The introductory courses at Smith college are offered in small section of 20-28 students, taught by different professors. The sections of each course are closely coordinated to maximize the resources available to students and make it easy for students to work together during the semester. On this page, you will find the big picture on how these courses run. For specific topics in a given course, check the specific course page in the drop down menu. After looking at the topics list, you can head to What Course Should I Take? for help deciding between certain courses. 

Course Goals: The introductory courses have a few primary goals:

  1. Strengthen students’ written and oral communication skills on quantitative and technical topics 
  2. Develop students’ problem solving skills by applying mathematical ideas to problems inspired by real world applications
  3. Encourage students to see mathematics as both a useful set of tools and a subject of interest on its own
  4. Present each concept in a variety of ways: verbally, numerically, graphically, and symbolically to connect each notion to many different ideas in the sciences
  5. Train students in specific mathematical concepts and their applications to a variety of problems inspired by other disciplines 

Students often take Calculus as a prerequisite for another major or program. In the introductory courses, we embrace the diversity of our students’ interest and backgrounds and design the course to connect to a variety of different disciplines, from Physics to Economics and everything in between. 


Class Time: The introductory courses meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 70 or 80 minutes. Each class period will be divided between short lectures from the professor and time spent working in small groups. Working in groups is a key part of active learning, keeping students engaged with the material and allowing lots of time for individual attention for students.  Studies show that time spent actively working on problems increases retention and understanding significantly more than lecture alone. We know that working on problems when you’ve just learned the material can be challenging, so the instructor circulates among all the groups, answering questions, giving guidance, and supporting each students’ learning during class. 


Outside of Class: Time in class is only one part of the course. Outside of class, students take control of their own learning in the following ways: 

  • Reading the textbook – In order to get the most out of class time, we recommend reading the sections before class to get an idea of what class will be about. Think of reading before class as setting up the pathways so that in class you are filling in gaps rather than building everything from scratch
  • Short, Online Homework – To keep your knowledge current, for each class day, there will be a 5 problem online assignment through WeBWorK, our online homework system. These assignments remain open for one week, and you have 6 attempts on each problem. Ideally, you would do these assignments between class days to improve your long term understanding of the ideas seen in class. 
  • Written Homework – Like the online homework, these assignments help you practice with both computational and big-picture ideas from class.  Here, the emphasis is on your ability to communicate in writing and we require you to use complete sentences.  Verbal communication is key no matter what your intended major is.
  • Knowledge Checks –  Each week, there will be a self-scheduled 20 minute knowledge check. You’ll need to have some basic computations in your toolkit in order to make progress in the course, and these weekly checks will help you do that. They will help you make sure that you are keeping up with the material and identify any areas of difficulty early
  • Exams – By studying for the exams, you’ll have a chance to step back and think about the larger concepts from the course, and you’ll have a chance to brush up on computational skills that may get rusty after a week without practice.  There are two midterm exams and a final exam. 

The course may seem like it has many parts, but each one is carefully organized to interact with the others. Once you identify the right timing for your schedule, it will all work together to support your learning and success in the introductory courses.