Calculus at UWM for Bio students

New at UWM: Calculus for the Life Sciences

For students pursuing the BS at UWM, it is required to take a Calculus course. Common questions that result are:

(1) What are the different options for calculus at UWM?
(2) Which one is right for me?

(1) Calculus courses: We have multiple flavors of calculus here!  Math 211, 213, and 231 (and 221, Honors Calculus).

(a)  Math 211: Survey of Calc.  This is “calc lite”, taught in a large lecture with mostly business majors.  The prereq is only Math 105, or math placement level B.   If you dislike math, or have no patience for math, and if you’re sure you don’t want to go to grad school, Math 211 is the entry level calculus course that will get the job done for you.

But currently, if you take 211 then change your mind and decide you need a second semester of calculus, you’ll have to take 117 (trig), then 231, then 232.  Math 231 and 211 have a lot of overlap.  So taking Math 211 if you’re stronger in math is the slow route….

(b)  Math 231: Calculus with Analytic Geometry, I.  This is the calculus taken by mostly physical sciences and engineering students.  Anyone with a C or better in 231 can go on to 232.   The prereq to 231 is ‘math placement level A’.  That’s either Math 115, or both of 116+117 (or equivalent placement exam score), or we allow 211 + 117.  Note 115, 116, 117, and 211 all have prereq 105.   So if you start in 105, it takes an extra semester of prereq courses to get to 231 than it does to get to 211.

If you’re thinking of going to grad school, if you placed into 231, if you took 211 and it seemed too easy, etc., you might think of taking 231 and 232.  But some bio sci students are worried about their GPA, and worried about the effect of taking a course designed as a weed-out course for engineers, so they’re hesitant to take 231….

(c) So we created Math 213, Calculus with Life Science Applications.  The prereq is the same as Math 231—Math placement level A.  But the expectations will be different.  It won’t be as difficult as Math 231.  Students with a B or better in 213 can go on to 232.    All of the applications/examples  in the course are bio related.  The content is designed for you!  For more information, please click here.  One section will be offered in Spring 2017.

(2) How do you decide?  For Bio, we recommend Math 211 or 213, depending on your strengths and interests….

  • Anyone with a grade no higher than a C in math 105, we recommend you start with Math 211 and build up your math skills while satisfying your calculus requirement.  (If you do well in math 211 and your math skills improve, you can always take 117, then 231 or 213, then 232, go the slow and safe route).
  • If you placed out of Math 105 on the placement exam (and took either 115 or 116 or 117 this term), or if you are taking Math 105 now and earning an A or B (or took it in the past and earned an A or B), you should be able to do more than Math 211, if you want to and you apply yourself. So, consider taking Math 115 or 116+117 as needed, then as soon as you’ve finished with either 115 or both of 116+117, take Math 213 after that.  If you keep doing well (grades of A or B), keep taking more math!  From 213 you can go straight to 232. After that, there are several upper level math courses designed for bio students, such as Math 305 and 405, you could even get a math minor!
  • If you are one of the students who is either in 211 now, or has taken 211 in the past, and has decided you want to get to 232, then rather than taking 231, take 213 if you can, since it’s designed for bio majors.  If you need 117, it’s offered over UWinterim.

Questions? Please click here for more information or feel free to contact your departmental advisor, a math advisor (Suzanne Boyd, or the 213 instructor (Istvan Lauko,