BSc Mathematics

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Calculus and Applications A

Course unit fact file
Unit code MATH10222
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Mathematics
Available as a free choice unit? No


The unit provides a basic introduction to ordinary differential equations (ODEs) and classical mechanics. The ODE content is the first half of the course, which will discuss both methods and theory associated with general first and second order ODEs. A brief introduction to the concepts of scaling, non-dimensionalisation and regular perturbation methods will be given. In the second half of the course, the main classical-mechanics problems that motivated the development of calculus will be introduced. Basic definitions/derivations of mechanical quantities will be provided with no prior experience required/expected. Newton's laws will be discussed and used to solve simple mechanics problems involving the motion of a single particle. Some discussion of orbital mechanics and frames of reference will be given.

The first half of the course is devoted to an introduction to the study of ordinary differential equations (ODEs). In the second half of the course the application of differential equations is illustrated by an introduction to classical mechanics.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Calculus and Vectors A MATH10121 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


1.Provide a classification of ODEs

2.Provide methods of solving both first and second-order ODEs

3.Introduce the concepts of scaling and non-dimensionalisation.

4.Introduce the concept of a regular perturbation expansion.

5.Define the main physical quantities of classical mechanics (force, velocity, acceleration, momentum etc)

6.Discuss Newton's laws of motion and gravity.

7.Introduce simple conservative and non-conservative systems involving single particles.

8.Describe basic orbital mechanics and the concept of frames of reference.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to

  • Classify ordinary equations (in terms of order, linear/nonlinear, autonomous/non-autonomous) and assess the existence and uniqueness of their solutions.
  • Use graphical and analytical methods to obtain solutions to first-order ODEs.
  • Assess the existence and uniqueness of solutions to linear second-order ODEs and state the general structure of these solutions. Find these solutions for the case of constant-coefficient ODEs.
  • Solve certain second-order nonlinear ODEs that have a special form.
  • Use perturbation methods to find approximate solutions to ODEs containing small parameters.
  • Define the basic properties of a mechanical system.
  • State and apply Newton's laws of motion and gravitation.
  • Formulate a mathematical problem from a description of a simple mechanical system.
  • Solve problems that rely on energy conservation and classify the predicted behaviour.
  • Use the mathematical methods of the first half of the course to solve and analyse equations of motion.
  • Interpret mathematical results in the physical context of mechanical systems.



Part 1: Ordinary differential equations (ODEs)

1.General introduction. Notation. What are ODEs? Implicit versus explicit form. Classification: order, linearity, autonomous ODEs. Boundary and initial conditions. Boundary and initial value problems. Existence and uniqueness for linear and nonlinear ODEs. [3]

2.First-order ODEs. Graphical methods; separable ODEs, ODEs of homogeneous type; integrating factor. [4]

3.Second-order ODEs. Existence and uniqueness. Linear ODEs: superposition of solutions, fundamental solutions and the general solution for homogeneous ODEs. The general solution of constant-coefficient ODEs; particular solutions for specific RHS; the method of undetermined coefficients. [If time permits (probably not): Power series expansions about regular points.] Some nonlinear ODEs with special properties (autonomous ODEs and ODEs that do not contain the dependent variable). [8]

4.Mechanics applications of second-order ODEs Damped harmonic motions of mechanical oscillators; harmonic forcing and resonance. [3]

5.Non-dimensionalisation and scaling. Exploiting small parameters in an ODE: perturbation methods. Motivation via the roots of quadratic polynomials (singular perturbations only mentioned); applications to selected (regularly perturbed) ODEs. [4]

Part 2: Mechanics

6.Introduction. Definitions, forces, moments of forces, systems in equilibrium, other coordinate systems, modelling assumptions, uniform gravitational fields. [4]

7.Newtonian dynamics. Newton's laws, Newton's second law, work and energy, motion confined to a line, the phase plane, stability of equilibrium points, motion confined to a plane, central fields of force, the path equation. [10]

8.Celestial mechanics. Kepler's 'laws', properties of conics (revision not examinable), from Kepler to Newton (and back again), orbital transfer, stability of circular orbits. [4]

9.Inertial and non-inertial frames of reference. Motion relative to a moving origin, two-dimensional rotating frames, the angular frequency vector, a particle in a rotating frame. [4]

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written exam 90%

Submission of homework for supervisions: weighting within unit 10%

Examination: weighting 90%



Feedback methods

Feedback supervisions will provide an opportunity for students' work to be discussed and provide feedback on their understanding.  Coursework or in-class tests (where applicable) also provide an opportunity for students to receive feedback.  Students can also get feedback on their understanding directly from the lecturer, for example during the lecturer's office hour.

Recommended reading

This course is not based upon any specific textbook and all of the required material will be presented in the lectures. However, for further reading, the following references discuss the same material:

R. Bronson. Differential Equations. Schaum's Outline series.

R.D. Gregory. Classical Mechanics. Cambridge University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 44
Tutorials 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 144

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Richard Hewitt Unit coordinator
Matthias Heil Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  

Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates

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