Introduction to Partial Differential Equations with Numerical Methods

Math 478-001

Fall 2018

This is the web page It will be updated regularly and always contain the latest information on the course. This website is only for general policies concerning the course, as well as for the continuously updated syllabus. For all other information on the course, including lecture notes and homework assignments, please go to Blackboard.

General Information:

Instructor: Thomas Wanner
Office: Exploratory Hall 4404
Web Page:
Fax: (703) 993-1491
Office hours: M 2-3pm, W 3-4pm, and by appointment

Lectures: MW 12:00-1:15pm, Robinson Hall B106
Prerequisites: Grade C or better in MATH 203 and 214 or 216.
Textbook: Book manuscript Theory and Numerics of Partial Differential Equations
by E. Sander, T. Wanner (will be made available as PDF via Blackboard)

Important Links:

Additional course material can be found on the Blackboard site for this course. Please make sure to check there regularly!


This course introduces basic facts about partial differential equations, including elliptic equations, parabolic equations and hyperbolic equations. We will discuss methods of solution such as separation of variables and characteristics, as well as initial/boundary-value problems and numerical approximation techniques. A more detailed syllabus can be found here. It will be updated weekly.

Homework Assignments:

Homework problems will be assigned once a week and posted on Blackboard. Most of these assignments will be graded and count towards your homework score. While the remaining ones do not have to be handed in, I do advise everyone strongly to study them and write out the solutions properly. I will go through many of the homework problems in the following class and you will not benefit from this if you have not made a serious attempt at solving them.


The software package Matlab will be used throughout the course. Matlab is a computing environment with programming capability, good graphics, and powerful library functions. It is available on campus on the Mason cluster and several Unix computer labs. Alternatively, a PC or Macintosh version can be purchased at the bookstore. Many Matlab tutorials are available: Also, the manual which comes with the PC version is very complete. Further information on Matlab can be found here and here.

Grading Policy:

Your final grade in the course will be determined from your performance in the homework assignments, a midterm exam, a final project, and your attendance and class participation. Weights for these items will be distributed approximately according to the following schedule:

Homework Midterm Exam Final Project Attendance
40% 25% 25% 10%

The assignment of your course grade is based on the total course score. The following grading scale may serve as a guideline, although changes are possible:

Score above 90% 80% 70% 60% otherwise
Letter grade A-, A, or A+ B-, B, or B+ C or C+ D F

Thomas Wanner, August 17, 2018.