M408R, Calculus for Biologists
Unique numbers: 55425, 55430
Lectures MWF 9-10, ETC 2.108
55425: TuTh 4-5, UTC 1.132
55430: TuTh 5-6, UTC 1.132
Professor: Lorenzo Sadun, RLM 9.114, x1-7121,
Teaching Assistant: Clark Pennie,
Sadun office hours: Tu 10-11 and Th 2-3. I generally keep an open
door and welcome
visitors at all times.
Calc Lab: The Math Department Calculus Lab (see
www.ma.utexas.edu/academics/undergraduate/calculus-lab/ ) is open
starting on September 2, M-F 2-7, in Painter 5.42
(except for a few days when the first hour will be
down the hall in Painter 5.33). This is a joint TA session for all
calculus classes taught at UT, and will be staffed at all times by at least
two TAs and 3 undergraduate Learning Assistants. No matter what your
question, you can always get help at Calc Lab.
Textbook (required): Calculus in Context, by Callahan et al,
Available free online at
www.math.smith.edu/Local/cicintro/ . (If you want a hard copy,
it costs about $80 new on Amazon, and a lot less used.)
Laptops and software: Please bring a laptop or tablet to
the MWF lectures and especially to
the Tuesday-Thursday discussion sections, where most days will be devoted
to going through tutorial worksheets. Computers won't be needed every day,
but you'll find them useful as often as not.
Goals for the class Calculus has a reputation of
being a hard class
that features a million different equations to be memorized. Most classes
focus on formulas and calculation techniques and then apply them
to contrived problems. (Who really cares about the biggest rectangular
fence that can be built along a river using a fixed amount of fencing
material?) Instead, we're going to start with some real-world examples,
like the spread of an epidemic or the devastation caused by a recent flood,
and develop the ideas needed to deal with these examples.
We will be using the software package MATLAB a lot in this
MATLAB Student costs
$50. (It also comes bundled with Simulink Student Suite and add-ons
for $99. We won't be using any of those extra items in M408R, but you may
want them for other courses.)
- MATLAB is also loaded on all of the math department computers, and is free
for your use in any of the computer labs in RLM. However, that won't help
you when working on a worksheet in discussion section! When the worksheet
involves MATLAB, at least one member of your group must bring
a laptop or tablet with MATLAB to class!
In this class, you won't be asked to compute the integral of
the arcsine of x, or apply the limit comparison test for the convergence
of an infinite series. However, you will be expected to understand
what derivatives and integrals mean, how to get a computer to
approximate them numerically, and how
to model real-world problems using them.
Put another way, there are three questions associated with every mathematical
idea in existence:
Compared to most math classes, we're going to spend a lot more time on
the first and third questions, and a lot less on the second. By the end of
the semester, I expect you to understand the six basic ideas that calculus
is based on, which I call the
six pillars of calculus:
- What is it?
- How do you compute it?
- What is it good for?
I expect you to learn how to use these ideas. As for formulas, I expect you
to learn the easy ones, know where to look up some more complicated ones,
and above all, know how to get a qualitative feel for the solutions without
every using a formula. That's what's going to help you in your
careers in biology.
There will be in-class midterm exams on Wednesday, September 24,
Friday October 24 (a little over a week before drop day), and
Friday November 21.
The final exam will be on Friday morning, December 12, 9-12.
Exams are closed book, but you will be allowed a single sheet of
handwritten (by you!) notes for the midterms, and two sheets for the
Calculators: You are welcome to use whatever you want in
class and for homework, but only very basic calculators will be
allowed on exams. If it has a screen that shows anything besides
numbers, or if it allows programs of any kind, or if it has
built-in statistical functions like linear regression, it is not allowed.
So don't waste your money on a fancy graphing calculator. Save the expense
and buy MATLAB for your laptop instead.
We will provide you with a variety
of online learning resources on Quest, keyed to sections of the book.
These learning modules were prepared by Bill Wolosensky and me, and are
intended to explain and supplement the sections of the book that we
You are expected to study the material and
answer some fairly easy online questions before lecture.
Then, in a typical lecture session, we will discuss what you've studied
(bring questions!) and
you will work in teams on harder and more thought-provoking problems,
while I circulate and talk with you about them.
Discussion sections and worksheets (10% of course grade):
Much of your learning will come from working on tutorial worksheets
different topics. These are intended to be done in groups of 3 or 4.
We may start
on some tutorials in lecture, but the Tuesday-Thursday discussion sections
is the main place where you will work on these. Attendance is
required, and the worksheets are to be turned in at the end of the hour. If
you are absent you will receive a 0 for the worksheet, and if you
did not actively participate in your group's discussion, you may
receive a reduced grade. I will drop
your lowest 4 worksheet scores at the end of the semester.
Mini-projects (6% of course grade)
These are larger assignments to be done over a
longer time scale. As with the worksheets, they should be done in groups of
3 or 4. I will drop your lowest score at the end of the semester.
Individual homework (9% of course grade):
You will also be given homework, mostly from the book, due roughly once every
one or two weeks. Unlike the worksheets and mini-projects, these are to
be done largely on your own.
You are welcome to talk about these problems with me, or with your
friends, but each student should turn in his or her own work, and what you
turn in should reflect your understanding.
Copying somebody else's solution
is cheating. I will drop your lowest score at the end of the semester.
- Close is good enough (limits)
- Track the changes (derivatives)
- What goes up has to stop before is can come down (max/min)
- The whole is the sum of the parts (integrals)
- The whole change is the sum of the partial changes (fundamental theorem)
- One variable at a time.
Preclass/Learning Modules (5%):
Our online content delivery system is called Quest, which
can be accessed by going to the page at
logging in, and selecting this class.
There are learning modules, also known as preclass assignments
for each section of the book that we
are covering. These include videos, text, and questions for you to answer.
The questions are intended to be easy, and are mostly intended to get
you ready to learn the material in more depth in lecture.
The questions are due
at midnight the night before the class in which that section is scheduled
to be taught. Your three lowest Quest scores will be dropped at the
end of the semester.
- You will be charged a
one-time $25 fee to use this service, which is mandatory for this
class. This is where you will find your learning modules, aka preclass
No late work will be accepted for any reason other than
As noted elsewhere, I will
drop some of the assignment scores to allow for the fact that stuff
happens, much of it beyond our control.
Please do not ask
if I will accept a late assignment. I won't.
Academic honesty: The University is a place of honor and mutual
respect, and students deserve to be treated with courtesy and trust.
However, betraying that trust is dishonorable and unforgivable.
On an evolutionary scale,
cheaters belong somewhere between tapeworms and cockroaches.
If you are caught cheating, you will be
penalized as harshly as possible under the rules of UT.
Most students are honest, honest students do not like cheaters, and
they do report what they see.
Grading: Each midterm counts 15%. The final exam counts 25%.
The preclass homework counts 5%, the worksheets 10%,
the individual homeworks 9% and the mini-projects count 6%.
If you do badly on a midterm,
or miss a midterm for any reason, then I
will substitute the final exam in its place. (E.g., if you bomb one
midterm, then your grade will based on 15% each for the other midterms
and 40% for the final.) If you do badly on (or miss) two or more midterms,
you're out of luck. The final exam will not substitute
for the preclass, worksheet, homework or mini-projects.
The final grade distribution is neither a straight
scale nor a fixed curve. The cutoffs will be set at the
end of the semester, based on overall class performance, with the
following qualitative standard for the major grades (with obvious
adjustments for plusses and minuses):
Grading isn't an exact science, and
I'm only going to adjust
cutoffs. Nobody will leapfrog anybody else;
if you have more points
than your buddy, then your grade will be at least as good as your
Furthermore, a 90% average will guarantee you at least an A-, an 80%
average a B-, and a 70% average a C-.
My cutoffs are usually
more generous than that, but each semester is unique.
The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate
academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For
more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at
471-6259, 471-4641 TTY
Drop dates: The deadline for dropping the class without the course
appearing on your transcript is September 12. After that date, a "Q" will
appear on your record. The deadline for dropping, period, is November 4.
Religious Holidays: I have tried to schedule major class
events to avoid religious holidays, and I apologize if I overlooked
something. If you expect to miss class
or miss an assignment because of a religious holiday, please let me
know 14 days in advance, and you will be given the opportunity to make
up the missed work within a reasonable time.
UT Core Requirements:
This course may be used to fulfill the mathematics component of the
university core curriculum and addresses the following three core
objectives established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating
Board: communication skills, critical thinking skills, and empirical
and quantitative skills.
Stress: If at any time you feel overwhelmed by your coursework,
or by campus life, please contact the
An "A" means that you understand the ideas of the course well enough
that you can use them even in unusual settings.
A "B" means that you can do the standard problems we have done during
the semester, but struggle with novel applications.
A "C" means that you understand the techniques of the class well enough
to handle a (hypothetical) class that has M408R as a prerequisite.
A "D" means that you have learned a substantial amount, but that you are
not prepared to take that hypothetical successor course.
An "F" means that you have failed to grasp the essential
concepts of the course.
Counselling and Mental Health Center
Student Services Bldg (SSB), 5th Floor
Hours: M--F 8am--5pm
512 471 3515
For what it's worth, I had serious anxiety
issues myself about 10 years ago. I know how hard it can be.
A combination of counselling and medication helped
me turn things around. There is no shame in seeking help, and the upside
can be enormous.