Calculus Placement FAQs

The Mathematics Department offers four levels of calculus.

Math 115 is a standard first-semester treatment of one-variable calculus including limits, continuity, differentiation and optimization. Math 116 is the continuation course, stressing integration techniques, sequences and series. Math 120 is an accelerated version of Math 116; students placed into this course often demonstrate proficiency with integration but not with sequences and series on their placement test. Either 116 or 120 is a prerequisite for Math 205, our standard multivariable calculus course which covers partial differentiation, multiple integrals, cylindrical and spherical coordinate systems, and the various forms of Stokes's Theorem.

Q: What do I do if I have a question about my calculus placement or about what math class is appropriate for me?
A: You should have completed an on-line questionnaire and received a letter over the summer with your calculus placement. However, if:
  • you do not know your calculus placement, or
  • you have any questions about it, or
  • you are unsure about what course to take,

then please attend "Advising Day" during orientation and talk with a representative of the Mathematics Department. If Advising Day has passed, please send your question to Professor Hirschhorn.

Q: Do I get credit for taking AP Calculus or AP statistics?

A: The following credit is given for AP courses:
  • If you score a 4 or 5 on the AB exam (or get an AB-subscore of 4 or 5 on the BC exam) you get 1 unit of credit, equivalent to Math 115.

  • If you get a 4 or 5 on the BC exam you get 2 units of credit, equivalent to Math 115 and Math 116.

  • If you get a 5 on the AP-statistics exam, you get 1 unit of credit, equivalent to Math 101.

These credits count toward graduation, but not for distribution requirements or towards the minimum number of courses required for the major.

If you do not take the AP exam or you do not score high enough to get credit for a course, you may still be placed into a higher course so that you do not repeat material that you have already studied.
Q: I am not sure I am well-prepared for the calculus course in which I was placed. Should I take a lower course?
A: Many incoming students lack confidence in their math background and assume that everyone else will be better prepared. In reality, this is not the case. In particular, students who have had AB-calculus have covered more material than we cover in Calculus I (Math 115), so the first few weeks of Math 116 will already be a review of the techniques of integration and should give you the opportunity to fill in your background.
If there is a question, it is better to start in the higher level course. You can always drop down to a lower level course, but it is hard to move up to a higher level course. You can discuss this issue with your instructor during the first week of classes.
Q: Should I take MATH 205 or PHYS/MATH 215?
A: Math 205 is multivariable calculus. Phys/Math 215/216 (Math for the Sciences I & II) are two recently developed courses which are tailored to the needs and preparations of students considering majors in the sciences, particularly the physical sciences. Whether to take Math 205 or Phys/Math 215 depends on your particular interests. Students anticipating a major in physics, astrophysics, and astronomy must complete 215 and 216. Other prospective science majors, particularly chemistry majors, should consider 215 as a third semester of college-level mathematics. Prospective science majors who also want to consider a math major can use the 215/216 sequence in place of the standard Math 205 requirement. Prospective math majors and other students who want additional math preparation beyond Math 116 should enroll in Math 205.


Upcoming Events

Monday, Oct 20

The weekly student seminar meets in room 362 at 12:20.  This week we'll have a summer research programs panel.  The department will provide lunch, and one of your peers will provide a great talk.  All are welcome to attend!

Wednesday, Oct 22

Our Applicable Math Lecture series kicks off for the year with Mike Remolona from Wolfram Research Inc giving a talk discussing Mathematica 10 and how to get the most out of  We'll have a reception (with food!) at 3:45 in SCI 362, then move to SCI 296 at 4:15 for the talk.

Thursday, Oct 23

Our second Putnam problem session meets today and runs from 12:30 to 1:20 in SCI 364.  This week we'll have homemade cookies (chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and ginger molasses) to help fuel our problem solving neurons.  Everyone is welcome to attend!

Thursday, Oct 23

Our second department colloquium is given by Megan Heenehan (Wellesley '03) from Eastern Connecticut State University. We'll meet in SCI 362 for snacks and socializing at 3:45, then the talk will begin at 4:15 in SCI 396.  Everyone is welcome to attend!  

Monday, Oct 27

The weekly student seminar meets in room 362 at 12:20.  This week Angela Gu will be speaking.  The department will provide lunch, and one of your peers will provide a great talk.  All are welcome to attend!

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Want to hear about the latest events in the math department via email?  Join the department's Google group by signing up here!