MATH 241 Honors FAQ (FALL 2021 UPDATE)

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About this page

This page is based on experiences I gained over the years from teaching honors sections of Math 241 (Calculus III). It addresses questions about the "honors" nature of this course and the differences to the regular sections in order to help you decide whether this course is right for you.

FALL 2021 UPDATE: Up until a couple of years ago, all honors calculus sections were offered as in a standalone format, in small classes of around 30 students each that met four hours per week. Most of my experience with teaching honors classes has been with such standalone classes. The Fall 2021 version of Honors Calculus will be in a lecture/discussion format, consisting a single medium size (around 100 students) lecture section (Math 241 HL1, 1-1:50 pm MWF), accompanied by four discussion sections (Math 241 HD1 - HD4) that meet Tuesdays and Thursdays and are led by Teaching Assistants. In contrast to regular calculus classes, both lectures and discussions for the honors section will be in person.

While this format may slightly diminish the "small class" benefit that the honors sections used to offer, I still plan to treat this class much like I would a small class. With the old small class format, my goal has always been to get to know every student by name. While this may no longer be possible with a class of about a hundred students, it is my hope to get to know, and interact with, as many of you as possible.

- A.J. Hildebrand

How is this class different from the standard version of Math 241?

What kind of students are taking this class?

Enrollment in Math 241 Honors is strictly limited and requires either a score of 5 on the AP Calculus BC exam or an A grade in Math 231, and it requires approval by the Undergraduate Math Office. As a result, the students in this class are among the best and the brightest on our campus, they are talented, highly motivated, hard working, and ambitious. If you have been approved for this class, you are in this select group. If you decide to take the class, you know that you will be in the company of similarly talented and highly motivated students.

I am not a math major. Should I still consider this class?

Absolutely! In fact, typically only about one in five students in the honors sections are math majors. The vast majority are majors in various Engineering disciplines such as Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Physics, with a smaller number coming from fields such as Chemistry, Biology, Business, and Economics. The class caters to this broad and diverse audience. Any student who has the necessary talent, motivation, and intellectual curiosity can get something out of this class, regardless of the major.

Will my grade suffer if I take an honors section instead of a regular, non-honors, section?

The short answer is no, provided you are willing to invest the additional time and effort that an honors section requires. I do not use a preset curve or aim for specific percentages of each grade. The exams will be comparable in difficulty to exams you might see in regular Math 241 sections, except that they will cover a slightly greater amount of material because of the additional topics we cover.

The requirement that you have to be willing to put in the necessary additional time and effort into this class must be taken seriously. This is how you earn the "Honors" designation that shows up in your transcript and that you can boast about in your CV. If you cannot afford to put in the extra time, you are better off taking a regular section. This class is certainly not the easiest route to an A in Math 241.

What are the benefits of this class?

What is expected of the students in this class?

I will do my best to make this class an interesting, stimulating, challenging, and rewarding learning experience. In return, I expect you to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of an honors student. In particular, you must:

If this class does not work out for me, what are the alternatives?

This class is not for everybody. If you find that you are in over your head in this class, or the workload is getting too much for you, you should consider dropping the class, or switching to a standard (non-honors) Math 241 section. You might also consider self-studying for the proficiency exam for Math 241, which is offered four times a year; to pass a proficiency exam requires only the equivalent of a B- grade in a regular course.

The sooner you make this decision, the easier it will be. Don't wait till the middle of the semester before making that decision; by then, it will be too late to switch to another (non-honors) section, and dropping the class may require special approval by the Dean.

If you are struggling early on in the course, don't expect things to get easier later in the semester. In fact, the first chapter in the syllabus (Chapter 12) is the easiest of all; it gets harder in subsequent chapters. If you have difficulties with the early material, switching right away, or dropping the class, may be in your best interest.

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Last modified: Sun 15 Aug 2021 01:34:20 PM CDT ajh@illinois.edu A.J. Hildebrand