Fall 2003
TuTh 9:3011:00 AM in MCS 148

Today we all have access to highspeed computers and computer graphics. Like humans, computers cannot solve most differential equations that arise. However, they can give us an APPROXIMATE or NUMERICAL solution. For many purposes, this is good enough.
Unfortunately, computers make mistakes (sometimes because of roundoff errors or sometimes because the differential equation is not suited to numerical approximation). So we always have to be careful when we solve differential equations this way. More importantly, the output of the computer is not a formula that we can use to compute values of our solutions. Rather, the output from the computer is a rather lengthy list of numbers. Most often, it is best to view this list geometrically as a phase line or plane or other geometric object.
All of this means that this will be a very different type of mathematics course. In this course you will rarely be asked to generate specific formulas for solutions of differential equations. Rather, you will be asked to understand the algorithms that lead to numerical solutions, to interpret the resulting pictures produced by the computer, and to relate these images back to the original application.
You will also be required to perform lengthy labs and
submit written lab reports. Your homework problems and questions
on exams will often involve essays rather than simple routine computations.
And you will often have to use technology to come up with answers to
questions that are posed. Most students in the past have found this
kind of course quite challenging, but lots of fun. If you are used to
the old style of mathematics courses, be prepared for something quite
different and perhaps much more relevant to whatever your use for differential
equations is.
Your grade will be determined as follows
There will be two midterm exams in this course. The midterm exams are tentatively scheduled for
The Final Exam is scheduled for Monday, December 15, 12:302:30 PM.
Homework is assigned at each lecture but not picked up or graded. Many of the exam questions will resemble the homework problems. As this is an Honors course, I expect that you will read all of the sections posted on the syllabus, even if I have little time to cover them fully in class.