Department of MathematicsCourse Policy Sheet for Math 5474 ( #85555 )
Finite Difference Methods

Prerequisites: Multivariable Calculus, Numerical Analysis, and basic knowledge of partial differential equations and programming.

Peter Wapperom
McBryde 572
Phone : (540) 231-7252
Email :

Office Hours:
Tuesday 3:30-4.30pm, Wednesday 1:00-2:00pm
& by appointment

Email: For a timely response, include `Math 5474' in the subject line

Class Meeting Time : Tuesday, Thursday 2:00-3.15pm, McBryde 233

Special needs: If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (learning disability, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.); if you have emergency medical information to share with me; or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.

Text: Finite difference schemes and partial differential equations (2nd Ed.) by J. C. Strikwerda, Publisher: SIAM, ISBN: 0-89871-567-9.
If you buy the book through SIAM, there is a discount for SIAM members. As a Virginia Tech graduate student, you can join SIAM for free.
Just follow the directions at: How to join SIAM.
To buy the book from SIAM: Text.

Course contents: Math 5474 is a general introduction to the finite difference method. The course is suitable and useful for mathematics, computer science, and engineering students.

We discuss several common finite difference methods that are used for partial differential equations in scientific and engineering applications. The course provides a rigorous understanding of the mathematical concepts. These are used to analyze finite difference methods and to understand the differences between the various finite difference methods that are commonly used. The mathematical tools will be demonstrated with computer simulations to better understand the mathematical concepts and recognize them in computer simulations. We also discuss (briefly) the programming of finite difference methods and efficient computational methods.
A more detailed description can be found in Overview of 5474.

Grading: The numerative grade will be based upon

  1. Midterm test: 1/3 of final grade
  2. Final project: 1/3 of final grade
  3. Homeworks: 1/3 of final grade

All graded work counts. No scores are dropped.

The course grade will be assigned as follows:

90 guarantees an A (not an A-)
80 guarantees at least a B (not a B-)
70 guarantees at least a C (not a C-)
60 guarantees at least a D (not a D-)

+ and - grades will be given as well.

Homework policy: Homework problems and due dates for homeworks will be posted on my course website .
Only selected problems will be graded (partial credit). These problems will not be known to students in advance. Except for problems selected for grading, homework will not be marked.
Important Submitted work should not only give the correct answer but also clearly delineate the logic justifying the answer. NO CREDIT SHOULD BE EXPECTED FOR CORRECT ANSWERS IF NO WORK IS SHOWN.

  • Allowed help on homeworks:
    • Students may consult the textbook and class notes for homework.
    • Students may discuss homework assignments with other students, your 5474 instructor, and get help from Tutoring Services.
  • Unallowed help on homeworks:
    • Copying a solution to a problem or a numerical code from books, internet, or any other source is prohibited.
    • Using another person's solutions to the homework when writing up an assignment is prohibited. In writing up an assignment to be handed in, every student needs to work alone (without other persons or other persons' papers). By handing in the homeworks, a student certifies that what is written accurately represents the student's own understanding of the material expressed in the student's own words.
  • Late homework:
    Homework that is handed in late is subject to a penalty (20 %) if it is handed in before the homework is returned to the students, typically at the beginning of the next class meeting. Homework given after I have returned the graded homework will be given a zero. To avoid a penalty or zero grade for a late homework you must show convincing evidence/documentation that you had no alternative (since homework problems are known well in advance, only a valid reason for an absence of several days will be accepted as an excuse). If you have a valid reason, I may allow you to hand in homework late without any penalty or I may not count the particular homework.
    If you are unable to hand in a paper copy of the HW in time, you can submit a scanned copy in time, and hand in the (identical) paper copy later.

Test Policy: If a test can not be taken as scheduled, this should be communicated to your instructor as early as possible. Documentation from an appropriate university office that shows that you had a reason that is serious, unavoidable, and beyond your control, will be accepted. If you miss the test for a valid reason, a make up test will be given during the exam period. Otherwise, your case will be handled on an individual basis.

Honor System: The Virginia Tech Honor System applies to all graded work in this course. Students are responsible for understanding and adhering to the Honor Code. The inclusion in an assignment of work (from any source) done by someone whose name does not appear on the assignment or the inclusion of the reproduction (by any means) of such work is a violation of the Honor Code unless this inclusion is used in a way explicitly authorized by the instructor.
For additional information about the Honor Code, please visit:
Virginia Tech Honor System Information

Attendance: Although attendance does not count toward your grade, you are responsible for any material that you miss in class. If you miss a class, please copy the notes from another student in class.