Differential Equations

Fall 2017

Course Syllabus

Course Details

Instr: Dr. Roger Griffiths
Office: Old Main 305
Email: griffiths.roger@gmail.com  
Phone: 824-2123
Location: Hirt M209
Class Time: Mon, Wed, Fri:   1:00 - 2:05
Web: http://math.mercyhurst.edu/~griff/courses/m240/
Text: Fundamentals of Differential Equations (8th Edition) ,   by Nagle, Saff, Snider
  • Office Hours:
    • Mon:   9:00 - 9:50
    • Mon:   3:00 - 3:50
    • Tues:   8:50 - 9:20 (Hirt M207)
    • Tues:   12:00 - 12:50
    • Thur:   8:00 - 9:20 (Hirt M207)
    • Thur:   12:00 - 12:50

Learning Objectives:

In this course you will learn introductory mathematical content of ordinary differential equations and their applications. This will include analytical, qualitative and numerical methods for ordinary differential equations.
Prior to calculus, we used our understanding of the rules of algebra to develop techniques for solving algebraic equations. In this class we will use both the rules of algebra and the rules of calculus (e.g., differentiation shortcuts, integration techniques, etc.) to develop techniques for solving differential equations. We will continue to improve our ability to write mathematics.


The major application of calculus is posing, solving, and understanding solutions of differential equations. Because many laws of nature are equations involving rates at which quantities change, this idea is a derivative, and equations containing derivatives are differential equations. So, in order to understand the many processes of change in the world, one needs to understand differential equations.


There will be (almost) regular quizzes, occasional take-home assignments, two exams, and a cumulative final exam. Homework will be assigned but not collected. We will occasionally discuss the homework in class, but students are expected to clear up questions using my office hours. Quizzes and tests will be closed-book and administered in class. In-class quiz problems will be very similar to the assigned homework problems. The final exam will be cumulative (and worth twice a mid-term exam).
Grading Policy:
2 exams at 100 points each,
Quiz average out of 100 points, will drop 1 quiz score,
Comprehensive Final exam worth 200 points.
  • Students are required to take all exams at the scheduled hour as they appear on the syllabus and course schedule.
  • There will be no late make-up exams, as this is unfair to the rest of the class. If you know in advance you are going to miss a scheduled exam, let me know well in advance of the exam. Athletes, carefully review our exam schedule looking for conflicts.
  • A missed exam will result in the final exam being worth 300 points (you do not loose any points for the missed exam, those points simply roll into the final exam).
  • The quizzes will be based largely on the suggested homework, and should be expected any day.
  • Everyone is allowed to miss one quiz without penalty (for any reason). If you end up taking all of the quizzes, you may drop your low quiz score. Athletes or other individuals missing for school activities are to let me know BEFORE missing the quiz (or it lands above).
  • It will be up to you to demonstrate that you have mastered the material. Exam/quiz problems will be assigned points based on the extent to which you have convinced me that you understand that particular problem.
  • Part of any correct write-up includes: connecting your work, proper notation, and an explanation of steps as you see necessary. You should write-up problems as if you were explaining them to some one else.
  • Your overall performance in the course is measured by the total number of points you accumulate relative to the maximum 500 points possible. Your letter grade in this course will be based on the distribution below.
  • These are the only points possible in this class, there is no extra credit (or make up), your asking for extra credit is a clear indication that you have not read your contract (this syllabus).
Total Class Points Percent % Letter Grade Interpretation  
470 - 500 94 to 100 A   Exceptional and Rare
450 - 469 90 to 93 B+ Outstanding
420 - 449 84 to 89 B   Very Good
390 - 419 78 to 83 C+ Good
350 - 389 70 to 77 C   Satisfactory - Average
300 - 349 60 to 69 D   Unsatisfactory
0 - 299 Below 60 F   Failure

Course Policies:

  • You are responsible for all that is announced or covered in class even if you are absent.
  • You are responsible for all the material in a given section unless told otherwise, use the course schedule and suggested homework as a guide.
  • A prerequisite for additional help outside the classroom is regular class attendance.
  • Every student is required to establish a class contact, that is, a fellow classmate that you may contact in case you are having a problem with a particular homework exercise at night/weekend or in the event you miss class you can get the class notes from them.
  • If you miss class, you are responsible for getting the notes from your 'class contact' (see above).
  • Email is great for simple communications, but more complex issues must be handled in person.
  • Don't use email as an excuse to avoid personal contact.
  • Due to the overwhelming amount of email I receive, any email requests that involve more than a yes or no response may not get addressed, please come see me in that case.
  • I expect you to read this syllabus and get clarification of any items you do not understand the first week of class. If you send me an email asking me about something covered in this syllabus, that email will be disregarded.
  • Please fasten your seat belts and observe the 'No Smoking' signs when in flight.

Calculators and Computers:

You may use a calculator/computer to help learn the material, but not on exams or quizzes. There are several portions of the class that will require the use of a computer, however, all of our examinations are carefully designed to be taken "closed book" without the use of calculators or computers. Examination problems will focus on the basic methods and problem solving techniques which every student of differential equations must know without a calculator or textbook. This policy reinforces our stated learning objectives, in particular, furthering our understanding of the language of mathematics. We will be interested in learning and writing mathematics (the process) not in 'the answer'.

Important Dates to Remember:
Exam 1: Friday, October 2nd
Exam 2: Friday, November 6th
Final Examination: Wednesday, Dec 9th; 1:00 - 3:00

There will be a link to your grades from our class web-page (these are NOT on blackboard). To check your grade login with your (Mercyhurst) email address as user name and your student ID as your password. You may change your password or email address once you have logged in. Access to your grades will be further explained in class.


Suggested Homework:   http://math.mercyhurst.edu/~griff/courses/m240/HW.php     I do not collect or grade the homework. You will be held accountable for the mastery of homework problems via the quizzes (which can occur any day). As such, you get no credit for merely attempting the homework, your goal is independent mastery of each type of problem assigned. The quizzes serve as an immediate assessment of the extent to which you mastered a particular assignment. Good quiz results should serve as positive feedback, but poor quiz results mean you must go back and master that material.

Homework is far and away the single most important part of any mathematics course because this is when most of the learning takes place. Homework problems will be assigned regularly and I expect you to do them. If you are unable to do a problem I expect you to find out how to do it.
You have at your disposal several means of meeting this expectation.
You can stick with it until you figure it out yourself.
You can discuss the problem with a classmate or several classmates (strongly encouraged).
You can ask me about the problem in class, time permitting.
You can see me individually during my office hours. I am always happy to talk to you during my office hours or at any other time if not otherwise committed.
You can discuss the problem with anyone who can and is willing to help you.
Simply ignoring a problem that you are unable to solve is not acceptable.
You should continue to work problems of a given type (even beyond the assigned problems) until you see the pattern yourself, without assistance of any type.
As you PRACTICE, keep in mind our stated goal 'to improve our ability to write mathematics, you will want to practice in the manner you will be accessed.

Mathematics Department Outcomes and Assessment:

Mathematics majors will be assessed in this course as indicated below.

Learning Outcome Assessment Tool
Students will be able to derive equivalent algebraic and analytic expressions from other such expressions using sound mechanical technique. This student learning outcome will be assessed via the final exam.


Learning Differences:

In keeping with college policy, any student with a disability who needs academic accommodations must call Learning Differences Program secretary at 824-3017, to arrange a confidential appointment with the director of the Learning Differences Program during the first week of classes.

Support of the Mercy Mission:

This course supports the mission of Mercyhurst University by creating students who are intellectually creative. Students will foster this creativity by: applying critical thinking and qualitative reasoning techniques to new disciplines; developing, analyzing, and synthesizing scientific ideas; and engaging in innovative problem solving strategies.