ECON 420 


Fall, 2022

Li, Hao

Course Outline

Professor: Li, Hao,,

Classes: Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:30am-12pm, Buch D219.

TextbookOptimization in Economic Theory (2nd edition), by A.K.Dixit.

Office Hours:  Wednesdays 11am-12:30pm.

Teaching Assistant: Anubhav Jha (  He will have office hours on Tuesdays 4pm to 5pm at Room 434 of Iona Building.

Teaching Webpage:  All important information about this course, including announcements, homework assignments and lecture notes, are found on the course Canvas page.  If you are registered for this course, you will have access to it.  I use the Announcements function for up-to-date syllabus, and for important changes such as exam time.  All homework assignments are electronically submitted through the Assignments function, where you should also find the deadline date and time for submission.  

Objective: Econ 420 introduces static and dynamic optimization methods with economic applications.  The first part of the course deals with static optimization techniques, including classical programming, nonlinear programming and linear programming.  We will apply envelope theorems and comparative static analysis in consumer theory and producer theory.  The second part presents dynamic optimization methods, including the calculus of variation, the maximum principle and dynamic programming.  Economic applications focus on investment problems and economic growth. 

Math Level: The level of mathematics for Econ 420 is the same as Math 200 and Math 221: only basic multi-variable calculus, linear algebra and analytic geometry are required, although some experience of proof methods is helpful.  This course being one in mathematical economics, the focus is both on mathematical optimization and on their economic applications.    

Plan: My rough plan is to cover one chapter per week for Chapters 2 to 6, and one and a half week for Chapters 7, 8, 10 and 11.  This would allow time to cover linear programming in a greater detailed than allowed in Chapter 7 (Concave Programming), to introduce the calculus of variations which logically would be in Chapter 10 (Time: The Maximum Principle), and to briefly cover Chapter 9 when we present Chapter 11 (Dynamic Programming).  

Homework: There are a few exercises in each of the 10 chapters in the textbook (excluding the introduction).  I will assign them as weekly homework, and I may add more questions as needed.  Instead of providing written answers for all questions, I will go through the more difficult ones in class and post written answers on the website.  Each assignment becomes available on Canvas on a class day and you have a week and a half to complete it.  Anubhav will grade your electronically submitted assignments, but the grade will reflect effort, not correctness.  Anyone who fails to turn in one assignment automatically gets 0 (no late assignments are accepted except from those who have legitimate personal reasons approved by your Arts academic advisor).  As long as you are seen to have spent a reasonable amount of effort on the assignment, the TA give the full score of 1 regardless of whether all the answers are correct or not.  Any assignment that clearly shows you have not tried hard enough gets the partial score of 0.5. I encourage students to work together on the assignments.  There will be 10 weekly assignments, and together they count 10 percent towards the course grade.  

Exams: There is a midterm scheduled for Tuesday November 15 during class time (the first day of class after the mid term break). The midterm counts for 40%. Anyone missing the midterm for legitimate personal reasons approved by your Arts academic advisor will have the weight on the midterm automatically transferred to the final exam; there is no make up exam for the midterm.  The final exam counts for 50 percent and covers the entire course.  For those who score relatively higher in the final than in the midterm, the final will count for 90 percent.   

Other Textbooks: Besides the textbook, I recommend Michael D. Intriligator's Mathematical Optimization and Economic Theory which covers the same material with a greater detail at a slightly higher level.  I may take some material from this book in my lectures.  I may also take some questions as homework assignments, in which case I will type them up so you don't need to buy the book if you find the main textbook by Dixit enough for the course.  

Lecture Recordings: As instruction at UBC is now fully in-person, the VSE no longer recommends that instructors provide lecture recordings. However, if the classroom is equipped for recording, I will do so and distribute the recordings on a case-by-case basis to students who request them.  

Sharing of Course Material: All the materials provided to you in this course, including this document, are strictly for your personal use in studying for this course. Sharing course materials in any way, either by email or by uploading them to websites, will be treated as an infringement of my intellectual property and dealt with accordingly.


Academic Honesty: It is the policy of the VSE to report all violations of UBC’s standards for academic integrity to the office of the Dean of Arts. You are personally responsible for knowing the behaviours that are considered a violation of UBC’s policies for academic honesty found here:,54,111,0. To help you understand these rules, every student in this course will complete a module on “Avoiding Academic Misconduct” in the first week of the term.  Any student who violates the rules for academic conduct on submitted work will be given an automatic grade of zero on that component of the course. Further penalties may be levied by the President's Advisory Committee on Student Discipline. Those penalties might include a notation on your transcript indicating that you have committed an academic offence, failure of the course, and/or suspension from the university. You can see more on this process, including a complete list of annual academic discipline cases, here:  Speak to me if you have any questions regarding the standard for academic integrity at UBC.

Hiring of Tutors: The Vancouver School of Economics expressly prohibits any student from hiring a tutor/editor to assist with any portion of written work or academic research. Violation of this rule will be treated as academic misconduct, and the student will face the same penalties as described above. If at any point you feel in need of additional writing support, please speak with me and/or arrange for a writing consultation with UBC’s Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication (

Academic Concessions: Students at UBC are granted academic concessions for graded work and exams that are missed due to unexpected circumstances. There are only three grounds for academic concessions: unexpected changes in personal responsibilities; medical circumstances; and compassionate grounds. A detailed description of each can be found here: Situations that are expected (such as time constraints due to workload in other courses) or are predictable (such as being scheduled for paid work) are not grounds for academic concession. It is expected that requests for academic concession will be made before the due date for that graded work and/or the writing of the exam. Note that UBC policy does not allow for concessions to students who have missed work because they have registered for a course after the due date for that work. Students in the Faculty of Arts who require a concession should apply for a concession using this form: Students in other Faculties should consult their Faculty website on academic concessions and consult with me. 

Student Success: UBC provides resources to support student learning and to maintain healthy lifestyles but recognizes that sometimes crises arise and so there are additional resources to access including those for survivors of sexual violence. UBC values respect for the person and ideas of all members of the academic community. Harassment and discrimination are not tolerated nor is suppression of academic freedom. UBC provides appropriate accommodation for students with disabilities and for religious, spiritual and cultural observances. UBC values academic honesty and students are expected to acknowledge the ideas generated by others and to uphold the highest academic standards in all of their actions. Details of the policies and how to access support are available here:

Mental Health: As a student, you may experience a range of challenges that can interfere with learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, substance use, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may diminish your academic performance and/or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. I encourage you to take advantage of the many resources available at UBC to help you cope with challenges. You can find access to those resources here:  Students looking for help with disability-related accommodations and support should speak to an advisor at the Center for Accessibility: