Course Selection Advice for First Years

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Our Course Selection Process

The Department of Mathematics does not have a placement exam. Rather, we believe that students should self-place themselves into the class that best fits their background and interests with help from their advisor and faculty in our department. Students considering a mathematics course should refer to the Mathematics Course Selection Guidelines to determine the appropriate selection or consult with a member of the department at 717-337-6630 or email Prof. Keir Lockridge ( Please note that Calculus I (Math 111) is intended for students who have not previously taken any calculus. In general, students who have taken calculus should place themselves into Calculus II or into a 200-level math course (see calculus selection chart below). Students who place themselves into Calculus II and are considering a major in Mathematics, Physics, or Computer Science should enroll in the Honors section if possible.

In majors that require first-semester calculus, completion of a higher-level calculus course also satisfies that requirement. Accordingly, students should not place themselves in an inappropriately low-level course merely to satisfy the stated requirements of another major. Incoming students may confirm with departmental chairs in other majors that their math plans satisfy those majors’ requirements.

The best math course in which to start depends on your goals, motivation, and background. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to discuss your individual situation with a math faculty member.

Mathematics course selection guidelines

Step 1: Goals

If your goal is further study in mathematics, computer science, economics, or the sciences, you should take:

  • Calculus (Math 111, 111H, 112, 112H, or 211; see selection chart); or
  • Linear Algebra (Math 212, see selection chart); or
  • Differential Equations (Math 225, see selection chart); or
  • Abstract Mathematics I (Math 215, see selection chart); or
  • Introduction to Research in Mathematics (Math 201, see selection chart).

If you are interested in data science, you should take:

  • Any of the courses listed above; or
  • Applied Statistics (Math 107).

If your goal is to satisfy in the College’s Qualitative, Inductive, and Deductive Reasoning (QIDR) requirement, you should take:

  • Any of the courses listed above; or
  • Mathematical Ideas (Math 103); or
  • Courses in other departments (such as certain courses in Computer Science, Economics, Health Sciences, Philosophy, Political Science, etc.) See Registrar’s website for eligible courses.

(Note: Gettysburg College DOES NOT HAVE a math requirement.)

Step 2: Aptitude and motivation

These are only guidelines to help you decide where it is best for you to start; you may want to keep the following points in mind.

  1. Your motivation (drive and determination) is a very important factor in your success no matter which course you select. Many students are more motivated to work (and will attain higher grades) in a course where the material is new to them as opposed to a course where they have already seen much of the material.
  2. Good study habits and the ability to handle challenges go a long way toward filling occasional gaps in knowledge. If you are unsure about the strength of your background, you should consider your study habits and whether you are diligent in seeking out help.

Step 3: (Calculus Selection)  

This step only applies to students who wish to take calculus or higher-level math courses. If you do not plan on further study in mathematics or in a field that relies on calculus (such as economics or the sciences), courses such as Math 103, Math 107, or First-Year Seminars that satisfy the Quantitative, Inductive, and Deductive Reasoning requirement (QIDR) might be more useful and fulfilling.

When choosing a calculus course, keep in mind that it is easier to move down than it is to move up. When choosing between two calculus courses, the department’s general recommendation is to take the higher course, because you will have the opportunity to move down to a lower-level course through the sixth week of classes. If you start in a lower course, you will not be able to move up to a higher course after the second week of classes.

Calculus I with Companion course

 When Calculus I is the right choice given your interests and goals, occasional gaps in knowledge can be addressed with extra effort and seeking help at appropriate times. However, if you feel that your math background has considerable gaps, then we recommend taking Math 110 (Calculus I Companion) and Math 111 (Calculus I) together. Taking these courses in the same semester gives you the opportunity to meet your goals for taking Calculus I while also providing the support to fill in those background knowledge gaps in Math 110. Math 110 is also a good choice if you want extra time and opportunity to practice skills necessary to succeed in Math 111. Math 110 is open to everyone who enrolls in Math 111 and thinks taking this companion course could help them succeed with the calculus material. 


Note: Math 110 is a half-credit course and so it would not count as one of the four courses that make up a full-time course load.

Calculus selection chart

Highest Level Background with B or BetterStarting Course

Algebra II

Note: If you have completed Algebra II, but you do not have a B or better in any of the courses listed in this column, you should register for Math 111 as well as the half-credit course Math 110: Calculus I Companion. Math 110 is a supplement to Math 111 with a focus on supporting and enhancing calculus and precalculus content knowledge and problem-solving skills. You should also speak with a math faculty member over the summer.

Math 111 (Calculus I) AND Math 110 (Calculus I Companion)

Note: Students enrolling in Math 110 must be enrolled in Math 111 in the same semester.

Precalculus (also taught under titles such as Math Analysis, or Functions, or College Algebra/Trig), including the topics:

Functions, graphs, and shifting/stretching
Polynomial and rational functions
Exponential and logarithmic functions
Trigonometric functions and identities

Calculus I (Math 111)

Note: A score of 4 or 5 on AP Calculus AB exam gives credit for Math 111. If you take Math 111, you will lose this credit.

Calculus: full year course in high school (not necessarily AP), including the following topics:

Limits and continuity

Increase/decrease, max/min, and concavity
Definite integrals

Fundamental Theorem of Calculus

Calculus II (Math 112)

Note: A score of 4 or 5 on AP Calculus BC exam gives credit for Math 112. If you take Math 112, you will lose this credit.

Calculus + Highly Motivated:

If you earned a 4 or 5 on the AB Calculus test


If you took a year of calculus, are highly motivated, and have a Math SAT score of 650 or higher.

Honors Calculus II (Math 112H)

AP Calculus BC course, including all Calculus topics listed above plus:

Integration techniques
Applications of integration
Infinite sequences and series

Multivariable Calculus (Math 211)
Linear Algebra (Math 212)
Differential Equations (Math 225)
Abstract Mathematics I (Math 215)
Intro. Research in Math. (Math 201)