MATH 171 Honors Calculus I

Question: What is taught in MATH 171 and how is it different from standard calculus?
Answer: MATH 171 teaches calculus with proofs. The treatment is much more in-depth than standard calculus, with additional focus on why things work the way they do. Logic and proof writing skills are developed in the course. MATH 171 is the first-course in the four semester honors calculus sequence MATH 171-174.

Question: I have already taken calculus, is this a repeat of things I already know? I don't want to be bored.
Answer: Not quite. You will be familiar with many of the overall topics, but much of the discussion and homework/exam problems will be entirely new. Nobody has every complained about being bored in honors calculus, and typical honors students have taken at least one course with calculus before.

Question: Why choose MATH 171 and who should take it? Is it only for math majors?
Answer: No, it is not just for math majors. Anyone that enjoys mathematics should consider MATH 171. The enhanced skills and understanding developed in honors calculus pay tremendous dividends in future coursework, including other math-intensive subjects such as Engineering, computer science, and physics. The class sizes in honors math courses are generally smaller so you will get to know your professors and be part of a peer group with similar interests. Moreover, students completing the entire honors sequence will have satisfied the foundational requirement for the mathematics major and minor, as well as part of the core requirement. In particular, MATH 171/172/173/174 together are treated the same as MATH 161/162/164/165/235 for major and minor requirements. For more information on the math degrees, visit the majors page here.

Question: What if I sign up for MATH 171 and decide it is not for me?
Answer: This is very common. Roughly 30% of students in MATH 171 drop down to a 160's level calculus course after the first week or two. As long as you do not wait too long, catching up in the 160's course is not much trouble.

Question: What if I sign up for a standard-level course like MATH 161 or 162, but decide later I want to join MATH 171? Is it possible to catch up in MATH 171 if I miss the first class or two?
Answer: No. If you are not in MATH 171 from the beginning, it is unreasonable to try catching up. The material is more challenging and theoretical, so it's crucial that you're there starting day 1. Moreover, second-year students are ineligible for MATH 171. In other words, your only chance to take honors calculus at UR is if you sign up for MATH 171 on the first day of your freshman year.

Question: I scored a 5 on the AP calculus BC exam and thus have credit for MATH 161 and 162. Should I consider honors calculus? Should I start in MATH 171 or 173?
Answer: Yes, you should consider honors calculus and many students in MATH 171 have AP credit. Having AP BC Calc credit is good prep for 171, but in our experience the course is different enough (proof based) that you won’t be bored even with that background. The MATH 173 professor will assume you already have solid proof-writing skills, so you should not consider MATH 173 unless you have a lot of experience in calculus with proofs.

Question: I heard honors calculus is very difficult. Am I taking a risk with my GPA if I take it?
Answer: It is true that honors calculus is very demanding (and rewarding) and is a higher-level discussion. However, the letter grade distribution in honors calculus is not particularly harsh and the professors understand that honors students are signing up for a challenge. There are no guarantees of course.

Question: I have a question which was not answered here?
Answer: Come visit the Mathematics department table at the Academic Open House during orientation (welcome week). You can also email with your question or visit the placement page here.