Mathematics Course Placement

Beginning in mathematics 

It is usually through a choice of:

Path 1

A Calculus sequence aligned with AP Calculus courses, where any number of subsequent mathematics courses may be anticipated. Recommendation: MAT 112 (or 111), MAT 113, MAT 150 or MAT 160, according to placement advice below.

Path 2

A two-course Calculus and Modeling sequence designed for application in other fields, with particular attention to the life sciences and students on a pre-medical track. Though the first course at Davidson is the same in Paths 1 and 2, the second courses differ significantly (and both may be taken). MAT 140, Multivariable Calculus and Modeling, covers a selection of applied topics from several mathematical areas including Calculus III, Linear Algebra, and Probability. Recommendation: MAT 112 and MAT 140.

Path 3

A non-major course, often appealing to students interested in social sciences or humanities, with the minimal background assumption of high-school algebra. Recommendation: MAT 108 or MAT 110.

Calculus sequence placement guidelines

In all Calculus courses, a good pre-calculus background in algebra, trigonometry and functions is assumed. Placement depends on experience beyond that, as follows:

  • No calculus background take MAT 111 Calculus I (for those with no previous exposure). Addressed to students encountering calculus for the first time, this course is not open to any student with one semester of a high school or college course about calculus, a restriction that is enforced by removal if improperly registered. The next course after MAT 111 would be MAT 113 Calculus II.
  • Weak calculus background or desire for a two-course applied sequence take MAT 112 Calculus I and Modeling. This is a beginning course that does not presume any proficiency in calculus, but does address an audience that has some previous exposure to some calculus concepts. Students with a 3 or below on the either AP Calculus exam, may wish to take MAT 112 at Davidson to build a stronger foundation, even though any AP credit for MAT 111 would be replaced. The next course after MAT 112 would be either MAT 113 Calculus II or MAT 140 Multivariable Calculus and Modeling.
  • Good Calculus I background at the level of a 4 or 5 on the AP Calculus AB exam (or equivalent experience): take MAT 113, Calculus II. With or without credit for MAT 111, such students are well prepared for Calculus II, usually starting with familiar material. MAT 113 is the first course required for a Mathematics major.
  • Strong calculus background at the level of a 4 or 5 on the AP Calculus BC exam (or equivalent experience): take MAT 160 Calculus III or MAT 150 Linear Algebra. Both of these courses fulfill requirements in a Mathematics major and either may be taken first. Such students have already covered the material from Calculus II and should either have credit for MAT 113 or may petition the chair to substitute a course numbered above 200 to replace 113 in their curriculum.

Non-major courses

The following courses seek to enrich the student's mathematical experience, as opposed to repeating algebra or pre-calculus preparation. Both courses assume high school algebra. Of the options:

  • MAT 110, Finite Mathematics, is more oriented toward methods of applied mathematics, particularly for the social sciences, often using Excel spreadsheets to help with topics, such as systems of equations and inequalities, elementary probability, and matrix algebra.
  • MAT 108, Exploring Mathematical Ideas, tackles more theoretical ideas, such as irrationality, infinity, and generalized geometry, requiring reasoning and proof, as well as a term project. Specialized titles, including Exploring Mathematics in Art and Exploring Mathematics and Politics, focus on mathematical ideas relevant to and motivated by the particular subject. There are usually more offerings in the spring semester.

Students are always encouraged to talk with any of Davidson's mathematics faculty about their placement.