Joseph M. Mahaffy SDSU
Math 124: Calculus for the Life Sciences Fall 2016
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Course Information for Math 124

Course Description

This course develops basic concepts of calculus with life science applications. Topics include differential and integral calculus and an introduction to elementary differential equations all connected to biological problems. Computer skills are developed and applied to more complex biological models. The skills developed in this course provide fundamentals for learning other sciences (see Neil deGrasse Tyson).

This class is not open to students with credit in Math 121 and 122 or Math 150. This course is required for biology majors, and it develops the quantitative skills in those students. For GE students, it provides interdisciplinary studies connecting mathematics and biology with a strong technological component. Students should read the Biology Advising sheet, especially in regards to "Are You Taking Calculus in 2016-2017?" To prepare for this course, students should consider testing their Algebra skills through the University ALEKS program and testing.

Details of the course and timelines are available on the HW Assignment page.

Faculty Teaching Math 124 - Fall 2016

Joseph Mahaffy
Professor, Biomathematics
Lectures: 8:00-9:15 TTh in GMCS 309 Office phone: 619-594-3743
Office Hours: TH 9:30-10:30, 3:30-4:30
Fax: 619-594-6746
Office location: GMCS 593 E-mail:
Matt Richards
Graduate Assistant
Lab: Friday in GMCS 421
Office phone: 619-594-xxxx
Office Hours: Thur 2-5 in GMCS 422
Fax: 619-594-6746


  • Successful Completion of ELM Exam
  • Good knowledge of High School Algebra
  • Satisfy one of the following:
    • A score of 74 or better from ALEKS
    • A C or better in Math 141
    • A score of 3 or better in AP Calculus


Joseph Mahaffy and Alexandra Chavez-Ross, Calculus: A Modeling approach for the Life Sciences (Volumes 1 and 2), Pearson Custom Publishing, 2009.

Lecture Notes are available online.

A Lab Manual is being developed with much of the first part completed and online.

Course Assessment and Grading

  • Lecture Material is 70% of grade:
    • Lecture participation (I>Clicker) (7% of Lecture grade)
      • 50% of participation grade is answering 75% of posed questions
      • 50% of participation grade is based on correct answers of select questions
      • Two lowest scores are dropped over the semester
    • Homework with WeBWorK (9% of Lecture grade)
    • Quizzes, Exams, and Final ((84% of Lecture grade))
      • Quizzes on HW every Lab (end), except when taking a Lab Exam (14% of Lecture grade)
      • 3 Exams (each 14% of Lecture grade) and Final (28% of Lecture grade)
      • Scientific Calculator only - Quizzes, Exams, and Final
      • One 3x5 notecard for Quizzes or Exams and three 3x5 notecards for Final
  • Lab Work is 30% of grade:
    • 13-14 Lab assignments - Lowest Lab score is dropped
    • Lab attendance is mandatory (unless you receive an excused absence)
    • 3 Lab Quizzes worth twice a regular Lab assignment
      • Open notes, Computer (except email), No Cell Phones

The grade divisions are typically 85-100 is an A, 73-85 is a B, 62-73 is a C, 50-62 is a D, and below 50 is an F with + or - assigned near the boundary (within 3%). Because the HW can be done with outside help or technology and the Computer Lab grade can reflect work done by others, then if these scores are disproportionately high compared to Quiz, Exam, and Final scores, then the instructor reserves the right to lower a grade. (Yes, there is some subjectivity in the final grade based on instructor experience.) The instructor considers the comprehensive final exam especially important in deciding the final grade, as this exam reflects what a student has learned in the course. Anyone receiving a score less than 50% on the Final is unlikely to obtain a grade higher than a C-. Simlarly, a high performance on the final may be used to increase a student's grade above the typical grade divisions noted above.

The Syllabus has details on course policies.

Tutoring: The Math Department may offer free tutoring depending on funding. Any tutoring information will be posted on the HW Assignment page.

For questions concerning the webpage contact Joseph Mahaffy.



Copyright © 2016 Joseph M. Mahaffy.