Mathematics Placement

Based on your previous coursework and experience in mathematics, you can determine which of the following initial mathematics courses would be most appropriate if you choose to take a Mathematics course to fulfill the Quantitative and Analytical Reasoning requirement. Read the descriptions of these courses carefully, mindful of your prior math preparation, and choose the level that matches your interests and abilities. First-year students typically choose their first mathematics course from among the four options listed below. Several majors require specific quantitative courses as seen in the table on Quantitative and Analytical Reasoning.

Students who are primarily seeking to obtain a broad background and to fulfill the quantitative requirement will be best served by options 1 through 4. Students desiring a more technical quantitative background, particularly for use in mathematics or quantitative science, will be better served by options 4 through 9, courses in the main calculus sequence. Option 4 does indeed fit both categories of students. All of the courses in options 1 to 4 have the (QA) or (QA*) designation as indicated.

If you opt to take calculus, which course in the sequence is for you? Information for placement within the calculus sequence is provided below. Your background and previous calculus experience will place you into the most suitable course. You may also contact a member of the Mathematics Department for advice – see www.willamette.edu/cla/math/faculty.html.

  1. Contemporary Mathematics (MATH 130) (QA*) - A survey of contemporary topics in mathematics such as: voting systems and power, apportionment, fair division of divisible and indivisible assets, efficient distribution, scheduling and routing, growth and decay in nature and economics, symmetry and fractal geometry, probability and statistics. Instructor consent is required to receive credit for MATH 130 after MATH 251 is completed.
  2. Statistics (MATH 138) (QA*) - An introduction to descriptive and inferential statistics.  Emphasizes everyday applications and practical skills.  This course is an excellent preparation for dealing with the statistics one encounters every day in our society, and is particularly recommended for students who neither need nor desire a calculus background.  Prerequisite: two years of high school algebra.
  3. Discrete Mathematics (MATH 163) (QA) – An introduction to basic techniques and modes of reasoning in combinatorial problem-solving. Topics will be chosen from combinatorial mathematics, logic and Boolean algebra, difference equations, graph theory and applied algebra.  Prerequisite: two years of high school algebra.  Note this course is offered only in spring semester.
  4. Modeling with Calculus (MATH 140) (QA*) – Modeling with Calculus introduces and applies the concept of calculus to solve open-ended, real-word problems, especially those in the natural and social sciences. The emphasis is on developing and interpreting mathematical models. Topics include differential calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations. This course takes advantage of computational tools so that the focus can be on calculus concepts useful in applied work. This course is appropriate for students with no prior calculus experience. Prerequisite: High school math beyond Algebra II recommended.  Students who have taken a full year of high school calculus should begin calculus study with MATH 152, MATH 153, or MATH 249; see calculus placement advice below.
  5. Integral Calculus with Physics (MATH 142) (QA*) - A second course in calculus: review of differential and integral calculus via trigonometric and logarithmic functions, techniques and applications of integration, polar coordinates and parametric equations, infinite series.  Prerequisite: Previous Calculus experience required; see calculus placement advice below. MUST BE TAKEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH PHYS 220: Integrated Physics I.
  6. Accelerated Calculus I (MATH 151) (QA*)(0.5 cr) - A first course in calculus for students with some previous exposure to the subject. Topics covered include limits; continuity; derivatives of algebraic, trigonometric, and exponential functions; implicit differentiation; the Mean Value Theorem; and optimization.
  7. Accelerated Calculus II (MATH 152) (QA*)(0.5 cr) - A second course in Calculus.  Topics covered include definite and indefinite integrals, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, volume, arc length and surface areas, integration techniques, improper integrals, polar coordinates, and parametric equations. Prerequisites: MATH 140 or MATH 151, or equivalent.
  8. Sequences and Series (MATH 153) (QA*)(0.5 cr) - A half-semester course on sequences and series. Topics covered include sequences and series, Taylor Polynomials, Taylor Series, convergence, and Fourier Series. Prerequisite: MATH 152 or equivalent.
  9. Multivariable Calculus (MATH 249) (QA*) - Three-dimensional analytic geometry; partial differentiation; maxima-minima problems; multiple integrals; vector fields, curl and divergence; line and surface integrals; applications. Prerequisite: MATH 142, MATH 152, or equivalent; see calculus placement advice below. Please note that MATH 249 does not cover information included in MATH 153 (Sequences and Series). Passing MATH 249 with a C- or better satisfies both quantitative analysis requirements.

Calculus Placement Advice

In the Advising and Course Preferences Questionnaire you indicated if you have previous calculus experience. This data will assist the Registration Advisor in placing you into the most suitable course based on your background. While each specific situation is different, we generally follow the placement advice outlined below.

Students with no calculus background should take MATH 140 Modeling with Calculus. This course is designed for students who are likely to only take one course in calculus. We recommend that students have high school math beyond Algebra II. Students with some exposure to calculus who are planning to take more than one calculus course should consider taking Accelerated Calculus I MATH 151, a 0.5 credit course.

Preparation for Calculus: In most cases, students who want to take calculus but who have not had calculus before should take MATH 140, which includes significant pre-calculus review. Students who feel they need more review also have the option to sign up for MATH 135 Preparation for Calculus. Please note that MATH 135 does not carry a QA or QA* designation. Please contact a member of the Math Department if you are not sure which course is best for you.


Students with High School Calculus:

AP credit

  • A score of 4 on the Calculus AB exam earns credit for MATH 151 and places students into MATH 249, MATH 152, or MATH 153.
  • A score of 5 on the Calculus AB exam or a score of 4 on the Calculus BC exam earns credit for MATH 151 and MATH 152, and places students into MATH 249.
  • A score of 5 on the Calculus BC exam earns credit for MATH 151, MATH 152, and MATH 153 and places students into MATH 249.

Students with high school calculus but no AP credit

Calculus taken Grades Place into Comments
Full year AP (A/B version) A’s or A/B MATH 153 or MATH 249 MATH 153 is a half semester course offered in the second half semester.
Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics majors use sequences and series.
Full year AP (B/C versions) A’s or A/B MATH 249
Full year non-AP A’s MATH 153 or MATH 249 MATH 153 is a half semester course offered in the second half semester.
Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics majors use sequences and series.
Full year AP (A/B or B/C versions) B’s or B/C MATH 152 MATH 152 is a half semester course offered in both first and
second half semesters
Full year non-AP A/B or B’s MATH 152 or MATH 153
Semester only or full year with lower grades MATH 140 or MATH 151 MATH 140 is designed for students who'll only take one course in calculus.
MATH 151 is appropriate for students with exposure to calculus, but who
need a review.

Students wishing to place lower than recommended in this table will need departmental approval. Students may also seek departmental approval to enroll at a higher level than recommended.

General Calculus Placement advice: As a rule, we recommend that students aim high in their calculus placement. If students get in over their heads, we can help them change to a lower level course in the sequence. If students find themselves unchallenged after three weeks in a lower-level course, it is often too late to change to a higher level. If in doubt, please contact the department personally.

Contact info is available on the Mathematics webpage.