Classroom (1400x200 slice)

Calculus at SDSU

Calculus is the foundation for science and engineering, and it opens a world of opportunity. Calculus at SDSU will help you aquire powerful new tools to understand the world.

The Courses in the Calculus Sequence

The calculus curriculum for STEM majors at SDSU consists of the following courses:

  • MATH 140: College Algebra (Formerly numbered MATH 105)
  • MATH 141: Precalculus
  • MATH 124: Calculus for Life Sciences
  • MATH 150: Calculus 1
  • MATH 151: Calculus 2
  • MATH 252: Calculus 3
Calculus course sequence flow chart

What is a Lecture?

Each course has a lecture, which meets three hours per week and has 100-200 students. The instructor introduces the material, conveys the key concepts, presents applications, and solves example problems. Instructors will often have you work problems in class. They use electronic polling of the class to gauge student understanding and assign think-pair-share questions — try it yourself, team up with a classmate, and share your ideas with each other about how to solve it.

Students taking notes in a lecture

We offer 4-5 meeting times per semester of the core courses: College Algebra, Precalculus, Calculus 1, and Calculus 2. All sections of each course share:

  • Common syllabus
  • Common evening exams
  • Common Textbook and homework assignments.

These common elements ensure that standards are the same for all students and that all students are equally prepared for a subsequent course.

There are 3-4 meeting times of Calculus 3 each semester. Instructors write syllabi and exams independently.

There is one meeting time each semester for Calculus for Life Sciences.

Be prepared for lecture!

Read the book to familiarize yourself with the material before class so you are ready to learn. You should expect to work problems in class and to share your work with a neighbor.

What is a Breakout Session?

Each lecture group is divided into smaller breakout sections with roughly 30 students in each.

Students working together in a group

Calculus 1 and 2 breakouts are led by a graduate teaching assistant (TA) and meet twice a week. One day is primarily for problem solving, and the other is organized around a challenging problem that requires deeper conceptual understanding and discussion with peers.

Precalculus breakouts are led by an undergraduate instructional student assistant (ISA) and meet one hour per week. Some days involve an experiment in which the mathematics of the course is applied to a scientific problem. Other days are used to elaborate on key concepts.

Calculus for Life Sciences has a three hour computer lab led by a graduate teaching assistant.

Calculus 3 has one breakout, led by a TA, that meets once per week and focuses on problem solving.

Math is not a spectator sport!

Be prepared to work problems in class and explain your reasoning to other students.

Placement: Where do I begin?

An ALEKS pie chart (PRNewsFoto/McGraw-Hill Education)

We use ALEKS PPL for placement into:

  • Math 141: Precalculus
  • Math 124: Calculus for Life Sciences
  • Math 150: Calculus 1 (for physical sciences and engineering majors)

The ALEKS PPL placement tool consists of five online assessments.

  1. The first assessment is designed to evaluate your current level of understanding about calculus. A chart detailing your strengths and weaknesses will be shown after you are finished. At this point you may begin using the included learning modules, which allow you to practice the areas you wish to improve.
  2. The second assessment gives you an opportunity to reevaluate your level of understanding after you’ve had time to practice. After it, you may continue to use the learning modules to further strengthen your knowledge.
  3. The third assessment is taken in a proctored setting and will result in a placement score. If you score well enough to place into your desired course, you may stop here. If not, continue to use the learning modules.
  4. The fourth assessment is a practice evaluation similar to the first two assessments. Again, the learning modules are available afterwards for further practice.
  5. The fifth assessment is also taken in a proctored setting. If you score higher on this exam than you did on assessment three, it will override your previous score. If not, your score on assessment three will stand.

Details about how to sign up for ALEKS, cutoff scores for each course, and scheduling a proctored assessment can be found here.

What if I have AP-Calculus Credit? — The following student affairs document contains the details: pdf

Mathematics and Statistics Learning Center: A Community of Scholars

The Mathematics and Statistics Learning Center (MSLC) is on the third floor of the SDSU library and has workstations set up for each course. Teaching assistants and instructional student assistants all spend four hours per week tutoring in the MSLC. It provides a welcoming environment with drop-in tutoring and scheduled visits.

Don’t be a stranger!

Get to know your TA, tutors, and fellow students at the MSLC! Visit early in the semester. Make a practice of getting help early when you are confused. Learn to work with other students, helping each other is the best way to learn!

MSLC Staff