Here some questions that I get asked frequently about my math and physics classes. If after reading this you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. Email is usually the best way to reach me.

Be sure to also look at my upcoming teaching schedule. There you can find out what I am planning on teaching the next few years along with links to the most recent syllabus and web page for each class.

**What math courses are offered and when?****How can I learn about the different math and physics classes?****When are Calculus and Physics offered?****What's the deal with the Quantitative Reasoning Requirement?****Do AP credits or an IB in mathematics fulfill the Quantitative Reasoning requirement?****Do any non-math classes fulfill the Quantitative Reasoning Requirement?****Do math courses taken at other colleges fulfill the Quantitative Reasoning Requirement?****Can I place out of the QR requirement?****What math and physics are needed for graduate school?****Who should take Introduction to Chaos and Fractals?****What's the deal with The Physics and Math of Sustainable Energy?****Should I take Calculus? Am I ready for Calculus? Do I***need*to take Calculus?**I've taken Calculus before. Can I start in Calc II?****Am I ready for Calc III?****I've taken Physics before. Should I take Physics I? What about other physics classes?****What's the deal with Physics III?****What's the deal with the different statistics classes?****What advanced math courses are there?****Is computer programming offered?****I think I need a precalc class, but I don't see pre-calculus listed. What should I do?****I'm really bad at math, I'm intimidated by it, or I just plain dislike it. What should I do?****I really like math and physics. I want to get a strong background in these subjects. What should I do?**

### What Math Courses are Offered and When?

My teaching schedule is here. You can also see a list of anticipated courses for the next several terms on your CAMS portal (if you're a current COA student or advisor), or on the registrar's page.

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### How can I learn about the different math and physics classes offered?

In addition to this FAQ, you can look at the list of past courses that I've taught. Here you'll find links to the web pages for every class and tutorial I've taught at COA. These web pages often include an informal description of the class, as well as all assignments and (usually) a detailed syllabus. You can also, of course, ask me about classes. Drop me an email or something.

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### When are Calculus and Physics Offered?

Calculus I and II are offered in even years:
2018-19, 2020-21, etc. Calculus is **not** offered in odd
years. There is no class limit for Calculus I and II.
Everyone who registers will be able to take the course. The class
might be large, but I've taught big Calc classes before and it's
worked just fine. There will be plenty of tutors available to help on
the homework.

Physics I and II are offered at least every other year. Physics I will be offered in Spring 2018 and Physics II will be offered sometime in 2018-19. Physics I and II will likely both be taught in 2019-20.

**Please plan accordingly.** Note that two terms
of Physics are required by almost all graduate biology programs, as
well as medical and veterinary schools. Calculus is also required by
economics, architecture, biology graduate schools, and some other
social science graduate programs. Most med and vet schools expect
one year of calculus and/or statistics.

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### What's the deal with the Quantitative Reasoning Requirement?

All students who enter COA with 9 credits or fewer are required to take at least one QR course in order to graduate. QR courses include, but are not limited to, math courses. Most physics classes and some chemistry and economics classes meet the QR requirement.

Many students delay taking a QR course. This is certainly understandable. However, there are some reasons why I think it's better to take a QR course sooner rather than later: With a solid math and quantitative reasoning background, students will get much more out of some classes, especially science and economics classes.

On the other hand, there may be many other courses that make more sense for you to take, depending on what you're trying to get out of COA. It's usually better to wait and take a math class that is better suited for you than to take a math class right away that isn't a good match. Students sometimes worry that the longer they wait to take a QR course the harder it will be. In my experience, this isn't the case.

The bottom line is that I don't really care when you take a QR course. However, you can box yourself into a corner if you want too long and might end up having to take a course that isn't a good match for you.

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### Do AP credits or an IB in mathematics fulfill the Quantitative Reasoning Requirement?

AP credits or IB credits do not fulfill the QR requirement. Many transfer credits do count, however.

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### Do any non-math classes fulfill the Quantitative Reasoning Requirement?

Yes. Physics I, II, Chemistry II, various statistics classes, Wildlife Ecology, Biomechanics, several economics classes, and most advanced Chemistry classes all meet the QR requirement. Intro to Chaos and Fractals, an interdisciplinary class that combines math with lots of other things, also meets the requirement.

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### What math is needed for graduate school?

This depends, of course, on what sort of graduate school you're interested in. I believe that almost all science grad schools as well as medical and veterinary schools require two terms of calculus. These programs also usually require at least two terms of physics. Some social science/economics programs probably also require some calculus and also a term or two of statistics. For a more definitive answer, you should consult the grad school(s) you're interested in. Most graduate programs list admissions requirements on their website. The requirements for admission into graduate programs often have a little flexibility. There is much less flexibility in the requirements for medical or veterinary school. Depending on the sort of economics program you're interested in, you may also need some additional advanced classes, such as Calculus III, Linear Algebra, or computer programming. If you're considering physics, engineering, or mathematics, you'll needs quite a bit of math. We should talk.

In many fields having additional math courses beyond what is required can strengthen your application to graduate school. More importantly, you can apply math or programming skills to the research questions you're interested in.

That said, "because I need it for graduate school" is probably not a good reason to take a math class during your first year. Don't worry about grad school requirements now. Take challenging and inspiring and fun classes and worry about grad school later.

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### Who should take Introduction to Chaos and Fractals?

This course is designed for students who are not ready for or don't want to take Calculus or Physics, but who need a QR and/or an ES course, and/or want to learn some interesting and fun math. It is not a systematic review of algebra and is not specifically designed to prepare students for further study in the sciences or mathematics. This class is highly interdisciplinary and emphasizes connections among chaos, fractals, and many different fields of study. Students who need a more thorough or systematic review of algebra are encouraged to take Physics I or Chemistry II. Intro to Chaos and Fractals is probably the least traditional QR class regularly offered at COA.

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### What's the deal with The Physics and Math of Sustainable Energy?

This is a demanding introductory course designed to help students learn to do mathematical calculations and understand enough basic physics so that they can participate effectively and responsibly in discussions of sustainable energy and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You'll learn some physics and learn a bit about how various energy generating and consuming technologies work. We also cover basic financial mathematics, a topic that students expect to find dull but usually end up really enjoying. Taking this course is strongly recommended for students wishing to participate in project-based renewable energy courses. This course is also a good match for those interested in sustainable business, climate change politics, and farming and agricultural policy. The class will be offered in Fall 2017 and Fall 2018.

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### Do math courses taken at other colleges fulfill the QR requirement?

In general, yes, non-remedial math classes at other college can meet COA's QR requirement. But to be sure, you should check with me and/or the college registrar. Taking a course at another college is a good option for some students, especially those who are having a difficult time fitting all the COA requirements into their schedule and/or who might rather take their math at a less expensive college.

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### Can I place out of the QR requirement?

No. Regardless of whatever math you've had before you came here,you need to take one QR course while at COA (unless you're a transfer student.) The idea is that all students, as part of their interdisciplinary B.A. in human ecology, should take at least one course that requires quantitative reasoning or symbolic thinking.

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### Should I take Calculus? Am I ready for Calculus? Do I need to take Calculus?

Here are some things to consider as you're contemplating whether or not to take calculus.

Many students who are good at and/or like math feel they are ``supposed to'' take calculus. High school math curriculum is very centered on getting students to reach calculus, so calculus is seen as a goal or a pinnacle. (I don't think this is a great idea, but that's another conversation.) Perhaps their parents or siblings took calculus in college, or maybe they want the challenge, or maybe they just feel it's next in line. For many of these students, calculus is indeed an appropriate and fun course. Calculus is an incredibly powerful and flexible set of tools and ideas that are used through the mathematical sciences and which help to solidify and synthesize a great deal of mathematics. However, statistics is another option. Statistics is, arguably, more important for many areas of study than calculus. And statistics is certainly used more in other classes at coa than calculus. So, don't feel like you "have to" take calculus. Take it if you want to take it.

Also, calculus is required by many graduate schools. So, if you're planning on going to grad school in the sciences or even the social sciences, you'll probably need to take calculus at some point. Also, calculus is required for most of advanced math and physics classes offered at COA, including: Differential Equations, Thermodynamics, Calculus III, and Linear Algebra. If you think you might be interested in advanced physics or math, it's a good idea to take calculus sooner rather than later. And calculus is a great deal of fun. It has many applications and it ties together a lot of different things that you learned in previous algebra classes.

**Am I ready?** If you had a decent algebra and trig course at
some point in your past, you are almost surely ready for calculus.
It's not important that you
remember trig identities and the properties of logarithms.
It is important, however, that you've had some practice working with
and thinking with functions: f(x). Calculus is not a very difficult
course; it is not a huge leap harder than Precalc or algebra and trig.
Many students (myself included) found calculus to be significantly less
difficult than precalculus. For most, calculus "makes sense" and is a
lot more logical than precalculus or trigonometry. If the last math
class you took was a long time ago, don't worry. There are lots of
tutors to help you remember the stuff you might have forgotten. It
will come back to you quicker than you expect. My experience has been
that students who are many years removed from their last math class
still do just fine in calculus.

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### I've taken Calculus before, can I start in Calc II?

If you had calculus before, I recommend that you not take
calculus I, unless you had a *really* bad calculus experience.
If your calc experience was in the ok to pretty good range, then you
might consider taking Calc II. In Calc II we cover techniques of
integration, applications of integration, and sums and series. We
also do a fair amount of review of derivatives. If you had a good,
solid calculus experience, then it's probably in your best interest to
skip Calc I and II. By solid experience, I mean that you felt at the
time like you "got" many of the things you covered in calculus, not
that you remember tons of formulas. If you had AP Calc (AB or BC) or
did Higher or Standard math for IB, you almost surely should not
take Calc I or II.

The above is just a set of guidelines, however. If you had calc before, it's probably a good idea to talk with me about what calculus, if any, you should take at COA.

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### Am I ready for Calc III?

If you have had integral and differential calculus, then you are probably ready for Calculus III. If you've forgotten a lot of calculus, that's ok. Calc III basically re-does all of calculus for functions of more than one variable. So the course ends up reviewing lots of Calc I and II. If you have questions about Calc III, check out one of the websites from a Calc III course and/or let me know.

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### I've taken Physics before. Should I take Physics I? What about Physics II and Biomechanics?

Physics I covers mechanics: kinematics, forces and Newton's laws, conservation of energy and momentum. If you've had a good physics class before, you probably don't want to take physics I -- it might not be challenging. On the other hand, you'll probably find that Physics I covers familiar topics in a different and (hopefully) interesting way. As such, you might still be interested in Physics I.

Physics I is an excellent course for students who want to improve their quantitative problem solving skills and review algebra. It is taken by many students as their only QR course. It's a great way to get lots of practice solving word problems. Physics I also serves as a pre-calc course of sorts; if you're uncertain of your algebra and trigonometry, taking Physics I can be a good way to improve your skills so you have an easier time with Calculus.

Physics II covers electricity, magnetism, and as time permits, special relativity. Physics II makes fairly extensive use of algebra. Physics I is not required.

Biomechanics covers topics that are almost never taught in high school. So if you've had Physics before, you'll definitely learn new stuff in this course.

If you have questions about the different physics options at COA, please check out the courses' websites and/or let me know.

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### What's the deal with Physics III/Quantum Mechanics?

(Note: The quantum mechanics class used to be known as Physics III.)
This course is designed to appeal to both students who
anticipate concentrating in the sciences, as well as those who need a
QR credit and/or who want to learn some really cool stuff about
quantum mechanics. The focus will be on learning
what's strange about quantum mechanics -- how does quantum mechanics
differ from classical mechanics, the physical theory that describes
how the objects of everyday experience move and interact with each
other? In addition to this scientific content, the course covers some
of the history and philosophy of quantum mechanics, examining why
quantum mechanics was (and still is) viewed as such a radical shift
from other physical theories.
Physics I and II are not prerequisites for Physics
III. There is a moderate amount of algebra, but it is less
mathematically demanding than most other physics classes. In the
past, Physics III has been taken by a wide range of students,
including those focusing in the humanities, and I think almost all
students have found it fun, challenging, and provocative.
**Note: I do not anticipate offering Quantum Mechanics in the next
several years.**

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### What's the deal with the different statistics classes?

There are two introductory statistics classes offered:
**Introduction to Statistics and Research Design** taught by Sean
Todd, and **Probability and Statistics** taught by Chris Petersen.
One of these classes is offered every year. Both of these courses are
introductory stats classes; they assume little to no prior exposure to
statistics but do make use of algebra. The courses
cover similar material. Sean's class is geared slightly more toward
biology, while Chris's class might be a little bit more general.

John Anderson's advanced class, **Wildlife Ecology**, covers
research methods and various applications of statistics to ecology.
This class meets the QR requirement. Biology I, Biology II, and
Ecology are pre-requisites.

This winter there will be a new intermediate/advanced stats class offered by Susan Letcher. Contact her for details. I suspect that prior coursework in statistics will be a pre-requisite.

Chris, Sean, John Anderson, and I have all offered tutorials and independent studies on different aspects of intermediate and advanced statistics. Talk to one of us if you think you might be interested.

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### What advanced math courses are there?

There are a number of options, including **Differential
Equations**, **Linear Algebra**, and **Calculus III**.

I also offer tutorials to small groups of motivated students in intermediate and advanced topics. If you think you might be interested in a tutorial, let me know. From time to time I also do independent studies or small research projects with advanced students.

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### Is computer programming offered?

This winter I will teach a new class on scientific programming using python. Students will learn the basics of python. The class will center around a handful of case studies, each of which will illustrate one or more important techniques or concepts in scientific computing. This is not a general introduction to computer science class. Calculus and/or statistics would be helpful background, but is not required.

I incorporate python programming in Differential Equations, which I expect to next teach in Winter 2019.

There are many good courses and tutorial available free on line that you can use to learn programming. If you are interested in computer science or programming, talk to me and we can discuss options.

We are also about to embark on a search for a new faculty member in Computer Science. If successful, the faculty member will begin teaching in Fall 2018.

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### I think I need a precalc class, but I don't see a pre-calculus class listed. What should I do?

Are you sure you need a pre-calc class? You don't need to have taken a class called pre-calc to take calculus. If you haven't had enough algebra to take calculus, I think the best thing to do is to take Physics I. This is probably the best class for solidifying algebra and learning some basic trigonometry.

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### I'm really bad at math, I'm intimidated by it, or I just plain dislike it. What should I do?

My experience has been that almost all COA students who fit this description are able to find a QR class that works for them. Introduction to Chaos and Fractals is probably the most basic math class at COA, in that it relies the least on a prior knowledge of algebra. If you're looking for something more concrete, a physics or chemistry class might be for you. There are lots of different courses that meet the QR requirement. Talk to me or drop me an email and we'll figure something out

The exams in math and physics classes at COA are untimed and open notes. So you don't need to race to finish problems, and you can consult your notes or the textbook. I've found that this usually significantly lessens students' math anxiety. Almost all math, physics, and chemistry classes have a least one student teaching assistant, so there will be plenty of opportunity to get help.

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### I really like math and physics. I want to get a strong background in these subjects. What should I do?

I really like math and physics, too. And I also really enjoy computer programming. There are a good number of intermediate to advanced classes at COA, especially in mathematics. I also am usually able to offer tutorials if there is an intermediate or advanced topic that a few students want to learn about.

There are also opportunities off campus. Students can also take a term or two at another college as a visiting student. In the not-too-distant past, COA students have gone to the University of Washington and Smith College to take some advanced math classes that aren't offered at COA. Also, there are lots of opportunities to do research internships in the summer.

The bottom line is that I've found that COA students are able to get an excellent background in math and quantitative analysis.

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