PUBPOL 513: Calculus

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Fall 2019
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PP 513 (Calculus for Public Policy) is a course designed to give students the basic mathematical skills they will need to be comfortable with the quantitative public policy issues they will face in their careers. Among the policy issues considered are:

  • The math behind the basic IRS forms,
  • Foundations of microeconomic theory, especially “marginal analysis,” but including indifference curves, consumer surplus, and optimization criteria.
  • Basics of statistical theory, including the linear regression formula and exponential and normal distributions.
  • The Gini Index of equitable distributions (of income, wealth or power)
  • Discounting future costs and benefits.

In the process, we’ll consider: climate change, carbon dating, Tom Brady’s real salary, the geometry of the earth and of North Lake near my home.

We build 513 around the concept of the derivative, the basic measure of change (technically, the slope of a nonlinear relationship). The ideas of calculus are fairly straightforward; difficulties arise because solving calculus problems requires some comfort with high school algebra.

The subject matter and pace of the course are geared for students who have not had college calculus; those who have recently had college calculus should not enroll.

Discussion Section:

513.002 - Fridays, 1:00-2:20pm, 1110 Weill