Math 117 - Introductory Calculus

Section 1 - Bonfert-Taylor
Section 2 - Leidy
Section 3 - Shea
Section 4 - Bravo-Vivallo

Course Description

This course is designed to introduce the basic ideas and techniques of differential calculus. Students should enter with sound precalculus skills but with very limited or no prior study of calculus. Topics to be considered include differential calculus of algebraic, exponential, and logarithmic functions.

This course has a non-traditional format involving active learning, group work, and lecturing. This course has proved to work well for Wesleyan students who have not previously studied calculus. Math 117 class meetings often begin with a discussion about the themes and examples from previously assigned readings. The class will then divide into groups to work together on examples or discussion questions. Much of the course work takes place within these groups; you learn with and from each other, with the instructor as the "local expert."

Class attendance and participation is mandatory.

In addition to working together in class, you will also be assigned to a team for Monday noon sessions. Each team assignment will involve careful thought and teamwork on problems of more subtlety and complexity than most homework problems, and will require complete, well-organized and carefully articulated written solutions.


We will study chapters 1-4 of Calculus, Single Variable, 4th edition, by Deborah Hughes-Hallett, et al. The textbook uses practical examples from the physical and social sciences to anticipate and to illustrate the major concepts of calculus.

You must read the text. The assigned readings will be short, and packed with information, and must be completed before class in order to get the full benefit of class time. It is often useful to reread the text as you work problems. Much of your effort in this course will be directed toward learning how to solve problems. To this end, the text stresses conceptual understanding over memorization and creative approaches to the techniques of calculus over mindless drill.

You should bring your textbook to every class.


Technology can be a useful tool when learning mathematics. In this course, you will need a TI-83 or TI-84 graphing calculator. You may use an equivalent graphing calculator, but you will be responsible for implementing any special versions of the calculator programs that we may use. You should bring your graphing calculator to every class.

Individual Homework

Homework is an important part of any math class. It is important that you practice doing the problems. This will help you to understand the material better and will prepare you for the exams. You are encouraged to discuss the homework, and to work together on the problems. However each student is responsible for the final preparation of his or her own individual homework papers.

You may seek help on the individual homework assignments from other students, the TAs, the Math Workshop, and the instructor. There will be help sessions, which you are strongly encouraged to attend if you are having difficulty with the week's assignments.

Individual homework will be assigned for each class and will typically be due at the beginning of the Monday noon session. If for some reason you cannot turn in the homework during the Monday noon session, you have a "grace period" until 5pm that day to put it in your TA's mailbox in the Math Lounge on the sixth floor of the Exley Science Center. After that time, late homework will not be accepted, but your lowest homework score will be dropped.

Team Homework

Monday noon sessions are reserved for team homework, except for the test dates. Attendance at these sessions is mandatory; your absence unfairly increases the work demanded of the other members of your team.

The problems assigned will be chosen so that you will be able to make a substantial beginning during class on Mondays. Your team may need to meet outside of class to complete the assignment and review the write-up. Team homework will typically be due on Fridays. A single grade is assigned to the team. More details will be available on the first team homework Monday, September 8.

Late team homework will not be accepted, and if you miss a team homework session you will receive no credit for that assignment. Your lowest team homework grade will be dropped, and you may count an absence as your dropped grade. It is a courtesy to your teammates and instructor to let us know in advance if you plan to be absent from the team session.

Team homework is a mandatory part of this course. You cannot pass this course unless you attend and actively participate in the team homework sessions.


There will be three hour tests and a final exam. All tests count equally. The lowest score of all four tests will be dropped.

  • Test 1 - Monday, September 29, 12-1pm
  • Test 2 - Monday, November 3, 12-1pm
  • Test 3 - Monday, December 8, 12-1pm
  • Final - Thursday, December 11, 7-10pm

  • Skills Test

    After we finish Chapter 3, you will take - and be required to pass - the Skills Test, to ensure you have mastered the "fingertip knowledge" aspect of differential calculus. The test confirms that you are able to perform routine calculations of derivatives; to pass a test you must answer at least 8 of 10 questions perfectly.

    You may take a Skills Test as many times as you need, and many versions are available. You must pass by 5 p.m. on Monday, December 8. The first sitting of the Skills Test will be at noon on Monday, November 17.

    Course Grade Determination

    The course grade will be computed as follows:

  • Individual homework - 20%
  • Team homework - 20%
  • Exam 1 - 20%
  • Exam 2 - 20%
  • Exam 3 - 20%
  • In addition, you must pass a Skills Test to pass this course.

    Homework Sessions

    Starting the second week of classes, there will be evening help sessions for Math 117, open to all sections. The exact hours and locations will be given to you as soon as they are available.

    The Math Workshop

    The Math Workshop, x2205, is located in Room 133A Science Center, in other words in the Main floor Conference Room in the Science Library. It is open most afternoons and evenings. There are always two staff members on duty, who may be either experienced undergraduates or math graduate students. This is a drop-in tutoring service, available to all members of the Wesleyan community. Staff members provide a friendly, relaxed atmosphere while answering questions about mathematics. The workshop is a good place to go when you get stuck on your math homework.

    Students with Disabilites

    It is the policy of Wesleyan University to provide reasonable accommodations to students with documented disabilities. Students, however, are responsible for registering with Disabilities Services, in addition to making requests known to his or her instructor in a timely manner. If you require accommodations in this class, please make an appointment with your instructor during the first two weeks of class, so that appropriate arrangements can be made. All discussions will remain confidential. Students with disabilities should also contact Dean Lazare. Please see for more information.