To Fall 2018 MA129 Students at Laurier

I've put here important course information my fall students might need. (Unfortunately, students don't get access to MyLearningSpace until classes begin.)  If you email me with a question, I will simply direct you here for an answer. I don't mean to be rude, but I get a LOT of questions, so please don't be put off by my curt reply.

Registration Issues

I imagine in some places instructors have some control over who is allowed in their class and who isn't. I don't. I can do nothing to help you get into a full section, no matter how important it is for your program. Please refer such questions to the math department office (WLU tel: x2304; Office location: LH3054A). If they can't help, they can refer you to someone who can. My understanding is that while you may not always get the schedule you want, you have a right to access the required courses for your program. (For example, you might need to take the course in winter if it is full in the fall.)

What can I do to prepare?

Some students already know that calculus will be their biggest challenge in the first year of their program, and so they want to invest some time in the summer to get ready. If you read this by mid-June, there is still time to register in WLU's math TriAGe program, which reviews grade 12 functions during the summer.  Here's a link to the web page for more details:

If you are looking for something you can do on your own for free, here's what I suggest. The most common reason that students don't achieve results corresponding to their efforts is that their algebra is weak. Almost every problem involves some sort of algebraic manipulation, so if you haven't really mastered algebra you're going to be getting a lot of wrong answers. Here's a free online review that covers a number of the things we expect students to be able to do. You can skip the stuff on absolute values and the binomial theorem since we will only be doing simple cases of those. Note that there are both answers and full solutions at the end. Link:

Also, while we will be reviewing exponentials and logarithms in week 3 of the course, the review goes by too quickly for some students. I suggest working through the problems of chapter 6 of the Stitz & Zeager open textbook: If you get stuck then you can review the exposition in the book for help. And the book can be used for more practice for areas of weakness discovered in doing Stewart's Algebra Review.

Finally, many students can do with a review of transformation from Stitz & Zeager, section 1.7. (Peek at the earlier stuff in chapter 1, just to make sure you know it.)

What about the textbook?

The textbook for the course is being distributed digitally. If you are enrolled officially MA129, then you are automatically charged for the textbook (about 110 dollars) as part of your ancillary fees. Everyone gets access to the book for the first two weeks of classes. At the end of that everyone is given the option to opt out, and get their money back. However, opting out means you get no access to the textbook, and the practice problems it contains.

  • The book is Calculus with Applications (11th ed) Plus MyMathLab with Pearson eText by Margaret L. Lial and Raymond N. Greenwell
  • What you pay gives you access to a digital copy of the book plus the MyMathLab software. After the opt-out date, for an extra $25 you can get a loose-leaf copy of the book from the WLU Bookstore.
  • Access begins on the first day of classes, when you can log in to MyLearningSpace (MyLS), which is our university's LMS system (LMS = Learning Management Software).
  • Many of the assigned practice problems in the course can be done within the MyMathLab software, accessible through MyLS. The advantage of doing them this way is that if you get stuck, there is a "show me how to solve it" button that breaks the problem down into smaller steps for you. Also, the problems have randomized numbers, so you can revisit questions and they'll look different.
  • You don't have to do anything about the textbook before classes begin. Once the semester has begun, detailed information will be posted in MyLearningSpace, and a demonstration of how to access the textbook will be given in the first lecture.

Now, calculus is not changing quickly, so one might think a previous edition of the book would serve just as well. However, publishers are wily enough to scramble the contents and exercises around between editions so that it really becomes a bother to have an older edition, especially when it comes time to do practice problems. The list of recommended problems for the course will refer to problems in this version of the textbook. So, if you get an older version you will need to figure out on your own which problems to do.

Finally, I always get asked, "Do I really need to buy the book? It's expensive!" Only you can be the judge, but here are some things to consider. First, how will you do the suggested problems without the book? Doing those problems is the single most important thing you can do to learn the course material. Also, in lectures, I will sometimes try to focus on the more difficult or crucial conceptual parts, instead of trying to cover examples of all the types of problems you will need to be able to solve. This will especially be true of the precalculus review material at the beginning of the course. You may find I breeze quickly through something you need explained in more detail, and so will want to dip into the book's exposition. Or, later in the course, you may want to see more worked out examples of something I've done in class. Perhaps you will find reading the book before lectures helps you understand them far better. There is generally a great deal of variation from student to student in the depth of use of the class textbook. And sometimes it works to share a textbook with a friend. Ultimately, it's your call.

What's this about i-clickers?

First, i-clickers are an electronic device to give answers to questions in class. Classes are more fun, and more is learned when students are actively thinking about what is being taught and trying to answer questions. What happens is that I'll ask a question, and give you a certain amount of time to think about it, discuss it with your neighbours, and then enter an answer into your i-clicker. The clicker then sends your answer to my computer. When the polling is done, I post on the classroom display a bar graph of the percentage of students who gave various answers. Then we can all see how well we're progressing. If lots of students get the wrong answer, I will know that more work needs to be done on that concept.

There are two grading schemes offered for the course, one including a clicker grade, and one without. You are automatically given the better of the two grades you earn. For the scheme including clickers, clicker performance will be 5% of the final grade. Moreover, half the clicker grade is given simply for attending and answering the questions, while the other half is for giving correct answers. Thus, an average student with good attendance can easily accumulate an above-average clicker score.

New clickers are available from the bookstore. They are re-registered at the beginning of each year, so it is perfectly acceptable to get hold of a used clicker -- just make sure it's an i-clicker 2. If you have a much-used clicker, you may wish to replace the battery at the start of classes.

Finally, contrary to the instruction booklet from the manufacturer, you don't need to register your clicker with However, do read the instruction book so you know how it works before we use it in class. When classes begin you will need to register your clicker within MyLS, so that we can match your clicker data with you, and thus award you your grade.


There is only one acceptable calculator for the course: the Casio FX-300MS Plus. You must buy this particular calculator and no other for the tutorials and tests. The reason for this is that there are a million different calculators out there, and some of them do enough sophisticated things so as to give a student an unfair advantage in tests. And so we have standardized around the above simple, cheap model (less than $15 in many places). It does what we need it to do, and no more. Also, by forcing everyone to have the same calculator, it becomes easier to stop cheating: even in an immense final exam hall, with hundreds of students writing, it is straightforward to go up and down the rows to see that everyone is using the same model of calculator.

There are other advantages. Last year I had several panicking students in the final exam. Each of them had managed to push some wrong buttons on their calculator to get it into some bizarre mode so that it wouldn't respond normally. Since we were all using the same calculator, I could easily show them how to reset it. This uniformity also has benefits when one person needs to show another how to do something, or someone needs to borrow a calculator.

So, even if you just bought a nice calculator, or even if the calculator you have is very similar to the model above, you still need to get exactly this model.

I think that covers the information you need before access to MyLearningSpace is granted on the first day of classes in September. I wish you success, not only in my course, but in all your studies!

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