You are here

PHYS 227 A: Elementary Mathematical Physics

Meeting Time: 
MTWThF 1:30pm - 2:20pm
PAA A118
Arthur Barnard smiling
Arthur Barnard

Syllabus Description:


This is the Spring 2020 offering of Phys 227 A. Because of the shift to online-only teaching this quarter, the nature of the course will be modified from previous offerings, particularly regarding grading. The central goal will be to deliver the content while maintaining flexibility. With this in mind, there will be no closed-book/timed exams or quizzes. There will be a take-home midterm exam, a final project, and typically 2 problem sets per week. The final grade will be determined by the following weights:

60% Problem sets, 15% Midterm, 25% Final project

Problem Sets: There will typically be 2 problem sets per week, each of which will have a different style. The first is a traditional problem set where the questions will be posted 1 week in advance, and you are welcome to remotely discuss and work with classmates (though you need to submit your own work). The second functions in place of an in-class quiz. In this spirit, it will be designed to take approximately 20 minutes and intended to be completed alone. Questions will be posted at least 24 hours before the problem set is due. Your final grade will be computed by dropping the lowest scoring problem set of each type (x.1 and x.2). The long problem sets will account for 45% of your final grade and the short problem sets will account for 15% of your final grade.

Midterm: The midterm exam will be in the form of an extended problem set due on 5/14. It will be announced at least 4 days prior to its due date to ensure ample time for you to complete it.

Final Project: There will be a final project in place of an exam. The final project will be posted during the week of 5/11. While the details will be specified at that time, it will involve analyzing a "real-world" dataset and writing a report. The scope of the analysis will cover material from throughout the course, and the results submitted as a 5-page written report (with any relevant code as an appendix). 

Course Textbook and Content

The course will cover content in "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences," (3rd Edition, Wiley) by Mary L. Boas. Chapters 1-4 and 6-7 will be explicitly covered, while chapter 5 is assumed background material. The broad categories covered are: Series, Complex Numbers, Linear Algebra, Partial Differentiation, Vector Analysis, and Fourier Analysis.

Course Schedule

Below is a tentative schedule for the course. The sequence of content is intended to closely follow previous offerings of the course (click here for an example). Because of the complexity of teaching online and because of challenges arising from unreliable internet connections, all lectures will be prerecorded and posted the day before it is scheduled. During the official lecture time (1:30-2:20 pm) I will be available in a Zoom meeting to address any questions that arise from the recorded content.

The first week will be structured to smoothly ramp up the content delivery given the new style. The first day (3/31) will briefly introduce the course and leave ample time for discussion about the upcoming course content.

On Friday of each week, at the scheduled lecture time, one of the TAs will provide a Mathematica tutorial along with office hours.

Week of Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
3/30 No Class Introduction/ course overview No Class Series Mathematica & office hours
4/6 Series Series Series Series, PS1.2 due Mathematica & office hours
4/13 Complex Complex, PS 2.1 due Complex Complex, PS 2.2 due Mathematica & office hours
4/20 Forced, damped oscillator Vectors, PS 3.1 due Vectors Matrices, PS 3.2 due Mathematica & office hours
4/27 Matrices Matrices, PS 4.1 due Matrices Matrices, PS 4.2 due Mathematica & office hours
5/4 Vector Space Vector Space, PS 5.1 due Eigensystems Normal modes, PS 5.2 due Mathematica & office hours
5/11 Normal modes Intro to group theory Total differentials Midterm Due Mathematica & office hours
5/18 Lagrange Multipliers Fourier Analysis, PS 6.1 due Fourier Analysis Fourier Analysis, PS 6.2 due Mathematica & office hours
5/25 Holiday Vector Analysis, PS 7.1 due Vector Analysis Vector Analysis, PS 7.2 due Mathematica & office hours
6/1 Vector Analysis Vector Analysis, PS 8.1 due Final project office hours Final project office hours Final project office hours
6/8 Final Due

Contact Information

Prof. Barnard:

Teaching Assistants:

Please contact Ramya and Daniela regarding the long problem sets/office hours, Heather regarding Mathematica tutorials and Mia regarding the short problem sets.

Office Hours

Prof. Barnard's Office Hours, Tuesday & Thursday 3 PM - 4 PM

    please use the lecture zoom link from canvas (recordings will be disabled for office hours)

Ramya's Office Hours, Fridays 12:30 PM-1:30 PM

Note: new link and meeting ID! >

    recurring meeting link:

    meeting ID: 426-353-556

Daneila's Office Hours, Mondays 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM

    recurring meeting link:

    meeting ID: 363663068

    password:  see canvas announcement


  • We will adhere to the university rules governing academic misconduct
    • With problem sets and the midterm, you must submit your own work. Excessive similarity between students' work will be reported to the Student Conduct Office.
    • With the final project, you must perform your own analysis and write your own report. Any signs of plagiarism will be reported to the Student Conduct Office.
  • Screenshots or recordings of other students during active video (Zoom) participation sessions are strictly forbidden. Any student caught engaging in this behavior will be reported to the Student Conduct Office.


Catalog Description: 
Applications of mathematics in physics with emphasis on the mechanics of particles and continuous systems. Develops and applies computational methods, both analytic and numerical. Prerequisite: a minimum grade of 2.0 in PHYS 121; a minimum grade of 2.0 in PHYS 122; a minimum grade of 2.0 in PHYS 123; and a minimum grade of 2.0 in MATH 126. Offered: ASp.
GE Requirements: 
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
April 17, 2020 - 9:41pm