INTERMEDIATE

MICROECONOMICS


Provides a thorough grounding in intermediate-level microeconomics. The standard topics are covered: behavior of consumers and firms, structure and performance of markets, income distribution, general equilibrium, and welfare analysis. Students do extensive problem solving to facilitate the learning of theory and see practical applications.


COURSE INFORMATION
[Reproduced from http://wwww.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/lwestph1/Courses/MIC_home.html]

INDEX

COURSE DESIGN
COURSE MATERIALS
REFERENCES AVAILABLE AT LIBRARY
WEEKLY LAB SESSIONS
WEEKLY CLINICS
STUDY GROUPS
COPIES OF PAST EXAMINATIONS
GRADE DETERMINATION
KEY TO SUCCESS
FOR STUDENTS EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTY
INSTRUCTOR'S POLICIES
COURSE SUMMARY


COURSE DESIGN

As explained in detail at the first class meeting, students select to take this course in one of three "flavors." This is to acknowledge that students very legitimately have different objectives in taking the course. Having three flavors enables each student to better achieve their particular objective by choosing the one that best suits them. All flavors use the same textbook and entail attending the same lectures. All are shown simply as Intermediate Microeconomics on students' transcripts, which do not record the flavors in which the course was taken. They differ most obviously in two ways, reflecting their distinct nature: first, the additional work that is done beyond simply reading and assimilating the text and lecture content; second, the nature of what is expected of students participating in the respective weekly Lab Sessions.

Micro Lite: This flavor focuses intensively on the core elements of intermediate micro and is designed for students whose objective is to insure mastery of them. Assignments: do only the assigned problems. In Lab Sessions: be prepared to discuss answers to the problems as well as to discuss any other questions on the textbook reading assignment.

Micro Plus: This flavor deals extensively with refinements that go beyond the basic core elements and is designed for students who want to explore micro analytics in greater depth. Assignments: do the assigned problems plus puzzles and the supplementary reading. In Lab Sessions: be prepared to discuss problems plus to present answers to puzzles and discuss supplementary reading.

Micro Calc: This flavor provides a reasonably sophisticated introductory understanding of microeconomics using calculus and is designed for students who would prefer a calculus-based course. Assignments: do the assigned problems plus the reading in the calculus supplement and the associated problems. In Lab Sessions: be prepared to discuss problems plus the calculus reading and to present answers to calculus problems. As time allows, but in accord with students' preferences, discuss as well the puzzles and supplementary reading.

Note: Micro Calc is designed for students who have successfully completed Math 23 (or equivalent, including Math 33/34). Students who have successfully completed Math 15 (or full equivalent) may also opt for Micro Calc, but they should expect to devote "considerable" additional time to assimilating the basics of multivariate calculus and its use in constrained optimization. These basics are reviewed at the appropriate times, so that students with only a Math 15 background (albeit one that is "solid") should not consider Micro Calc beyond their capabilities; that is, if their interest is sufficient to motivate the additional time and effort required.

Regardless of flavor, Lab Sessions are also used to answer cum discuss any and all questions of clarification or puzzlement about the core elements that any student may wish to raise. In turn, all students take the same mid-term and final exams; there is no differentiation among the flavors on exams. The exams focus exclusively on the core elements of intermediate micro. Thus one's grade is unaffected by the choice of flavor. A Micro Lite student who has thoroughly mastered the core elements is no less likely to achieve an A grade than is a Micro Plus or Micro Calc student. Additional information helpful to students in selecting the flavor in which they wish to take the course appears further below in the section discussing Weekly Lab Sessions.

Students' choices of flavor should accordingly be determined on the basis of what they hope to derive from taking the course, given the amount of time and effort that they are willing to devote to it. That said, it must also be recognized that every student's dominating interest should be to insure adequate mastery of the core elements of intermediate micro, those contained in Micro Lite. Correspondingly, students opting for the Plus and Calc flavors should be happily willing to devote the extra time and effort that is necessarily entailed.

Students are to select their chosen flavor by the time of the second course meeting, when they will be assigned to specific Lab Sessions. The choice should be made with care; the instructor reserves the right to enforce a change in flavor on any student found during the semester not to be respecting the obligations of the flavor originally selected.

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COURSE MATERIALS

The materials required / used differ according to the flavor in which the course is being taken. The required text is common to all flavors. All flavors also entail access to the same Course Summary and to common Weekly Assignment sheets, where the assignments for all three flavors may be found together in distinct sections: problems; puzzles; (supplementary) reading; and calculus.

Textbook

Purchase required: M.L. Katz & H.S. Rosen, Microeconomics, 3rd ed., 1998.

Important Note: Students should examine the contents of the "K&R Textbook Errata" file within the Weekly Assignments folder on Blackboard (see below) to make a print for their use if their copy of the textbook has not been corrected to provide the correct figures. Observe that the errors identified in the formal Errata are not the only errors in the text; others include typographical errors that can be readily spotted with careful reading and at least one graphical error which will be announced when appropriate in lecture.

Workbook

Purchase optional: R. Rosenman, Study guide to accompany ... text.
You would be well advised to wait until after the first class meeting before deciding to buy this workbook.

Caveats: The "Application" questions (in sections following chapter outlines) are in so many cases sufficiently problematic that they might as well be everywhere ignored. Additionally, in a non-trivial number of cases, the answers given to multiple-choice questions and problems at the back of the Study guide are erroneous. Included within the Weekly Assignments folder on Blackboard (see below) is a document labeled "Study Guide Errata." This document identifies the known incorrect answers - to multiple-choice questions and problems -- and should be consulted for the correct answers to those multiple choice questions and problems that are known to be erroneously answered in the Study guide.

Course Summary
[Link to Course Summary]

This course web page provides a week-by-week summary of text and supplementary reading assignments. It also indicates the dates of the mid-term examinations. Moreover, students can only access the supplementary readings from the Course Summary web page. Clicking on the identifier for any supplemental reading will direct one's browser to the location from which that reading can be downloaded (but, see below regarding readings not otherwise available on the web).

Access on Blackboard -- Password Protected Course Materials Server
[Link to Blackboard]

Weekly Assignment Sheets

An assignment sheet for the forthcoming week will be placed in the Weekly Assignments folder on Blackboard by each Sunday during the semester. Assignment sheets perform two functions: first, they indicate caveats and qualifications regarding the week's reading assignments, if any (yes, there are some important qualifications stated for some week's readings); second, they provide the week's problems, puzzles, reading question, and calculus work. Assignments are discussed in the following Monday’s Lab Session.

Micro Lite students are required (to preclude free-riding in Lab Sessions; and as part of their lab attendance / participation grade) to complete and hand in all of the problems assigned for the current week by 4 pm on the Friday. Completed problem sets are to be left in the box designated for this purpose outside the Economics Department Office. Course TAs will check the problems and return them to the same box by 2 pm on the Sunday, this so that students can obtain their checked problems well in advance of the Sunday evening clinic. Those who experienced difficulty completing the problems satisfactorily are strongly encouraged to attend the Sunday evening clinic where they can and should raise questions about the problems. The objective is to reserve the following Monday’s Lab Session for other matters related to the week’s assignment.

Micro Plus and Micro Calc students should of course also complete all problems. And they are strongly encouraged also to hand in their completed problem sets for checking by the TAs. However, they are not required to do so. This is so that they might apportion their time as between the Micro Lite and Micro Plus or Calc materials as they deem most appropriate to meeting their objectives in taking the course. However, in this context it is well to recall that the instructor reserves the right to enforce a change in flavor on any student found to be shirking the obligations of the flavor selected, which in particular here includes not being prepared in Lab Sessions to discuss the answers to any of the assigned problems.

Supplementary Readings Not Otherwise Available on the Web

Most readings are accessible from journal web sites. However, a few of them can only be accessed in the Reader folder on Blackboard. All readings were selected on the basis of their inclusion in W. Breit, H.M. Hochman, and E. Saueracker, eds., Readings in Microeconomics, 3rd ed., 1986. This reader is no longer in print and is thus unavailable as a distinct collection. This is unfortunate, for it is a superb Intermediate Micro reader, containing a number of classic articles referenced in any good textbook.

Calculus Supplement

B.E. Hermalin, Mathematical Supplement to accompany ... text, 1995.
This supplement, which seems optimally suited for use in this course, actually accompanies the 2nd edition of the textbook; there is no supplement specifically for the current edition. Assignments will be adjusted to reflect this appropriately.

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REFERENCES AVAILABLE AT LIBRARY

In addition to the materials just listed, students - regardless of chosen flavor -- are strongly encouraged to consult -- as supplementary texts -- other textbooks which differ in expositional style and/or substantive content and level. Indeed, it is an excellent! idea to read a second text in its entirety, to help solidify your understanding. If you are not that ambitious, you may nonetheless on occasion find Katz & Rosen opaque and so want to find another, more communicative (to you, at least) exposition. Some excellent alternatives are listed below. Unless otherwise indicated, books listed below are shelved either in the stacks or on honors reserve (consult Tripod).

Additional supplements to required text

R. Rosenman, Instructor's manual to accompany ... text.
C. Stevens, Test bank to accompany ... text.

Two copies of each supplement are on General Reserve at McCabe. Though the instructor makes no use whatsoever of these supplements, students may nonetheless find them useful in their studying.

Calculus based text -- prime reference for Micro Calc

B.R. Binger and E. Hoffman, Microeconomics with Calculus, 1st or 2nd ed., 1988,98.
Three copies of this text are on General Reserve in McCabe.

Introductory textbook

Unlike the other references listed here, the following is an introductory textbook of the encyclopedic, year-long course variety. Such introductory textbooks often provide particularly illuminating introductions to basic concepts and are thus likely to prove especially helpful. They are often very useful when seeking clarification! An indication of the mapping between chapters in this book and in the Katz and Rosen textbook appears at the bottom of the Course Summary web page.

W.J. Baumol & A.S. Blinder, Economics: principals & policy, 5th edition (1991) or later.
Three copies of this text are on General Reserve at McCabe.

Textbooks that don't require or use calculus

Supplemental study guide, found useful by past students having difficulty
D. Salvatore, 1992 Schaum's outline of theory and problems of microeconomic theory, 3rd ed.
Three copies of this text are on General Reserve at McCabe.

Somewhat less difficult (hence less coverage) and considerably "wordy-er"
E. Mansfield, Micro-economics: theory / applications, 1994.
Three copies of this text are on General Reserve at McCabe.
-----
E. Mansfield, Applied microeconomics, 1994.
One copy of this text is on General Reserve at McCabe.

Previously used textbook, excellent reference for graphical analysis
H. Kohler, Intermediate microeconomics: theory and applications, 3rd ed.
Two copies of this text are on General Reserve at McCabe.

Reasonably close in coverage and level to Katz & Rosen
G.S. Maddala & E. Miller, Microeconomics: theory and applications, 1988.
B.C. Eaton & D.F. Eaton, Microeconomics, 1988.

Somewhat more difficult; follows the conventional approach
J. Hirshleifer, Price Theory and applications, 1984,88.

Somewhat more difficult; approach the material 'unconventionally'
H.R. Varian, Intermediate microeconomics: a modern approach, 1987,90.
D.N. McCloskey, The applied theory of price, 1985.

Classic textbooks
A. Marshall, Principles of economics, 8th ed.
T. Scitovsky, Welfare and competition, rev. ed., 1971.
G.J. Stigler, The theory of price, 3rd ed., 1966.
None of these is even closely comparable in coverage to Katz & Rosen; but each is well worth looking at or even reading in its entirety.

Additional references for Micro Calc

Useful calculus refreshers
A.C. Chiang, Fundamental methods of mathematical economics, 1974,84.
M.W. Klein, Mathematical methods for economics, 1998, 2002.
Two copies of each of these texts are on General Reserve at McCabe.

Calculus-based texts
W. Nicholson, Microeconomic theory: basic principles and extensions, 1985,92,98.
J.M. Henderson & R.E. Quandt, Microeconomic theory: a mathematical approach, 1980.
The second of these is considerably more advanced; it is close to a graduate text.

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WEEKLY LAB SESSIONS

Students will be "self-assigned" by the flavor of their choice to particular Lab Session time slots during the first week of class. The set of time slots is that indicated by the Registrar for purposes of registration. However, particular time slots signed up for (if any) at registration are meaningless; what matters are the assignments determined the first week of class.

Lab Sessions afford the opportunity for interactive discussion of all material covered during the week. The emphasis is on giving students opportunities to "talk analytical economics." This is in accord with two facts: first, one doesn't really comprehend what one can't clearly verbalize; second, verbalization is an important means of gaining comprehension.

Students should expect to be called upon at random to discuss any of the material covered in the week’s assignment. Attendance is not required (but Micro Lite students are nonetheless required to hand in completed problems each week). However, attendance and participation are closely monitored and one's record in these respects can affect one's grade.

The elements on which the Lab Sessions are focused depend, as indicated above, on the respective flavor of the session.

Micro Lite: Lab Sessions focus on problems and discussion of the textbook reading assignment. Many of the problems are taken from past exams and are thus of the kind that are likely to appear on the required mid-term and final exam.

Micro Plus: Lab Sessions focus on puzzles and (supplementary) reading, with discussion of problems and textbook reading assignment as time allows and needs dictate.
Puzzles: In general, the puzzles are the kind that require "Ah Hah, Insight!" to resolve. Their value does not depend on obtaining the right answer: of course, getting the right answer affirms that one's economics "intuition" is good; but getting a wrong answer teaches one something no less valuable, namely what paths of reasoning don't work in resolving similar problems. Indeed, one learns as much from a wrong answer as from getting the right answer; that is, if one reflects on where one's chain of reasoning went wrong!
Supplementary reading: There is one assigned reading each week (except one or two weeks when there is none). Students will undoubtedly find some of the articles to be rather hard going. That's to be expected! Indeed, most of them require careful, thoughtful reading; some of them, more than once. Some have mathematics, but the central ideas in each article are accessible without following the mathematics -- close attention to the words will suffice!

Micro Calc: Lab Sessions focus on calculus assignment, with discussion of problems and textbook reading assignment as time allows and needs dictate -- "plus" as time permits and there is inclination. The calculus assignments deal with both analytical results and applied problems.

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WEEKLY CLINICS

Weekly clinic sessions, lasting no more than two hours, are held on Sunday nights. These sessions enable students to go over the material - in particular (but not exclusively) the checked problems returned earlier in the day - with carefully selected teaching assistants who have already successfully completed the course. Teaching assistants are often uniquely able to assist students in comprehending the material, this because they can readily place themselves in the students' position, having achieved their mastery in the very recent, thus easily recalled, past. The teaching assistants are also available on a priority basis to meet with individual study groups at mutually agreeable times.

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STUDY GROUPS

Students are strongly! encouraged to work in small study groups (of six or fewer students), particularly in preparing for Lab Sessions and for the exams. Study groups are important especially because they give students greater opportunity to "talk analytical economics" -- to verbalize in proper economics terminology their understanding and / or their puzzlement.

The keys to a successful study group may be obvious but nonetheless bear repetition. Those involved must be seriously committed to the enterprise of mutual learning and assistance. This importantly means that all members must be fully prepared in advance of the study group meeting. Being prepared doesn't necessarily mean having all the answers; it means having devoted serious attention to, sufficient for a "good try" at, achieving all the answers (more generally, of attaining full understanding of the material). Commitment to the enterprise also means being seriously attentive to the subject matter while the study group is in session; convivial socializing can come later.

Experience suggests that the best study groups are those formed voluntarily by the students themselves. Interventions by the instructor on behalf of students having difficulty finding the right study group sometimes work, but more often they don't. However, one thing seems clear. The most successful groups very often consist of students at different levels of ability relative to the mastery of the subject matter. Those who "catch on" relatively quickly gain the great benefit (in terms of solidifying their understanding) of being able to assist their peers, who in turn gain the equally great benefit of faster, better comprehension.

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COPIES OF PAST EXAMINATIONS
(Available only on Blackboard)

All students are strongly! encouraged to look at the course examinations from the last five years (of the current instructor's offerings) that are available in the Exam Folder on Blackboard. Why? Because roughly half of the required mid-term and final exams is taken from previous exams. Note that neither the instructor nor the teaching assistants will knowingly discuss any past exam questions with students, either individually or collectively. There is, however, one exception to this rule: past exam questions appearing on the Weekly Assignment Sheets are obviously fair game for discussion with instructor and teaching assistants. These questions happen, however, to be but a small fraction of those asked in the past.

Note: Because of changes across successive offerings of this course in its content and coverage, students will encounter questions on past exams that obviously deal with material not covered in the current course's Micro Lite flavor. Such questions would clearly not appear on exams in the current offering.

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GRADES ARE DETERMINED ON THE FOLLOWING BASIS:

Lab Attendance / Participation, *
Exams During the Term, 55 % * weight
Final Exam, 45 % *

* In nearly all cases, a student’s grade is the weighted average of grades on exams during the term and on the final exam. Exceptions occur in three instances: the student’s weighted average grade is very close to the border line between two letter grades (e.g., B and B-); the student’s performance – gauged by exams and lab attendance / participation – over the semester shows a distinct upward progression; the student’s weighted average grade is a C- or less. In each of these instances, a strong record of lab attendance / participation typically results in the student being given a grade higher than the weighted average would signify. Thus: if on the borderline, the higher grade; if improved performance over the semester, a grade more reflective of later performance; if otherwise a C- or less, a higher grade, perhaps even a C.

There are two exams during the term, a required mid-term and an optional take-home (well, sort of, as will be discussed at first class meeting). The optional exam is for those who -- for any reason -- are not satisfied with their performance to that date. It is also meant to be an aid in studying for the final exam. You are free either to take or not to take the optional exam; either way, your grade on exams during the term will not be less than the grade received on the required exam. Your grade on exams during the term will, however, be raised if you take the optional exam and your grade on it is higher than your grade on the required mid-term -- your grade on exams during the term will then be the simple average of your grades on the required and optional exams. Note that the optional exam is not graded against a curve, unlike the required exam and the final. Moreover, it is an essay exam quite unlike the other two exams in this course.

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THE FIRST KEY TO SUCCESS IN THIS COURSE

The single most important element in achieving success takes only two words to state: KEEP UP! Ask any past student in this course who was disappointed with their performance in Econ 11 and it is a near certainty they will tell you that the principal contributing cause was failure consistently to keep up with the work, week-by-week. Sure, you hear this in other courses. But in this course it matters far more than in most. Why? Because each week's material builds on all previous weeks' materials. Crucially important is what it means to keep up: It doesn't simply mean to keep up with the readings plus attend all the lectures and lab sessions, it means also -- and essentially -- to achieve adequate mastery of each week's assignment during the week it is assigned. There are several devices which should help you keep up: study groups which afford some peer pressure, problems to be handed in weekly, and weekly labs for which you should be prepared.

!! => So, DO IT -- KEEP UP! <= !!

The Women in Swarthmore Economics some years ago crafted How to Survive Micro; click and pay heed.

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FOR STUDENTS EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTY

If you are finding it difficult to follow the material - if it simply "doesn't makes sense" after careful reading and / or after thoughtful review of your lecture notes - then you should most definitely attend the weekly clinics. You should also consult one or more of the references listed above (References Available at Library) to determine whether you find that any of these materials are easier to follow and may thus serve as an effective aide in gaining comprehension of the required course material. Likely to be particularly useful are the texts by Baumol & Blinder and Mansfield or the study guide by Salvatore, all of which are on General Reserve in McCabe.

The Study Guide, or workbook, that accompanies the text (see the first parts of the Course Materials section found above) may also be a useful means of entry into the required course material. Some students certainly claim to have found it to be so. It provides chapter summaries that are meant to direct attention to the central points as well as questions and problems ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty that are designed to facilitate achieving rudimentary understanding. But, beware: perhaps better than no workbook at all, this particular workbook is unfortunately not one of the better examples of a well crafted study guide. Partial evidence of this fact is found in the too many errors contained in the answers to all questions and problems that are given at the back.
* Correct answers to the multiple-choice questions and problems can be found in the Study Guide Errata document contained in the Weekly Assignments folder on Blackboard. Anyone using the Study Guide should first consult the Errata, chapter-by-chapter, to see which are the erroneous answers.
* As regards the "Application" questions (in sections following chapter outlines): These are in so many cases sufficiently problematic that they might as well be ignored. However, if you wish to make use of them, then the following strategy is advised. Read the questions in conjunction with reading the answers; if you find seeming errors or "infelicities" (such as information required to answer a question being given after the question should have been answered by you), don't get "hung up" on them, move on!

Also to be reckoned with is that micro economics is a subject in which reasoning ability, not memorization, is the fundamental thing to be achieved. Thus simply being able to follow the material - as in "yes, it makes sense" - is but the first step in gaining the full comprehension that is entailed in having complete mastery of the reasoning using the concepts and tools of micro economics. The next step, and for some students it is a very problematic step indeed, is being able independently, in one's own mind, to reproduce the full chain of reasoning that at first "only made sense." But this step is tantamount to sheer memorization and is thus only another step on the path to achieving what is considered in this course to be an adequate level of mastery. Adequate mastery means having some facility in being able to apply the concepts and tools in new ways that go beyond the narrow limits of what is explicitly contained in the material.

Students who endeavor to keep up and can seemingly follow the material but nonetheless experience persistent difficulty in achieving adequate mastery typically lack experience internalizing modes of reasoning; that is, in taking possession of them, in "making them their own." Some would say that they have not yet acquired "good study habits." True enough, but what counts is isolating those habits that must be acquired to gain some degree of success in mastering micro economics. Means of "taking possession" of micro economic reasoning are discussed at appropriate points during the course. They are of two kinds: the easiest relate to being able independently to reproduce chains of reasoning that appear in previously encountered material; more difficult are those that pertain to being able to reason creatively in applying the concepts and tools in ways not previously encountered.

Students who are experiencing difficulty should seek to identify its nature and source(s) in light of what has been said above. Taking action based on self-awareness in these respects may in some cases be sufficient to put the student on the path of achieving adequate mastery. Otherwise, students are strongly! encouraged to seek help from the instructor as soon as they think it would be useful to do so. If warranted, some form of tutoring will be arranged. Students are also free to ask for advice on how to overcome difficulties from any one of the teaching assistants in the course; but please do be sensitive - always - to the other competing demands on their time. The names of the teaching assistants in the course will be announced during the first week of classes.

The most effective way to arrange for tutoring - one-on-one or in groups of two or three - is through either the instructor or the teaching assistants -- not the Dean's Office. The teaching assistants are available to provide episodic assistance to individuals or study groups, but they can not offer continuing help or tutoring without the instructor's approval.

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INSTRUCTOR'S POLICIES

Examinations: Students must take exams at the duly appointed times; a make-up exam will be given only on the basis of a certified (by a Dean or Worth Health Center) emergency or medical excuse for having missed an exam.

Late assignments: As a general matter, with reference to major writing assignments - assignments are due at the beginning of class or at the time stated, as the case may be. Assignments turned in after the deadline will be marked down one "notch" (e.g., from A- to B+) per hour that they are late; an exception will be made only in the case of a certified (by a Dean or Worth Health Center) emergency or medical excuse. (This policy does not ordinarily apply in this course; it is stated here for completeness and to cover any unanticipated eventualities that may arise.)

With specific reference to the problem sets due Fridays at 4 pm – Problems handed in late will be considered not to have been handed in; that is, they will not be checked and a zero will be recorded for that week’s problem assignment.

Arranging accommodations to special needs: Students having special needs must act in accordance with College policy, which means in particular that they must provide adequate advance notice to the instructor of the accommodations that are authorized and will accordingly be made; that is, given timely notice of them.

On cheating and plagiarism: See the Student Handbook's statement regarding Academic Honesty. Cases of suspected plagiarism and cheating on exams will be reported to the Dean's Office for judicial action. In addition, the instructor has the automatic policy that any student whom he considers, on the basis of evidence available to him, to have engaged in plagiarism or cheating in any individually assigned work [i.e., in this course, exams and written reports (if any)] will automatically receive No Credit for the course.

With specific reference to the problem sets due Fridays at 4 pm – Students are encouraged to work on the problems in groups if they find that to be beneficial to their learning. It is only required that each student hand in problems completed in their own handwriting; it is in this respect that student’s work is to be their own.

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COURSE SUMMARY


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Page updated: 8/11/05