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Department Extends Economics 1010a Change

By Zachary Hamed and Kevin J. Wu, Crimson Staff Writers

Continuing an experiment that began this fall, the Harvard economics department will offer three versions of intermediate microeconomics in the next academic year. The change comes as part of the department’s ongoing effort to provide more flexible course offerings, particularly for those students who want more emphasis on the quantitative aspects of economics.

The department has traditionally offered Economics 1010a: “Microeconomic Theory” as the basic requirement for concentrators. This past semester, however, Economics 1010a was split into two sections, one of which is more mathematically rigorous than the other.

Though the sections appear under the same course number, their lectures, homework, and exams are all different. Economics 1011a, which requires knowledge of multivariable calculus, is the third intermediate microeconomics course offered by the department.

Economics director of undergraduate studies Jeffrey A. Miron, who was formerly course head of the consolidated 1010a, taught the more analytical of the two sections, while visiting professor Jeff Borland taught the graphically-based section.

Borland will not be teaching 1010a next year, and the department has not yet found a replacement for him, according to Miron.

Significant increases were seen in the Q Guide scores for Ec 1010a since the change.

This fall, the course overall received a 3.28, an increase of almost 30 percent from the previous year. And whereas Miron received an overall instructor evaluation score of 2.85 in 2009, his rating jumped by more than a quarter this year, to 3.68. Borland was rated similarly with a 3.72.

“They were solid scores for what is a required, large, heavy-workload, math-intensive course,” Miron said.

Despite the score increase, students from both sections expressed a wide range of sentiments regarding the class.

Some students said they were attracted to either the math- or graphically-based sections, but Sean M. Bennett ’14, who opted to take Borland’s section, said he left the course unsatisfied.

“It wasn’t an incredibly interesting class. I was considering being an economics major, but the class turned me away from being an ec concentrator,” he said.

According to Miron, the smaller size of this fall’s classes provided an important boost to student-faculty relationships.

“I enjoyed 1010a especially this year because I had much more opportunity to interact with the students, rather than just lecturing to a sea of faces,” he wrote in an e-mailed statement.

However, Miron also cited the continued need for smaller classes.

Whereas 75 students attended his section, Borland’s had an enrollment of about 225.

“We would ideally like to have even more sections, so that none was bigger than 50-75,” Miron wrote in his e-mail.

—Staff writer Zachary Hamed can be reached at zhamed@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at kwu@college.harvard.edu.

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