Math 53: Autumn 2015

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Course Description

This is a first course in ordinary differential equations. The material includes separation of variables; integrating factors and exact differential equations; systems of linear differential equations; eigenvalues and eigenvectors; the method of variation of parameters; the Laplace transform; systems of nonlinear differential equations, and conservation laws.

This course will focus on teaching "cookbook-style" methods for solving concrete problems. Students interested in a proof-oriented course should look into Math 53H.

For a more detailed syllabus see the schedule of topics.

Prerequisites: Single Variable Calculus (Math 19-20-21, or 41-42, or equivalent); Linear Algebra and Multivariable Calculus (Mathematics 51 or equivalent)

Enrollment in Lectures and Sections

Math 53 students attend lectures on MWF and discussion sections on TTh. After you have enrolled in a MWF lecture on Axess, you need to use CourseWork to enroll in a TTh section as explained here.


The text for the course is Differential Equations: An Introduction to Modern Methods and Applications - Second Edition, by Brannan and Boyce. If you have problems finding the textbook at the campus bookstore, please contact your instructor.

Grading Policies and Exam Dates

Your final grade is calculated by averaging your homework, midterm, and final examination scores as follows:

Homework: 15%
This is a non-trivial portion of your grade, so be sure to spend time completing your homework assignments. (Your lowest homework score will be dropped before this average is computed; this policy is to accommodate exceptional circumstances such as a serious illness.)

Two Midterm Exams: 25% each
The first midterm will be either Wednesday, October 14 or Friday, October 16 (TBD), and the second will be either November 4 or 6 (TBD).

Final Exam: 35%
The final exam will be on Monday, December 7, from 7-10pm (the location will be announced soon).

A note regarding homework: There will be weekly homework assignments to be turned into your TA at the beginning of your discussion section. No late homeworks will be accepted. To accommodate exceptional situations such as a serious illness, your lowest homework score will be dropped. For homework assignments and other general information, see the Homework page.

A note regarding exams: All exams for Math 53 are closed-book, closed-notes, with no calculators or other electronic aids permitted. If you have a course-related or competition-related schedule conflict with a midterm exam, you must contact your instructor at least a week in advance of the exam to make arrangements for an alternate (early) sitting. No other schedule conflicts are accommodated. For more information on exams, including previous exams, see the Exams page.

Getting Help, Links, and Other Resources

  • You are encouraged to attend the office hours provided by the instructors and teaching assistants. You may attend the office hours of any instructor or teaching assistant.

  • The Stanford University Mathematics Organization (SUMO) offers free drop-in tutoring for students in the 50's sequence. Tutoring is available on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-10 PM in room 380-381T.

  • Free Tutoring at the Center for Teaching & Learning.

  • The math department offers a "Homework Night" where students in any math course can get together to work on assignments. It takes place Tuesdays from 7-10 PM in room 380-381U.

  • Math Department Web Page

  • Tips for Success in Undergraduate Math Courses by Jessica Purcell
    Some very good advice for college calculus students. Read this carefully and do as it suggests.
    Note: Pay particular attention to #3 under "Weekly" and #6 and #7 under "Before the exam". Students who think they're following these tips often overlook those parts, and they're the most important ones!

  • Common Errors in Undergraduate Mathematics by Eric Schechter
    Although this document is a bit on the long side, you should read at least some of it carefully -- you'll do better in your math classes because of it. We encourage you to pay particular attention to the sections: bad handwriting, all of the algebra errors, stream-of-consciousness notations, and going over your work.

  • Statement from the Registrar concerning students with documented disabilities:
    "Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) located within the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). SDRC staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the SDRC as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066)."

  • Honor Code and Fundamental Standard

Autumn 2015 -- Department of Mathematics, Stanford University