Choosing a Calculus Course


Help!  Which Calculus Course Should I Take When I Get To Rhodes College?

Rhodes offers a three-semester Calculus sequence (Math 121, 122 and 223), a one-semester Applied Calculus course designed for non-majors interested in the natural sciences (Math 115), and a one-semester Calculus with Business Applications course designed for students interested in Business (Math 116). This section will help you decide which of these courses is most appropriate for you. 

Math 115 (Applied Calculus), Math 116 (Calculus with Business Applications) and Math 121 (Calculus I)

Math 121 is the first course in the three-semester calculus sequence at Rhodes. It introduces students to differential and integral calculus and additionally prepares them for Math 122 (Calculus II). It is taken by students interested in mathematics, computer science, physics, biology, and economics, and it satisfies major requirements in each of these disciplines. Additionally, it is frequently taken by students to satisfy the F6 requirement.

Math 115 and Math 116, on the other hand, are applied mathematics courses designed for students who will only take one semester of calculus.  While they are less rigorous than Math 121, they introduce concepts covered in Math 121 as well as Math 122 (Calculus II) and Math 223 (Calculus III). The focus in Math 115 is the application of calculus techniques to solve problems that arise in the natural sciences; hence, students are required to learn to use the software Mathematica in order to facilitate their analysis of data and applications of calculus. The focus of Math 116 is the application of calculus techniques to solve problems relevant in the business world. Math 115 satisfies requirements for the biology, economics, environmental science, and environmental studies majors. It is taken by students interested in these disciplines, as well as students interested in satisfying an F6 requirement. Math 116 satisfies a requirement for the Business major and as well satisfies F6.

Deciding between Math 115, Math 116, and Math 121

Students who may potentially take Math 122 (Calculus II) should NOT take Math 115 or Math 116; they should take Math 121. Math 115 and Math 116 do not sufficiently prepare students to go on to other calculus courses. Hence, if you are considering taking Math 115 or Math 116, make sure that your potential major(s) do not require Math 122 or any mathematics courses at the 200-level or above. Also, note that some majors do not require Math 122 though they strongly recommend this class for students intending to pursue graduate study in the area (e.g. Economics).

If you are sure that you will not need to take Math 122, then the decision between Math 115, Math 116, and Math 121 depends largely on your own interests. If working directly with data and computer applications in the sciences appeals to you, or if your motivation for taking a calculus class is applications to the natural sciences--and particularly the environmental sciences--then Math 115 is the appropriate course for you. If you are interested in mathematical applications to Business, then Math 116 is the right course for you. If, on the other hand, you are less interested in applications and more interested in thoroughly understanding "why calculus works the way it does," then Math 121 is likely your best choice.

I’ve Taken Calculus in the Past.  Which Calculus Class is Appropriate for Me?

Students who have already taken a calculus class elsewhere may take any of the calculus classes at Rhodes depending on their background and motivation. The following information should help you make the decision between these classes.

If you have Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate Credit

Students who have

earned a 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement Calculus AB exam;

earned a 3 on the Advanced Placement Calculus BC exam; or

earned a 5, 6, or 7 on the International Baccalaureate Mathematics exam

are usually prepared to take Math 122 (Calculus II). If, however, you are in this situation and are not confident of your background in calculus, you may elect to take Math 121 (Calculus I). While the AP and IB exams generally do a good job indicating how prepared a student is to advance in the calculus sequence, it is not entirely uncommon for Rhodes students to elect to take Math 121 and forfeit their AP or IB credit.

Students who have earned a 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement Calculus BC exam are usually prepared to take Math 223 (Calculus III). While some students in this situation elect to take Calculus 122 (Calculus II) and forfeit half of their AP credit, students in this situation should not take Math 121 (Calculus I), Math 115 (Applied Calculus), or Math 116 (Calculus with Business Applications).

If you do not have Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate Credit

If you did not take an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam yet have the appropriate background, it is still possible for you to skip Math 121 (Calculus I) or both Math 121 and 122 (Calculus I and II). Note that you will not receive credit for the courses you skip; they can be waived from prerequisite requirements upon successful completion of a later calculus course, and major or minor requirements can be substituted with other mathematics courses. If you believe you are prepared to take Math 122 (Calculus II) or Math 223 (Calculus III), you should consult with a member of the mathematics faculty to verify this and decide on the appropriate course. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for Rhodes students to take Math 121 (Calculus I), Math 115 (Applied Calculus), or Math 116 (Calculus with Business Applications) even though they have already had some calculus in high school.