What Course Should I Take?

This question is often the most pressing for students. Below, there will be some information to help you decide, but choosing your course (particularly for first-years) should be done in consultation with your advisor when you get to campus in the fall. To decide between MTH102: Elementary Functions, MTH111: Calculus 1 and MTH112: Calculus 2, start by reading over the topic lists on the individual course pages. Many of the answers will depend on what your intended course of study is, so do not be surprised if there are references to your future major in the answers below.


Deciding between MTH102 or MTH111?

Deciding between MTH111 or MTH112?

I’m not sure I’m ready for MTH102. Are there other options?

Am I ready for MTH111: Calculus 1?

What about AP and IB credit?

I have taken Calculus 2. What other courses could I take?


Elementary Functions or Calculus 1

Many students interested in science (but not in engineering or physics) try to make the decision between these two courses, but students interested in education and economics also take one or both of these courses. If you are out of practice with mathematics or if you have concerns about your background for Calculus 1, it can be a tricky decision to make. If timing is important, remember that MTH102: Elementary Functions is only offered in the Fall semester. 

If there are two or three topics on the MTH102 topic list you have never seen before in any course, we recommend that you take MTH102, if your schedule allows. Otherwise, you can contact the coordinators of the introductory program at our Contact form. Please include your relevant course history and some of your concerns about either course. If MTH102 does not seem like the right course for you, consider QSK/MTH101 and see below


Calculus 1 or Calculus 2

For students who have taken some calculus before coming to Smith, the decision is often between Calculus 1 or Calculus 2. For many students (particularly first years) it all boils down to “What will help me balance my schedule better as I adjust to college?” If you have seen some calculus before, you are in a good position to take Calculus 1. The course will still be challenging, as the course structure and the skills you will develop are not necessarily the same as those from your earlier classes, but many first years find MTH111 to be a great transition into college-level coursework. 

If you feel particularly strong in the material on the topics list from MTH102 and MTH111, you should consider taking MTH112: Calculus 2 instead. Besides content differences, the biggest distinction between MTH111 and MTH112 is the comfort the course assumes you have with notation and algebraic manipulation. The first few weeks of MTH112 involve a lot of computation and working symbolically, whereas MTH111 starts by focusing on ideas and building up to more symbolic thinking towards the end of the fourth week. 

If the information above has not clarified what course will be best, consider contacting the coordinators of the introductory program at our Contact form. Include your relevant course history and your concerns, and someone will be in touch to help you decide. 


Options besides MTH102

  • QSK 101 (cross-listed as MTH 101), Math Skills Studio, is a great course for students who want to increase their confidence and shore-up their foundations, or students who are interested in how we learn and teach developmental mathematics. Most topics are in the context of every-day applications, for example, unit conversions are done in the context of global travel rather than chemistry. Some attention is given to societal influences on mathematical attitudes, and a lot of attention is given to understanding and making sense of previously memorized facts. An excellent course for math-worried or math-phobic students. Offered in the fall.
  • MTH 103 (cross-listed as QSK 103), Precalculus and Calculus Bootcamp, during the January interterm offers an intense review of precalculus for students who will be taking calculus-based or calculus courses in the spring. It is assumed that each student has had precalculus at some point, and that some (or all) of those memories are distant and need some intense practice to be usable again. We review some calculus if student time, needs, and background permit.
  • QSK 102, Quantitative Skills in Practice, is a spring course extending the ideas from QSK 101 (MTH 101) and offering further applications of quantitative skills. It is an excellent course for future teachers and for non-STEM majors wishing to revisit mathematics.


Am I ready for Calculus 1?

Have you taken a course like precalculus? Or advanced algebra? Or trigonometry? (Don’t worry, you don’t need ALL of these) The answer is probably yes! Many different students from many different backgrounds take MTH111: Calculus 1. All of the instructors are committed to the success of their students, and there are tons of Resources available if you find your skills in a certain area are rusty. If you have concerns, or just need a quick pep talk to help you get over your nerves, head to the Contact form and send a message to the coordinators of the introductory program. Include your course history and any concerns you may have, and one of the coordinators will get back to you as soon as possible. 


AP and IB Credit

AP scores of 4 or 5 on the Calculus AB or BC exam and IB scores on 5, 6, or 7 can be counted for credit at Smith College.  The specific details can be found on the Smith College Registrar’s site under Transfer Credit. If you choose to count AP or IB scores for MTH111 or MTH112, you will not be able to take those courses for credit on your Smith transcript. An AP score of 4 or 5 on the Calculus AB can count for MTH111 and an AP score of 4 or 5 on the Calculus BC exam can count for MTH112. 


Beyond 111 and 112

There are many courses in Department of Mathematics & Statistics – Calculus is really just the tip of the iceberg! Check out What’s Next? for some information of our other courses.