Math 81: Partial Differential Equations (Spring 2002)

Congratulations!  You have chosen to study partial differentialequations.  That decision is a wise one....  Tveito and Winther,"Introduction to Partial Differential Equations"

This is the homepage for Math 81, Partial differential equations (MWF11:30 - 12:20 in Dupont 142B), taught by Jim Wiseman, Spring 2002.

Office: 3 Whittier Place, Room 255, 690-5763.


Office hours:  Tuesday 5:00 - 6:30 (Math 81 students havepriority), Wednesday 5:00 - 6:30 (Math 30 students have priority), andby appointment.

Text book: Walter A. Strauss, Partial Differential Equations: An Introduction, available at the bookstore.  There is a listof errata at

Plan:  The heart of the course is chapters 1-6 of Strauss(leaving out chapter 3 and with extra material for chapter 5). Then we'llcover selected topics from the second half of the book.. We'll spend thelast two weeks or so on the mathematics of musical instruments.  Amore detailed schedule is at, but it's subject to change.

Homework:  Working problems is vital to learning math; therewill be homework assignments every week, due in class on Wednesdays (Iwill accept them in my office until 5:00 Wednesday).  Assignmentswill be posted at you are responsible for checking the assignments, as I won't give themin class.  It's very important that you keep up with the homework: if you haven't figured out Monday's lecture, Wednesday's will probablybe pretty frustrating.

Group work:  I strongly encourage you to work on the homeworkin groups.  I suggest that you work on the problems by yourself first,making a note of anything giving you trouble; then meet with your groupand work through the remaining problems together; and finally write upthe solutions by yourself.
    Every group member must write up his or her ownsolutions independently; just copying the group's answers is plagiarismand is unacceptable.

Getting help:  As Talking Barbie says, "Math class is tough." (Unless she's the hacked version - then she says, "Eat lead, Cobra.") Chances are that sooner or later you'll get stuck on something, so don'tget frustrated.  Think hard, and if you're still stuck, do somethingelse for a while.  (It's amazing how often that works.)
    My office hours are above - these are times whenI'm guaranteed to be in my office and willing to talk.  If you wantto see me at other times, the best thing to do is to set up an appointmentwith me by email or after class.  Of course, you're welcome to justdrop by my office, as long as you don't mind if I'm not there or don'thave time to talk.
    In general, a good resource is the MathClinic in Cornell Library, which runs Sunday-Thursday, 7 - 10 pm, butI don't know how many of the clinicians know PDEs.
    Finally, I can't emphasize enough that your classmatesare your best source of help.

Grading:  Homework 15%, each midterm 25%, final 35%

Exam schedule:

Late work and make-ups:  Late homework won't be accepted, andyou won't be allowed to make up missed exams, except under veryexceptional circumstances (e.g., the sasquatch attacks - and even thenyou should get a note from the sasquatch).  In the case of a conflictthat you absolutely can't resolve, you may arrange to take a midterm examearly.

Feedback:  I'm very interested in your feedback throughoutthe class:  what you like, what you don't, what's working for you,what isn't - anything that you think might help me make the course better. If you have any comments (and you probably should), the easiest thing todo is to talk to me (or send email) about them.  If you want to remainanonymous, you can fill out the anonymous feedback form on my feedbackpage.

Webpage: Please check my webpage for updated information.

Jim Wiseman
Department of Mathematicsand Statistics
Swarthmore College
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081