Course MAT102

Survey of Calculus

One semester survey of major concepts and computational techniques of calculus.  Conceptual and intuitive treatment with emphasis on more basic examples and applications in biology and social sciences (except economics which is more quantitative). For students who will take no further calculus.  Prerequisite: MAT100 or equivalent. 

  • Concepts: limits, derivatives, definite and indefinite integrals.
  • Basic Computational Tools: differentiation formulas (product rule, chain rule, quotient rule), derivative of standard functions, integration rules, fundamental theorem of calculus
  • Applications:  approximation, introduction to modeling and differential equations in biology and social sciences, rates of change and error estimation, optimization


Description of classes

Classes meet 3 times per week, for 50 minutes in the Spring semester only in the academic year 2012-13.  The course is organized into small precepts with 20-30 students (if staffing resources permit). 

Most students will need to work lots of practice problems outside of class.  We anticipate that most students will need to spend approximately ten hours per week reading the text, reviewing class notes, solving homework problems and studying for quizzes and exams.  The course will be quite fast-paced and it is essential to work steadily throughout the semester.  Frequent feedback will be given to help students keep up and monitor progress.

The course grade will be based on several components: weekly homework assignments (~15%); in-class quizzes(~25%); 90-minute midterm exam(~25%); cumulative final exam scheduled by the registrar during the final exam period (~35%).


Students cannot receive course credit for both MAT103 and MAT102. 

Who Takes This Course
  • This course is meant for students who do not plan to take further calculus courses.  It is a good choice if knowing a little calculus is useful in your field, but not a high priority.  (This includes students who plan to pursue a non-quantitative social science or humanities major.)
  • It fulfills the pre-med calculus requirement, but use caution:  most science majors will need more calculus than this course provides and should take MAT103 instead. 
  • Future economics majors should take MAT103 instead. 
  • Prospective engineering majors should not take this course.
Placement and Prerequisites

Assumes basic precalculus knowledge as in MAT100 or equivalent; students with a math SAT score of at least 650 should be adequately prepared for this course.  No prior calculus background is required. 

 General information about placement and contact information for the placement officer can be found on the Math Placement Page.

  1. How hard should I expect to work?
    • Most math courses require a steady time commitment. We expect that the weekly problem sets will take at least 3 hours to complete although this can vary quite a lot depending on your background and your goals. To do well on math exams, you need to work a lot of extra problems. So all in all you should be ready to spend up to 10 hours/week outside of class.
  2. What if I decide later that I need more calculus? Will this course get me ready for MAT103 or MAT175?
    • If you do well (at least B+) in this course and if you are motivated enough, then you can probably handle MAT175, but students coming from MAT103 will be better prepared.  We expect that even students who do well in this course would find MAT104 extremely challenging and we do not recommend this path.  (Even the students who do very well in MAT103 usually find MAT104 to be significantly challenging by comparison.)  So if there is any chance you will eventually need MAT104, then take MAT103 instead!   
  3. How hard is it to get an A in this class? I absolutely have to get an A so I can go to medical school!
    • Sigh. There are no guarantees, and we hope that you will still be able to go to med school, even if you sometimes get a B in a difficult math or science course. You won't get the full benefit of your four years at Princeton if you limit yourself to classes where you can be sure of an A. To answer the question, grades in the math classes are curved, so your grade depends on how your work compares to that of the other students in the class. Generally speaking, in most of the larger multi-section courses (like 103), the top 25% of all students in the class get an A or an A-. The middle 45% get some kind of B and the remaining 30% mostly get C's.  We do regularly give D's or F's if necessary but not always. In smaller classes we follow this curve less strictly, but we use it as a guide. 
  4. I have more questions that are not answered here. What should I do?
    More information about how our courses work in general and about who to contact with various questions is available from the undergraduate home page.   Representatives from the math department will be available at the Academic Expo during Orientation and at freshman registration.