Math 53 - Course Policies

Denis Auroux

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Homework will be assigned weekly. The homework corresponding to material covered during a given week is due at the beginning of the following Wednesday's discussion session.

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 check your answers to odd-numbered problems in the back of the book, but you need to turn in solutions, not just answers. 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, if you get caught, will result in a negative grade for that assignment, and potentially in more serious consequences. More importantly, it will not help you learn the material, which is the whole point of homework.

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 be given roughly once a week in discussion section, on Mondays. There will be no makeup quizzes, but the lowest two quiz scores will be dropped. One purpose of the quizzes is to help make sure that you keep up with the material. Later parts of the course depend heavily on the earlier parts, so it can be hard to catch up if you fall behind.


There will be two midterms and a final. Due to scheduling constraints it is not possible to give makeup exams. However, 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 to pass the course. Please check the dates now to make sure that you have no unavoidable conflicts!

Calculators and notes will NOT be allowed for the exams. If you learn the material properly, then you should not have to memorize a lot of rules or formulas. (For Math 53 you will not be expected to evaluate any arcane integrals on the exams, although you should know basic techniques of integration such as substitution and some trig.)

To obtain full credit for an exam question, you must obtain the correct answer, put a box around it, 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.

Exam grades cannot be changed, unless there is an egregious error such as adding up points incorrectly. (Please check as soon as you get your exam back: it is better if you tell your GSI about any such error immediately during discussion.) If you don't understand why you lost points on a question, please ask; but the number of points deducted cannot be changed, because we grade all the exams together according to the same standards and regrading individual exams would be unfair to everyone else.

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:

More precisely, each of the above four grades will first be curved into a number on a consistent scale. Section grades will be adjusted to account for differences between GSI's in quiz difficulty and grading standards. Your lowest midterm grade will be replaced by the curved final exam grade if it is higher. Finally, the four curved grades are added up and converted into a final course grade.

Curving 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. You will be given a rough idea of what score range corresponds to a given letter grade after each midterm.

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).

(These course policies are adapted from Michael Hutchings')