2007 April 26 / E-Mail Me

Math 31L 02, Spring 2007



This is a first course in calculus, covering aspects of derivatives, integrals, and differential equations, primarily through in-depth, applied, conceptual laboratory exercises. Required materials include

Our class meets

Mon-Wed-Fri 8:45-9:35 AM in West Duke 08A (led by me)
Thu 12:40-2:25 in West Duke 101 (led by Katie West)

Here's how you get in contact with me:

Dr. Joshua Davis
E-mail: see here
Office: 033 Physics/Math (on West Campus, directly behind the chapel, at the end of Science Dr.)
Office phone: 660-2823
Office hours: Mon 1:00-1:50, Tue 3:30-4:20, Thu 1:50-2:40, and by appointment; to make an appointment, pick a free time from my weekly schedule and e-mail me. I also staff the Math Help Room, Mon 4:00-5:00. You can also talk to me after class.

Here some other web pages:

Blackboard: view grades, view old tests from other instructors
Math 31L: the course you're taking
Information for First-Year Students: other useful stuff from the Math Department
TI Guidebooks: user manuals for TI calculators


Semester grades (A, B, C, etc.) are assigned according to an approximate curving process. The following elements contribute to this grade.


Each class session covers one or two sections of the textbook, which you are expected to read before the topic is discussed in class. You receive reading questions via e-mail, and you respond to them by simply replying to the e-mail, by 10 PM of the day before class.

We will usually begin class by reviewing responses to the reading questions; then we will explore the topics further, working on the assumption that all students have already read the material. I don't expect that you will always understand everything in the reading; however, having done the reading, you will be in a much better position to participate in class, ask clarifying questions, and leave class understanding the material. These reading assignments constitute 5% of your grade.

Class Participation

Attendance is mandatory. Furthermore, you are expected to participate actively in group work, discussion, individual exercises, etc. Class participation influences final semester grades in borderline cases.

If you cannot make it to class, then you should check with a classmate or with me to see what was missed. You cannot make up missed work unless you have an excuse from the dean. If your absence is due to a serious, incapacitating illness, and you can vouch for this under the Duke Community Standard, then you may do so at Short-Term Illness Notification.


Each Wednesday the homework assigned during the preceding week (Mon, Wed, Fri) is due. To make this explicit, consider the following crude calendar, showing Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a few weeks:

Mon #1Wed#1Fri #1
Mon #2Wed#2Fri #2
Mon #3Wed#3Fri #3

On Wednesday #2, all homework assigned on Mon #1, Wed #1, and Fri #1 is due. On Wednesday #3, all homework assigned on Mon #2, Wed #2, and Fri #2 is due. That's all there is to it.

This schedule gives you a chance to ask questions on the homework in the period immediately after it is assigned, and then to work for at least two more days on it. I strongly encourage you to do the homework promptly, rather than waiting for Tuesday night.

Sometimes you submit the homework itself for grading; see Guidelines For Written Work, below. On other occasions you instead take a short homework quiz, with problems taken verbatim from the homework. I notify you ahead of time whether homework collection or a homework quiz will take place. Altogether, homework counts for 5% of your grade.


The labs in this course are central, not peripheral. Your lab score constitutes 35% of your semester grade — more than the final exam. Furthermore, lab material is referenced in lecture and tested on the midterm and final exams; roughly 1/3 of the material on exams comes from lab.

During lab on Thursday morning, you work through involved, applied, conceptual problems from the lab manual with up to three other students. You are expected to stay for the entire period. You may also need to meet with your group outside of lab, before your work is due at the start of lab the following Tuesday.

Often you submit a group lab report for grading; see Guidelines For Written Work, below. On other occasions, you instead take an individual lab quiz. I will notify you ahead of time, whether lab report collection or a lab quiz will take place.

Differentation Gateway Test

The Math 31L gateway test certifies basic competency in differentiation. You must pass this test sometime before the end of the semester. You may take it as many times as needed. You cannot receive a grade for the course until you have completed this test; otherwise, it does not affect your grade.

Midterm Exams

There are three midterm exams, which you take during the lab period. Each midterm counts for 10% of your grade. Each midterm focuses primarily on the material covered since the previous exam; however, since the course material is inherently cumulative, you will always need to remember concepts and skills from earlier in the course.

The first midterm is 15 February.
The second midterm is 22 March.
The third midterm is 23 April.

Final Exam

The final exam is Friday 4 May 2007, 9:00 AM to 12:00 noon, in Gross Chemistry 103. It is uniform across all sections of Math 31L, entirely cumulative, and worth 25% of your grade. You are allowed to bring with you one standard-size sheet of paper, on which you may record whatever notes you like. Both sides may be used. However, the notes must be your own creation; using a sheet of notes created by another student is prohibited.

Guidelines For Written Work

Your written work (homework and lab reports) should be neat and complete, with the problems answered in the order they were assigned, and clearly marked. Staple your assignment into a single packet to be graded. If your paper is messy or disorganized from revisions, erasures, etc., then you may need to recopy it. Show your work, and give simplified answers. If a classmate were to read one of your solutions, she or he should be able to understand what the problem was and how you solved it. In other words, your solution should be well-written and self-explanatory. At the top of the first page of your assignment, write the short pledge

I have adhered to the Duke Community Standard.

and sign it (and print your name).

In the case of lab reports, each group submits a single report. Only group members who have contributed to the work may sign the pledge and write their names on it. They can not allow another group member, who has not contributed to the work, to sign or write his name.

You are encouraged to work with others on homework, as well. Here, however, you submit work individually, and the written work that you submit must be your own. In particular, you may not copy someone else's work or allow them to copy yours.

Late work? No. (Except in extreme circumstances beyond the student's control.)

Depending on time constraints, perhaps only a subset of your submitted work may be graded. In order to ensure full credit, do all of the assigned problems.

How To Succeed

I want all of my students to work hard, learn a lot of math, and earn a good grade. Here are my recommendations:

For more explicit suggestions, read my little essay How To Study Calculus. If you find yourself needing more help, here are some resources, in roughly the order you should try them.

  1. Talk to your classmates, and talk to me in office hours. Every student is expected to visit me at least once in office hours this semester.
  2. Visit the Math 31L Help Room in the Carr Building. No appointment is necessary.
  3. Sign up for free Peer Tutoring.
  4. Try some other options, as suggested by the Math Department.

Here are some one-page reviews of basic topics that I wrote several years ago. It is difficult to learn math from such a terse treatment, but they may be useful in highlighting what I regard as the most important points to study. If you find yourself not understanding any of this material, then please come talk it over with me. (Some of the stuff on derivatives we haven't done yet.)

  1. Algebra
  2. Trigonometry
  3. Limits
  4. Derivatives


Here are our exams, both with and without answers, and with some basic statistics.

Exam 1Exam 2Exam 3
Std. Dev.12168

Here are the three midterm exams I gave last semester, both with and without answers, along with their median scores. On the first exam, the median of 80 is higher than I like; the exam was too easy for the time allotted.

Exam 1Exam 2Exam 3