MTH133 s2019: Course goals

How are these sections different from other sections?

Different lecture instructors in MTH133 typically have different lecture styles and, to a degree, different assessment policies that apply to their sections. Even though MTH133 has Uniform Midterm and Final Exams, the lectures and recitations are not all taught in the same way.

These sections have, however, some further systematic deviations from the uniform syllabus used by other sections in order to accomplish our goal of trying out next-gen practices in calculus instruction. In spite of that, we promise:

  • You will not be short-changed in content. The basic calculus content of these sections is exactly the same as the other Calculus II sections. We only add to it topics about how to make use of calculus concepts. You will not be any less prepared for future classes at MSU.
  • You will be assessed the same way. 70% of your grade in MTH133 comes from the Uniform Exams (two midterms and one final). The exams cover the basic calculus content and are identical between sections. In other words, the material from the labs will not be part of the exams.

For more about the differences, see our syllabus and policies.

Why are we doing this?

Calculus instruction have evolved over the past century to the point that the focus now is often more on the mechanical aspects of performing calculus-computations, than actual problem solving. This has a negative impact both on student motivation to learn calculus and on the students' subsequent abilities to use calculus concepts to solve problems in other science, technology, engineering, and arts disciplines.

Our goal is to bring some of the fun back into calculus by showcasing, via computer simulations, how you can use calculus concepts to gain a qualitative understanding of various phenomena. The examples we gathered come from a broad swath of science and engineering disciplines. We hope that at the end of the course, you see calculus not just "some math you needed to take for your degree", but actually as something that can help inform your view of the world, perhaps even beyond your chosen career path.

Benefits to you

  • You get to experience the future today! Computations play increasingly important roles in modern society. A lot of traditional physical experiments are replaced by computer simulations (wind-tunnel research in aerospace and automotive engineering, preliminary drug discovery, nano-scale materials engineering, just to name a few), and data-analysis and machine learning drives much of modern commerce. This course integrates into the traditional calculus curriculum the fundamental ideas and skills for computational mathematics.
  • You get double the faculty access! Unlike other sections of MTH133, these sections are led by not one, but two Professors in mathematics. You will receive twice the amount of TLC, and twice as many office hours will be set aside should you have any questions.
  • You get to have more fun! Instead of doing boring and repetitive worksheets during recitations, you get to see calculus in action by playing hands-on with simulations of zombie infestations and rockets powered by major league pitchers.
  • You get to help out future Spartans! This is the third year we are running this program. Every semester we got feedback from students and changed how we do things as a result. While we think the Spartans before you did a great job helping us make this iteration more awesome than ever before, there is always room for improvement! If you have any suggestions about this course, you can leave an anonymous comment at this Google form [Ed 2019.06.01: link removed].

Study of impact

In addition to gathering student feedback through our Anonymous Comment Box, this year we will be conducting a preliminary study of the effects of this course, specifically the format of these sections, on your learning and perception of calculus. (Full disclosure: this research is sponsored by MathWorks, the makers of the MATLAB software used in this class.)

The research will be led by Andrew Krause (krausea3 -at-, and will include both in-classroom observations of lab sessions and in-person interviews, as well as surveys of all MTH133 students.

Student surveys

All students enrolled in MTH133 (including those not in these sections) are asked to participate in two surveys, one at the beginning of the semester and one at the end of the semester. These surveys are meant to inform the Math Department of demographic data of our student population and to help us better design our curriculum. Participation in each survey will help raise your final numerical grade, and only take a few minutes of your time, so you should definitely do it.

At the first page of the survey you will be asked to voluntarily consent to your survey answers being analyzed as part of the research study, in addition to internal use by the Math Department. Whether or not you give your consent will have no impact on you receiving the extra credit; your survey answers will furthermore be anonymous to the researchers involved in the research study. We ask you to please consider giving us your consent.

If you have any questions, please contact Andrew Krause at the e-mail address above.

Classroom observations

Starting around the third week of the semester, you may see Andrew Krause visiting your class during the Lab sessions. He will be video taping one student group's progress through the Lab session, in order to analyze how you engage and participate in the Lab activities.

Prior to filming, Andrew will explain to the group to be filmed exactly what he is there to do, and ask the group for consent to participate in the research study. While we would very much appreciate your participation, you have the right to say no, and declining to participate in the research study will in no way impact your grade in this course.

If you agree to be filmed, please note that Andrew will try his best to stay out of your way, and he will not engage with you. Please do your best to ignore his presence and do your lab as if he wasn't there.


We will also be asking for a number of volunteers to be interviewed by Andrew as part of this research study, starting around the 4th or 5th week of semester. Questions will concern your preparation, experiences, perceptions, and aspirations toward calculus learning. The interview will be audio-recorded, and should take approximately 30 minutes of your time.

Participation will have not bearing on your grade in this course. Participants may receive a small token for their time.

Volunteers will be asked to contact Andrew Krause directly.