EC202 Microeconomics: FAQ
- Will I be able to cope with the Mathematics...? Check out the textbook and exam papers.
The course as taught this year will not be tougher than last year.
- Maths prerequisite? If you have thoroughly mastered MA107 you should be able to follow
the course, but you would find it difficult. MA100 would give a better grounding.
- How and why is maths used in the course? There are many basic results in Microeconomics
that can be better understood by applying some standard mathematical techniques: examples of this include
the use of duality approaches, envelope results, Lagrange methods. Rather than expecting mastery over a whole
variety of different mathematical techniques and results, a few key tools are used repeatedly. There is a
strong emphasis on intuition. For example we are less interested in the formal proof of the uniqueness of an
equilibrium than in understanding why certain properties of preferences or constraints may result in non-uniqueness
of the equilibrium. Algebraic arguments are usually backed up by graphical explanations and the first term's
lectures are supported by a full set of slideshows available on line. Although the economics content gradually
builds up in depth through each of the two terms the same does not apply to mathematical complexity: if you can
handle the mathematics used in the first two weeks then you handle it for the whole course.
- What maths is used? Main areas are:
- Calculus: Basic rules of differentiation and integration are assumed.
Extensive use is made of partial differentiation, total differentials, and the chain rule.
- Optimisation: The basic Lagrangian method is assumed. The complications that arise with corner solutions are
explained where relevant; a minimal familiarity with Kuhn-Tucker is helpful.
- Vectors: Vector notation is extensively used and simple algebraic operations - addition of vectors,
multiplication of vector by a scalar and so on - is assumed. But we make no use of deeper results on vector spaces.
- Matrices: A very small usage is made of matrix concepts (perhaps once or twice in the whole course).
- Differential equations: There is one point at which we briefly use simple first-order differential equations.
- Analysis: Some familiarity with the concepts of continuity and of the convexity of sets is helpful, but both concepts
are carefully explained where they are needed.
- I'm rusty on constrained optimisation, Lagrangians...Can you help? Check out in Appendix A in the text.
16 Sep 2019