Math 121B - Mathematical Tools for the Physical Sciences
Spring 2022

Instructor: Marc A. Rieffel
Lectures: MWF 10:10-11:00 AM, in Evans 3
Course Control Number: 25006
Office Hours: TBA
e-mail: rieffel at

Prerequisites: Math 53 and 54 or equivalent. In particular, Math 121A is not a prerequisite, and we will not assume knowledge of material from that course. However, we can expect that many of the students enrolled in 121B will have taken 121A (and others may have taken other upper division mathematics courses). As a consequence, students for whom 121B is their first upper division mathematics course should expect to struggle much more then the more mathematically experienced students in the course in dealing with the greater level of abstraction and emphasis on theory that is characteristic of upper division mathematics courses.

Required Text: Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences, 3rd ed, by Mary L. Boas, Wiley Pub.

Syllabus: Special functions, series solutions of ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations arising in mathematical physics, probability theory. Chapters 11, 12, 13 and 15 of the textbook.


The final examination will take place on Tuesday, May 10, 3-6 PM.
There will be no early or make-up final examination.

The final examination will count for 35% of the course grade.

There will be two midterm examinations. They will take place on Wednesday February 16 and Wednesday March 30. (Those dates could change if important reasons for a change arise.)

Each midterm exam will count for 25% of the course grade. Makeup midterm exams will not be given; instead, if you tell me ahead of time that you must miss one of the midterm exams, then the final exam and the other components will count more to make up for it. If you do not tell me ahead of time, then you will need to bring me a persuasive doctor's note or equivalent to try to avoid a score of 0. If you miss both midterm exams, you will need a truly extraordinary documented reason in order to avoid a score of 0 on at least one of them.

Students who need special accommodation for examinations should have the appropriate paperwork sent to me, and must tell me between one and two weeks in advance of each exam what specific accommodation they need, so that I will have enough time to arrange it.

Homework: There will be weekly homework assignments. The homework will count for 15% of the course grade. The two lowest homework scores will be dropped. Late homework will not be accepted. Homework will be submitted by uploading to GradeScope.

Students are strongly encouraged to discuss the course material and homework with each other, but each student should write up their own homework solutions, reflecting their own understanding of the material, to turn in. Even more, if students collaborate in working out solutions, or get specific help from others, they should explicitly acknowledge this collaboration or help in the written work they turn in. This is general scholarly best practice. There is no penalty for acknowledging such collaboration or help.

The above procedures are subject to change.

This page was last updated on 10/17/2021.