Math 131: Description

This course begins the three-semester sequence Math 131–132–233 covering standard material on differential and integral calculus. These courses are more sophisticated and move much faster than many high school calculus courses, but they have less emphasis on theoretical rigor than in advanced courses such as Math 523. Instead, the emphasis is on basic concepts, methods, and applications suitable for students majoring in engineering, natural sciences, computer science, mathematics, etc.

Math 131 deals with single-variable differential calculus. The central concept is rate of change, as realized by the mathematical notion of derivative. The concepts of area and net distance traveled are generalized to the notion of the definite integral.

The emphasis in Math 131 is upon problem-solving rather than on proving theorems.

Be sure you have the necessary prerequisites before enrolling in Math 131.

Should I take a different calculus course than Math 131?

Calculus for Life and Social Sciences (Math 127–128). Most students majoring in life sciences, social sciences, and management who take calculus usually take Math 127–128 rather than 131–132. However, mathematically well-prepared students these fields (especially economics) may be advised to take Math 131–132 instead of Math 127–128. There’s a significant difference between 131–132, on the one hand, and 127–128 on the other.

Honors Calculus I. Prospective math majors or others needing an enriched treatment of the material should consider enrolling instead in Math 131H.

Calculus II (Math 132). Did you already take AP calculus in high school and take the AP exam? If so, you might be better off skipping Math 131 and going directly into Calculus (Math 132). You may even get credit for Math 131 after taking Math 132! (See the Department’s AP credit policy.) Or, you could take the Honors version, Math 131H, of Math 131.

A score of 5 on either the AB or the BC Advanced Placement Exam surely means you should skip Math 131 and go into Math 132 (or beyond—see below). And a score of 4 there means very likely the same thing. On the other hand, an AP exam score of 3 is problematic.

If you took AP calculus in high school but did not take the Advanced Placement Exam, the decision will be more difficult.

In any case, if you are in doubt as to whether you are ready for Math 132 after taking AP Calculus, here are a couple of things you can do to help you decide:

  • take a look at the topics list on the syllabus page here;
  • try solving problems on the old Math 131 exams posted on this web site—start at the Exams page and either follow the links to the old mid-semester exams, for which solutions are posted, or the link to the old final exams;
  • sit in on a few meetings of Math 132;  and/or
  • talk directly to a Math 132 instructor.


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