach quantitative techniques used as primary or secondary tools within the discipline or might be a course in which students of less quantitative disciplines come to deepen their appreciation of the relevance of quantitative reasoning to us all.


We will have two types of homework assignments.

You are allowed and encouraged to work together on homework. However, each student is expected to turn in their own work.


There will be 3 midterm exams, which are tentatively scheduled for the following Tuesdays: September 27, October 25, and November 22. Each exam will be worth 15% of your overall grade. There will also be a cumulative final exam, which will be on Tuesday, December 13 at 11:00am–1:30PM (note: I'm using our Tuesday at 12:30–1:45PM time slot to determine when our final exam is). The final exam is worth 15% of your overall grade. Make-up exams will only be given under extreme circumstances, as judged by me. In general, it will be best to communicate conflicts ahead of time.


A few times during the semester I will assign small group projects, which we will call labs. Often the labs will be completed during class time, but occasionally some work may need to be completed outside of class. Some of the labs will be used to reinforce or synthesize previously introduced concepts while others may be used to introduce new concepts. Some of the labs will utilize mathematics software such as Sage, which is capable of doing symbolic mathematics. There will be 3--5 labs during the semester and each lab is worth 10 points. Your overall lab score will be worth 5% of your final grade.


I expect you to participate and engage in class discussion. Moreover, I will occasionally ask for volunteers (or call students) to present problems at the board. No one should have anxiety about being able to present a perfect solution to a problem. In fact, we can gain so much more from the discussion surrounding a slightly flawed solution. However, students should not volunteer to present a problem that they have no spent time thinking about. Most student presentations will occur on Tuesdays and will center around the problems chosen for Weekly Write-ups. Your overall participation, in particular your willingness to present, will be worth 5% of your overall grade.


Regular attendance is expected and is vital to success in this course, but you will not explicitly be graded on attendance. Yet, repeated absences may impact your participation grade (see above). All students should be familiar with the university attendance policy which can be found here.

Basis for Evaluation

Your final grade will be determined by the scores of your homework, labs, exams, and final exam.

Category Weight Notes
Daily Homework 15% each assignment has equal weight regardless of length
Weekly Write-ups 15% each assignment worth 10 points
Exam 1 15% Tuesday, September 27
Exam 2 15% Tuesday, October 25
Exam 3 15% Tuesday, November 22
Labs 5% each lab worth 10 points
Participation 5% based on your presentations and engagement in class discussions
Final Exam 15% Tuesday, December 13 at 11:00am–1:30pm

Grade Determination

Grades may be "massaged" at the end of the semester, but in general you should expect the grades to adhere to the standard letter-grade cutoffs.

Additional Information

About Calculators and Other Technology

I am a huge fan of technology and believe that when it is used appropriately, it can greatly enhance one's learning experience. However, when learning, technology should never replace one's own amazing cognitive abilities. When we are discussing concepts in class or when you are doing homework, you should feel free to use whatever resources you feel will help you understand the concepts better. So, feel free to use things like Sage, Wolfram|Alpha, your graphing calculator, etc. when doing homework. However, be warned that I am much more interested in the process by which you arrived at your answer than the answer itself. An answer to a homework, lab, or exam question that is correct but lacks justification may be worth little to no points. If you understand a concept, then barring a silly computational error, the correct answer comes along for the ride. Yet, getting the correct answer does not imply that you understand anything! You are not required to purchase a graphing calculator nor will you need them on any of the exams. However, you will be allowed to use a graphing calculator on exams as long as the calculator does not include a computer algebra system (CAS). If you decide to purchase a graphing calculator, I recommend the TI-83 or TI-83 Plus. If you have questions about whether a particular calculator is appropriate or allowed, please ask. I will not spend class time discussing how to use a graphing calculator.

Getting Help

There are many resources available to get help. First, I recommend that you work on homework in groups as much as possible, and to come see me whenever necessary. Also, you are strongly encouraged to ask questions in the course forum on our Moodle page, as I will post comments there for all to benefit from.

To effectively post to the course forum, you will need to learn the basics of LaTeX, the standard language for typesetting in the mathematics community. See the Quick LaTeX guide for help with $\LaTeX$. If you need additional help with $\LaTeX$, post a question in the course forum on our Moodle page.

Also, you can always .

Math Activity Center

You can also visit the Math Activity Center, which is located in Hyde 351. This student-run organization provides peer tutoring services for most 1000 and 2000 level math courses and some 3000 level courses. Tutors are typically math majors interested in teaching math and practicing their instructional skills. You can drop in anytime during open hours.

Student Handbook

The PSU Student Handbook addresses policies pertaining to students with disabilities, religious observation, honor code, general conduct, etc. The Handbook can be found here.

ACT for Growth

All teacher education majors are subject to the Areas of Concern/Targets for Growth policy, which is located here.

ADA Statement

Plymouth State University is committed to providing students with documented disabilities equal access to all university programs and facilities. If you think you have a disability requiring accommodations, you must register with the PASS office in Lamson Library (535-2270). If you have a Letter of Academic Accommodation for this course from the PASS office, please provide the instructor with that information privately so that the accommodations can be reviewed.

Closing Remarks

When does the learning happen? It might happen in class, but most likely it happens when you sit down to do your homework. Most of you can follow what happens on the board in class, but the question is, can you do it on your own? To learn best, you must struggle with mathematics on your own. It is supposed to be difficult. However, if you are struggling too much, then there are resources available for you. I am always happy to help you. If my office hours don't work for you, then we can probably find another time to meet. You can also get help from each other. Get a study buddy! Help each other learn. Go the Math Activity Center. It is your responsibility to be aware of how well you understand the material. Don't wait until it is too late if you need help. Ask questions!