Course: ECO310
Instructor: Pesendorfer
F 2015

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

ECO 310 is an intermediate microeconomics course and the mathematically rigorous version of ECO 300. It is a core course for the economics concentration, as well as for the finance certificate, and attracts students from a variety of different backgrounds. The goal of the course is to provide a more comprehensive and mathematical analysis of basic microeconomics concepts learned in ECO 100 (such as utility theory and pricing decisions), as well as to introduce several new topics. The course is organized into 5 units, as follows:
  1. Price Theory
  2. Monopoly
  3. Competitive Markets
  4. Game Theory
  5. Uncertainty
The first three units, covered in the first half of the course, make use of calculus and various optimization methods. In the second half, units four and five look at decision making in situations with incomplete information through logic and statistics.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

ECO 310 consists of two lectures and one precept each week. In lecture, the professor will generally introduce a new rule/topic, prove the validity of the assumptions made, and then apply the concept to a typical example problem. For those less familiar with mathematical and logical proofs, the lectures can be hard to follow. However, while knowing every detail of the proofs is not required for problem sets or exams, it is extremely important to come away from lecture with a conceptual understanding of the material. More often than not, Prof. Pesendorfer enjoys assigning problems that involve “corner cases,” or situations in which the general rule/formula does not hold. This is to emphasize an understanding of the material, rather than memorization of a few mathematical formulas or generalizations. Before each class, lecture notes are posted on Blackboard. As Prof. Pesendorfer sometimes writes additional equations and numerical examples on the board in lecture, an extremely helpful strategy is to print out the lecture notes beforehand so that you can annotate them in lecture. On the other hand, weekly precepts are reserved for working through more advanced and involved examples. These problems are usually similar in difficulty to those on the problem sets and exams. Precept is the best time during which to ask any questions about confusing concepts from lecture, as working through concrete numerical examples is great preparation for exams.

Learning For and From Assignments

There are a total of 10 problem sets, each including 6-7 problems, as well as an extra credit problem. (The extra credit problem is much more difficult than the others, often extending beyond the scope of the class, and does not contribute to one’s grade. Instead, in Fall 2015, the students who performed best across all extra credit problems were invited to have dinner with Prof. Pesendorfer at the end of the year). The problem set problems tend to be more difficult than the examples discussed in lecture and can be very time consuming. Thus, creating personal study groups and regularly attending office hours are highly recommended. Solutions are posted on Blackboard shortly after the problem sets are turned in. Regarding assessments, there is one midterm exam and one final exam, which is not cumulative. As a result, the course can be seen as being divided into two parts: price theory, monopoly, and competitive markets are covered on the midterm, while only game theory and uncertainty are covered on the final exam. The exams are relatively straightforward and usually include one problem for each major topic covered. When studying, the most important resources are the problem sets and past practice exams (which are posted on Blackboard as the exam nears). Once again, on exams and homework problems, take care to notice whether general rules/formulas can be applied to the problems, as corner cases and exceptions appear quite frequently.

External Resources

It is important to note that ECO 310, ECO 300, and WWS 300 are all equivalent courses and cannot be taken multiple times for credit. For economics concentrators, it can be difficult to decide between ECO 300, which is more conceptual, and ECO 310, which is more mathematical. For those hoping to pursue a graduate degree in economics, conduct quantitative research for independent work, or go into a more technical field, it is highly recommended to take ECO 310 over ECO 300. If you are interested in the finance certificate, you must take ECO 310. ECO 310 is a prerequisite for the core finance courses, ECO 362 and 363, as well as a recommended course for several other upper-level economics courses. If you are unsure, it is recommended to start out in ECO 310 during shopping period, as it is easier switch from ECO 310 to ECO 300 than to switch from ECO 300 to 310. In addition, although the only listed prerequisites for the course are ECO 100 and MAT 175 or MAT 201, knowledge of basic statistics is extremely helpful for the unit on uncertainty. While statistics is not assumed, you will be working with expected values and probability density functions, so having that knowledge beforehand will give you more time to focus on other difficulties. People who have strong mathematical backgrounds often find the course easier, while others find the logic and math in the second half extremely difficult.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

Microeconomic Theory: A Mathematical Approach

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