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One of the most important factors in student success in mathematics is correct placement, so calculus at RIT begins with the Math Placement Exam (MPE). Based on the results of the MPE, students in Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science are directed to a sequence that matches their academic needs, shown in the flow chart below (students in other majors are directed to other courses, pursuant to the requirements of their degree program).




Each of the courses in the flow chart (above) has two hours of workshop per week. The academic content of a workshop depends on the particular educational objectives of the course to which it's attached; all workshops, regardless of the course they support, are organized around cooperative study, interaction, and participation in the problem-solving process. They are not traditional recitations nor are they a time for students to do or discuss homework from lecture.


As mentioned above, the particular content of a workshop is designed by the primary instructor to support the educational objectives of the course to which the workshop is attached. The worksheets that instructors design for the project-based calculus sequence are intended to stretch students' abilities and deepen their understanding by tapping into their imagination and sparking their creativity. Such exercises are very different than the standard "kill-and-drill" exercises that many students see in high school. Here are some examples of topics from worksheets in the project-based calculus sequence.

(Using calculus to demonstrate that the "focus" of a parabolic dish is really where the incoming rays are focused) (Designing ellipitcal couplers for optical fiber) 53(Mathematically modeling wave fronts)


Worksheets are written to be relevant to students' lives (either personally or professionally) and often introduce students to "real" problems. Of course, "real" problems are "real" hard. To help students make the transition to collegiate level thinking and ability, each workshop is supported by both a faculty member and a Teaching Assistant (TA). The TAs attend workshop to help facilitate student group discussions.

  • Projects

Each course in the Project Based Calculus sequence has, as you might expect, a term project. These projects vary from quarter-to-quarter, and from instructor-to-instructor. Students are expected to solve the given problem, and to write a clear, concise, technical report in which they delineate the process by which they found the solution. Some recent topics for projects are given below.

Bezier curves, such as those used by Adobe® Illustrator® and other vector graphics programs
Mathematical models of toxins in the body Satellite positions and orbital transfer Kepler's Laws of planetary motion

Common Core Exam


The final exam for each section of each calculus course is given in two parts:

• a multiple-choice "common core" in which students are asked to demonstrate skills and knowledge that are fundamental to the subject

• a free-response part written by the individual instructor in which students demonstrate skills and knowledge particular to that section and instructor

This helps to ensure that students can "leap-frog" between professors if they need to, and also helps maintain a nominal degree of uniformity in grading criteria across all sections of a course.

The School of Mathematical Sciences prohibits calculators on the final exam of calculus (and other first-year) courses. Many professors prepare students for this by prohibiting calculators on exams during the term, or by giving exams in two parts (one with, and one without calculators).

"C"-or-Better Policy


Common sense points to adequate preparation as an important element in student success. Particularly when courses are in sequence, demonstrated competence in one course provides the best foundation for success in the next. For this reason, students in calculus must earn a letter grade of at least "C" before continuing on to subsequent courses.

Science and Engineering Sequence


Course Grade Earned Course Placement for Following Term
Project-Based Calculus I: MATH-181 "C" or better Project-Bsaed Calculus II: MATH-182
Project-Based Calculus I: MATH-181 "D" or "F" Project-Based Calculus I: MATH-181 OR
    Calculus A (MATH-171) and Calculus B (MATH-172)
Calculus A: MATH-171 "C" or better Calculus B: MATH-172
Calculus A: MATH-171 "D" or "F" Calculus A: MATH-171
Calculus B: MATH-172 "C" or better Calculus C: MATH-173
Calculus B: MATH-172 "D" or "F" Calculus B: MATH-172


Math Crash

Sponsored by: RIT College of Science

Math Study Session Sunday, May 18, 2014 from 2:00-7:00pm in the Bruce & Nora James Atrium College of Science Gosnell Hall . Free Pizza Provided beginning at 4pm. Bring your ID for admission. Bring your own water bottle. If you need an interpreter, please submit a request at