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Calculus 2021-2022

(updated 4/15/21)

The Mathematics Department is continuing to develop and refine our Calculus courses, Math 103, 104, 114 and 240, building on the changes instituted in Fall 2020. A summary of the changes is given below. Beginning in Fall 2021, we have modified the way you will register for these Calculus courses as we plan to return to on-campus, in-person teaching.

Registering for Calculus classes

One of the structural changes instituted in Fall 2020 was the replacement of high-stakes midterm exams with more frequent, lower-stakes “Friday quizzes” together with opportunities for “makeup” or “re-do” quizzes to improve your grade. Our experience with this indicated that learning outcomes improved with this system of assessment, so we have adjusted the course registration for Calculus so that you select your quiz times during registration.

As a result, beginning in Fall 2021, you will need to register for three components rather than two: A lecture time, a recitation time, and a quiz time.

Your lecture and recitation sections must be linked (and this is indicated in Penn in Touch). For example, if you register for the MATH 114-002 lecture, which meets on Wednesdays from 12:00-1:30, then you must also register for either MATH 114-203 or MATH 114-204 for your recitation, which meet on Mondays from 12-1:30.

Additionally, you must register for a section of MATH 014 for your quiz time. All of these meet on Fridays, and it doesn’t matter which one you choose.

This means that an example of a complete MATH 114 registration is

            MATH 114-002 together with MATH 114-204 and MATH 014-103

Registration for MATH 103, 104 and 240 will follow a similar pattern. The quiz sections for MATH 103 are numbered MATH 003, the quiz sections for MATH 104 are numbered MATH 004 and the quiz sections for MATH 240 are numbered MATH 024.

Thus, an example of a complete MATH 103 registration is

            MATH 103-004 together with MATH 103-213 and MATH 003-102

An example of a complete MATH 104 registration is

            MATH 104-007 together with MATH 104-232 and MATH 004-104

An example of a complete MATH 240 registration is

            MATH 240-005 together with MATH 240-221 and MATH 024-101

The surest way to make sure that the three components you have chosen are a valid set of choices is to begin with the lecture section in Penn in Touch. For instance, if you search for MATH 240 and select lecture section MATH 240-004 as shown here:


then a box will appear that contains all of the valid recitation and “lab” (i.e., quiz time) choices for this lecture section:

What is a summary of the major changes instituted last year?

In brief, they are:

1.     Coordinated sections. All sections of a course have the same pace, structure, and lectures, independent of who is the instructor. This gives students a more uniform experience, less dependent on getting a particular prof.

2.     Asynchronous video lectures. All lectures are delivered via short videos. This should help you manage your time by allowing you to watch lectures whenever you wish.

3.     Active learning. The normal lecture time will feature active problem-solving or other activities, dependent on the instructor. This should give you a chance to interact with your peers and your instructor more.

4.     No midterms. Midterms are replaced with quizzes at the rate of three per month. There will still be a final exam, but it will count for less that it has in the past. This lowers midterms-week anxiety. 

5.     No required textbook. We have developed our own video-based “texts” and generated additional materials to help serve as resources. This savea you an unpleasant expense.   

6.     Rescheduled recitations. Since you are spending time watching lectures online, class will not meet as often. In particular, recitations with your TA will take place within the lecture period. This means no more 8:00am recitations.


What are the advantages of this new structure?

·       Less stress; more fairness. With more low-stakes quizzes and periodic re-takes, your entire grade doesn’t depend on a single high-stakes exam.

·       Better time management. With no 8am recitations and lectures viewed when you want, you’ll have more flexibility in how your week goes. The weekly structure of the course will motivate you to stay current on the material. 

·       Less variance between sections. Since everyone views the same set of lectures, you don’t have to worry as much about which section you get into. If your friend is in a different section, you can still study together.  

·       Less expense. There is no expensive required textbook. 

·       Modern curriculum. Since we’re not bound to a given text (typically produced for mass-appeal), we can tailor our instruction to what is best for Penn students. We’ve been working hard to modernize the curriculum to show you examples and applications of relevance to you and your fields of study.

How can I prepare? If you’ve been away from math for a while (i.e., you didn’t take a precalculus or calculus course during your senior year of high school) it would be a good idea to review material from the last course you took – brush up on those derivative formulas and trig identities! But the most important thing is to be prepared to hit the ground running in one of these rigorous, fast-paced courses. It will be important for you to keep up with the flow, and to devote some time to learning mathematical concepts and/or practicing techniques nearly every day.

I'm an incoming student. Which course should I take? The Mathematics Diagnostic test that you are taking online this summer will give reasonable guidance as to which course you should take (among 103, 104 and 114) this Fall. But generally, if you had AB Calculus in high school you should begin with Math 104 (or 110 if you are a Wharton student), if you took BC calculus and got a 5 on the exam (if you took it) and very confident in your ability then take 114. Work with your advisor to select the appropriate course, and if there’s real doubt, contact the Math Department.

How will this work with my disability? In many ways, the new format should provide enhanced opportunities for students with disabilities to take in the lectures at their own pace and repeat sections if necessary. As usual, instructors in the courses will follow the recommendations of the Student Disabilities Office regarding appropriate accommodations for the weekly quizzes and the final exam.