Alexander Paulin 

Department of Mathematics
796 Evans Hall
University of California, Berkeley

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Linear Algebra and Differential Equations 54 (002 LEC) Spring 2018 Course Policy


Homework will be assigned weekly. The homework corresponding to material covered during a given week is due in the following week's Friday discussion session. Homework will be posted on this site weekly.

Assignments will be graded on a coarse scale based on spot checks for correctness and completeness. Your two lowest scores will be dropped. You may discuss the homework problems with your classmates, but you must write your solutions on your own. Doing the work yourself is crucial to learning the material properly. Make use of discussion sections, office hours, study groups, etc. if you need assistance, but in the end, you should still write up your own solutions.

I am aware that it is not hard to find solutions manuals on the internet. Copying said solutions on a homework assignment is illegal and will result in a negative grade for that assignment, and potentially in more serious consequences. (Also, it will not help you learn the material).

The homework load for this course is heavy at times, but it is essential for learning the material. Be organized, and don't leave things for the last moment. (You cannot complete the homework assignment if you start on the night before it is due.) Work in small installments, and ask questions in section and during office hours.


Quizzes will take place roughly every week in Friday discussion section. They will last about 15 minutes, be variations of homework problems for that week. Your lowest two scores will be dropped from your grade. Here is the quiz schedule:

1 Week 2
2 Week 3
3 Week 6
4 Week 7
5 Week 8
6 Week 9
7 Week 13
8 Week 14
9 Week 15

There will be no make-up quizzes, unless there are exceptional circumstances.


There will be two midterms and a final. There will be no make-up exams, unless there are truly exceptional circumstances. Because of the grading scheme, you can miss one midterm, for whatever reason, without penalty. On the other hand, missing both midterms or missing the final will seriously harm your grade and make it very difficult/impossible to pass the course. Please check the dates now to make sure that you have no unavoidable conflicts!

  • First midterm: Monday February 12 (in class).
  • Second midterm: Friday March 23 (in class).
  • Final exam: Tuesday May 8 (7pm - 10pm).

Calculators and notes will NOT be allowed for the exams.

To obtain full credit for an exam question, you must obtain the correct answer and give a correct and readable derivation or justification of the answer. Unjustified correct answers will be regarded very suspiciously and will receive little or no credit. The graders are looking for demonstration that you understand the material. To maximize credit, cross out incorrect work. We will be scanning all exams so you will get them back electronically.

After each midterm, there will be a brief window when you can request a regrade. In general, midterm exam grades cannot be changed. The only exception to this is then there has been a clerical error such as a mistake in adding the scores (if this is the case immediately inform your GSI) or if part of the solution has been accidentally overlooked by the grader. Regrade requests may result in a lowering of your grade. As per university policy, final exams cannot be regraded.

Disabled students requiring accommodations for exams must submit to the instructor a "letter of accommodation" from the Disabled Students Program at least two weeks in advance. Due to delays in processing, you are encouraged to contact the DSP office before the start of the semester.

Cheating is unacceptable. Any student caught cheating will be reported to higher authorities for disciplinary action.


Grades are calculated as follows:

Homework 10%
Quizzes 10%
First Midterm 20%
Second Midterm 20%
Final Exam 40%

Each midterm and final score will first be curved into a number on a consistent scale. More precisely, I will assign a number to each exam (midterm 1, midterm 2 and the final) reflecting their relative position in the class. As an example, if you scored 70/120 on the first midterm and exactly 60 percent of the class got this score or below, you'd be assigned the scaled score of 60/100 for that midterm. These numbers are just a reflection of your relative performance. They do not correspond to letter grades in the usual sense. Section scores will be adjusted to account for differences between GSI's in quiz difficulty and grading standards. Your lowest scaled midterm score will be replaced by the scaled final exam score if it is higher. Finally, the scaled scores will be added up (with proportions outlined above) giving a final course score between 0 and 100. This score gives an extremely accurate description of your relative performance. Your final letter grade is determined by this score. Very roughly the A-/B+ boundary will be at the 65th percentile (meaning roughly 35% of the class with get A+/A/A-), the B-/C+ boundary will be at the 30th percentile (meaning that roughly 35% of the class will get B+/B/B-) and the C-/D+ boundary will around the 10th percentile (meaning that roughly 20% of the class will get C+/C/C-). I am following this grade distribution to be as fair as possible, given that it is the historical average. Finally I, along with the GSIs, will look at the borderline cases before finalising all grades.

This process of scaling each score means that the difficulty of exams does not affect your grade: if an exam is extremely difficult, then a lower score will be sufficient to get an A, while if an exam is very easy, you might need an extremely high score to get an A. Experience shows that this is the most fair way to proceed.

Please note: incomplete grades, according to university policy, can be given only if unanticipated events beyond your control (e.g. a medical emergency) make it impossible for you to complete the course, and if you are otherwise passing (with a C- or above).