Elementary Differential Equations [MATH 252] (Section 01), Fall 2016

General Information

Exam Dates

Teaching Assistant

Catalog Description

First- and second-order ordinary differential equations; systems of ordinary differential equations.


The prerequisites for this course are Math 250 (linear algebra) and CALC3 (typically Math 251, i.e. vector calculus). As linear algebra is a formal prerequisite, I will not spend much time reviewing this material, which will become important early on in this course (end of Chapter 1 and throughout Chapters 2-3, and again in Chapter 5). Please see the Resources section below for a brief summary of Math 250 material. Content from CALC3 will be less relevant, although there will be times where knowledge of partial derivatives will be useful. If you have any concerns, please contact me.


Your grade will be determined by the following distribution:

Final Exam 30%
Midterm I 25%
Midterm II 25%
MATLAB assignments and quizzes 20%
Standard grading cutoffs apply (A ≥ 90%, 80% ≤ B < 90%, etc.), but will possibly be adjusted (in the student’s favor only) for “borderline cases” and in the case I deem a curve necessary.

Exams The Final Exam will take place during the Exam week; it appears we are scheduled for December 21st, from 12-3 pm, in the normal classroom (TIL-226). Note that it will be cumulative, but possibly more heavily weighted to the material since Midterm II. The other two exams will take place in class, with dates as scheduled above. If you have any scheduling conflicts, please inform me as soon as possible. In general the exams will be closed book, and no calculators or other electronic devices will be permitted. Use of any such technology will result in an F grade for the exam.

Homework (suggested) Suggested homework problems will be posted on the Course Calendar for each lecture. Note that homework will NOT be graded, but is intended for practice for quizzes and exams, and should be considered representative of the type of problems to expect. To gain a thorough understanding of the material, doing ALL of the suggested problems is strongly encouraged. You are also welcome to hand any homework in for feedback. That feedback will not counted for the course grade, and is for your own benefit only.

Homework (MATLAB) MATLAB problem sets will be assigned and collected regularly throughout the semester. You are expected to hand in assignments individually, although collaboration is allowed. See the MATLAB page for more information, including the assignments, supporting code, due dates, and policies regarding submission. Note that this page will be updated throughout the semester, so check it often. One lowest score will be dropped. No late assignments will be accepted.

Quizzes Quizzes will be given approximately once a week (excluding the first week and possibly exam weeks), and will take no more than 20 minutes. They will not be announced, as you are expected to attend class regularly. The problems in each quiz will come directly from a subset of suggested homework problems (see the Course Calendar), typically from the previous two lectures. Note that they will never include material covered during the current lecture. Each will be weighed equally, and I will drop your two lowest scores. No make-ups will be given.

Tenative Schedule

Math 252 is concerned with the study of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) from three fundamental perspectives: analytic, qualitative, and numeric. We will spend time developing models from both the physical and life sciences, and then proceed to combine these perspectives to study interesting properties of our models. The material studied in this course is crucial for a serious undertaking of science and engineering, as a large portion of science can be formulated as differential equations. In this course, we will cover four major topics: first-order systems (Chapters 1-3), linear homogeneous systems (Chapter 3), linear non-homogeneous systems (Chapter 4), and nonlinear systems (Chapter 5). These topics are inter-dependent, with each chapter building on the previous material. A rough timeline (in number of lectures) is given below:

First-order systems 10 lectures
Linear homogeneous systems 8 lectures
Linear non-homogeneous systems 4 lectures
Nonlinear systems 6 lectures
Of course, this is just an approximation. For the most up-to-date information, as well as reading and homework assignments, see the Course Calendar. I will also post the quizzes (after they have been administered) here. Solutions (to quizzes and MATLAB) will appear on Sakai .

Absences and Make-ups

Students are expected to attend all classes; if you expect to miss one or two classes, please use the University absence reporting website to indicate the date and reason for your absence. An email is automatically sent to me. Please note that there will be no make-ups for quizzes or exams. If you have a major medical or personal problem and plan to miss an exam, please contact the instructor by email, with a note from the Dean's office to authenticate an absence that is supported by appropriate documentation.

Academic Integrity Policy

All students in the course are expected to be familiar with and abide by the academic integrity policy. Violations of this policy are taken very seriously.

Students with Disabilities

Full disability policies and procedures are indicated here. Students with disabilites requesting accommodations must present a Letter of Accommodations to the instructor as early in the term as possible.


I will use Sakai for email contact, as well as to post solutions to quizzes and exams. All enrolled students should have automatic access to the site after logging in to Sakai. Make sure to frequently check your email associated to your Sakai account.


Note that the below are labeled as they appear in the Course Calendar as reading assignments.

For resources regarding MATLAB, see the MATLAB page.