Math 102: Differential Calculus with Application to Life Sciences
Instructor: Yu-Ting Chen. He was the sweetest man in the world and you can tell that he really wanted our class to do well. I’ll also never forget the time he chased a bee around our classroom with an empty chalk box. However, he struggled with English a lot which made his lectures a little difficult to follow. I’d try and find another instructor if you rely on clear explanations in lecture.
Textbook: Math 102 has custom course notes that you can get on the course website or purchase for $20 at Copiesmart in the Village. This was hands down the worst part of the course. Leah Keshet’s course notes are unclear, and even a little condescending at times (i.e. “the answer is obviously this because…”), with very few practice problems. The textbooks used for Math 100 and 104 (Engineering and Commerce differential calculus) are much clearer, so try and borrow one of these from a friend if you want more practice.
What I Learned: Mostly a review of high school calculus. Rates of change, curve sketching, optimization, the chain rule, implicit differentiation, exponential functions, trig and inverse trig functions, differential equations, and approximation methods. More information on the course website, here.
Homework/Labs: Math 102 and 103 both have a lab component, which involves a biweekly computer assignment relating to derivatives/rates of change. Going to the actual labs isn’t really necessary if you download the MathSheet software to your computer, but it can be helpful since there are a bunch of TAs there to assist you. The labs can be time consuming and annoying, but they’re easy marks if you’re willing to put in the work. Most sections also have homework assignments that you hand in every other week and are worth 10% of your final mark.
Midterms/Final: Two midterms, each worth 15%, and a 50% final. The midterms were challenging, to say the least. My section’s average was scaled up 15% on the second midterm since so many people failed. The final was a little less tricky since it covered the entire course, but still difficult. I gave up near the end and drew a picture of a sunbathing triangle (he was working on his “tan”! Har har har). Make sure you get your hands on lots of past exams for practice. The Math Club sells a package at the end of the year containing a bunch of past finals.
Comments/Tips: Apparently math in university has made the transition from numbers to hieroglyphics. Sometimes it would be difficult to tell constants and variables apart since everything was represented with a letter or a symbol. I miss my days of elementary school algebra, when all you had to worry about was solving for x. Okay, rant complete. As for tips, if you want to do well in this course I’d recommend joining the Math 102 Facebook group (hopefully someone will make one this year). I would have failed every single lab without this group. Seriously. Also, if you’re not aware of Wolfram Alpha, you should be. I only discovered this software while studying for my final, and it could have saved my life on the assignments since it will let you know whether you’ve gotten the right answer or not.
What About Math 100 or 104? Although some people will insist that some of these courses are easier or more difficult than others (the accepted difficulty rank, from hardest to easiest, is Math 100 > Math 102 > Math 104), I think that math is math. No matter what, you’re going to learn the same rules and material. The only real differences stem from the structure of the course. I took the life science differential and engineering integral calculus classes, I can say that I much preferred the structure of Math 100/101 to 102/103. Having a real textbook in Math 101 was really helpful, and I hated dealing with the labs in 102. But that’s just my opinion. Take whichever math course you feel is the best fit for you, regardless of how “hard” it is. This may sound harsh, but math is hard. Welcome to university.