Math 302 Differential Equations

Spring 2009, UAF


Instructor: Ed Bueler
Office: Chapman 301C.   Office Hours.
Phone: 474-7693      eMail:
Web Site:
Time:  MWF 9:15--10:15am
Place: Gruening 208
Text:  Nagle, Saff & Snider,
  Fundamentals of Differential Eqns
, 7th ed.

The Course:

Differential equations are the form in which science and engineering use mathematics most frequently.  The goal of Math 302 is the understanding of ordinary differential equations, along with methods for their solution.

You will understand why you had to take so much calculus!  You will begin to think of mathematics dynamically and in terms of movies instead of static graphs of functions.  I will try to avoid a "cookbook" approach to differential equations.  This may well make it harder.  Visualizing differential equations will be emphasized.  Systems of differential equations will be introduced as soon as possible.

We will cover chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 of the textbook, and I will try to motivate the ideas in chapters 9 and 10 as well.

Exams, Homework, and Grade:

65% of your grade will be determined by  four hours of exams:
Midterm Exam # 1 
Midterm Exam # 2
Final Exam
Monday 23 February  (one hour, in class)
Monday 6 April   (one hour, in class)
Friday 8 May, 8-10am  (two hours)

35% One third of the grade will be determined by 11 graded homework assignments.   Four of these assignments will involve graded group work based on projects/labs.

The course grade will be determined by points on the exams and homework, according to the schedule at right  --->

The schedule represents a guarantee.  Note I will use plus/minus grades as illustrated.
93 - 100 %
90 - 92 %
87 - 89 %
82 - 86 %

79 - 81 %

76 - 78 %
71 - 75 %
68 - 70 %
65 - 67 %
60 - 64 %
57 - 59 %
0 - 56 %


Computer use in this course:  A CDROM called Interactive Differential Equations came with your textbook.  The same functions are also available online at   I will be using IDE for projects/labs, some homework, and to illustrate ideas.

I also recommend that you learn how to use Matlab or Octave or another scientific computing language.  I will occasionally use such for examples, but I will not assign it as homework.

   The Department of Mathematics and Statistics has reasonable policies on incompletes, late withdrawals, early final examinations, etc.  See .  You are covered by the UAF Student Code of Conduct.  I will work with the Office of Disabilities Services (203 WHIT, 474-7043) to provide reasonable accommodation to student with disabilities.

Makeup exams:
  I will create makeup versions of Midterm Exams I and II if necessary, provided you have a convincing reason for me to do so and you let me know at least two class days before the exam.

Other books, related courses:  A common alternate text for a course like Math 302 is Boyce & DiPrima, Elementary Differential Equations.  It has a more traditional, method-oriented emphasis.  A completely different book is Zwillinger, Handbook of Differential Equations.  It seems at first like just a list of differential equations, but turns out to have great explanations of lots of methods.  I also like the way Numerical Recipes explains the way approximations to differential equations work.

Math 421 Applied Analysis covers advanced differential equations (DEs), and especially partial DEs.  Math 310 Numerical Analysis includes computer methods for solving DEs, and Math 314 Linear Algebra covers the tools needed to really understand systems of DEs and the idea of independent solutions to linear DEs.

There are many applications courses that use DEs; a partial list: ATM 401, BIOL 671, CHEM 331, CE 631, ECON 636, EE 353, EE 354, EE 451, EE 471, ES 301, GEOS 614, MSL 629, ME 404, ME 408, ME 409, ME 441, PETE 489, PHYS 311, PHYS 331, PHYS 651.