Mathematics in the Modern World
TuThu 12:00-1:20, LART 318; 3 credit hours
Please feel free to come by my office any time during scheduled
You are welcome to
come at other times, but in that case you might want to make
an appointment, just to make sure that I will be there then. You can
make an appointment simply by talking to me before or after class, by
calling me at
or at home, or by sending
You may also ask any questions directly via phone or e-mail. If I'm
not in when you call, please leave a message on the voice-mail or
answering machine with your name, number, and a good time for me to
call you back. I will try to respond to your phone or e-mail message
as soon as possible.
What I require from you is: An open mind, a healthy curiosity, and a willingness
to learn new ideas. UTEP will require you to have a sufficient score on the placement
exam, or MATH 0311.
Course Philosophy and Objectives:
This course is designed to introduce you to the big picture of
what mathematics is, and what it means to do mathematics. In contrast (probably) to
your previous experiences with mathematics, this means more than applying rote formulas
or watching someone else think. You will be actively engaged in (guided) discovery,
retracing for yourself the highlights of some of the ma jor developments in mathematics.
Upon successful completion of the course, you will know and understand some of the
great ideas and recurring themes of mathematics. You will be able to express this understanding in verbal form, and by solving problems. You will be capable of applying, in a
variety of settings, mathematical thinking, such as: following assumptions to their logical
conclusions; finding and testing patterns; and representing the essential information of an
Specific topics will come from the broad areas of numbers, infinity, geometry, and probability. Highlights include (but are not limited to) answering the following questions: Are
there infinitely many primes? Can all numbers be written as fractions? Are there different
kinds of infinity? What are the most symmetric 3-dimensional shapes we can build with
straight lines? What is the fourth dimension, and how can we describe it? How likely are
The Heart of Mathematics, 2nd ed., Burger and Starbird, Chs. 1,
2, 3, 4, 7. We will skip some sections, and maybe include one or two
sections from other chapters. The textbook is required at all class meetings.
"Welcome!", pages xi-xiv.
Carefully read each section that we cover in class after each class
(taking into account the suggestions of "how to use the book" in the
"Travel Tips - Read the Book" subsection of the "Welcome" section).
I will point out in class and on the web site which parts of each
section, if any, you can skip.
This textbook is extraordinarily readable, and even entertaining,
but also challenging and thought-provoking. The topics in
the text (and the course) are selected to introduce you to deep
mathematical ideas, made accessible by the authors' unique style.
- Participation (5%):
A large portion of class time will be devoted to discussions and
investigations in small groups and with the whole class. Your active
engagement with the material is required at all times. You will not
be able to get a good participation grade if you are absent too much.
- Homework (25%):
Individual homework will be assigned weekly, and will be due
Thursdays (with exceptions as announced in class). You are allowed
to work together on homework (in fact, I encourage you to do so), but
the paper you turn in you must write yourself. In order to receive
substantial credit for a homework solution, you will need to explain
your steps and reasoning, not just the answer.
Homework is due at the beginning of class (12:00 sharp); if you
cannot make it to class, arrange to either deliver the homework to me
early, or have someone else bring it to class for you. Your lowest
homework score will be dropped.
- Writing assignments (20%):
There will be approximately four writing assignments, where you
will reflect on what you have learned, explain key ideas, and
investigate more involved problems.
- Exams (10% each):
There will be three in-class exams on the following days, covering
approximately the following chapters:
Makeup exams can be given only in extraordinary and unavoidable
circumstances, and with advance notice.
- Secs. 2.1-2.4: Thu. 18 Sep.
- Secs. 2.6-3.3: Thu. 9 Oct.
- Ch. 4: Thu. 6 Nov.
- Final (20%)
- comprehensive (including parts of Ch. 7).
Tue. 9 Dec., 1:00-3:45 p.m.
The deadline for student-initiated drops with a W is Fri., 31 Oct. After
this date, you can only drop with the Dean's approval, which is granted
only under extenuating circumstances.
I hope everyone will complete the course successfully, but if you are having doubts about
your progress, I will be happy to discuss your standing in the course to help you decide
whether or not to drop. You are only allowed three enrollments in this course, and
students enrolled after Fall 2007 are only allowed six withdrawals in their entire academic
career, so please exercise the drop option judiciously.
Academic dishonesty: It is UTEP's policy, and mine, for all suspected cases or acts of alleged scholastic dishonesty to be referred to the Dean of Students for investigation and
appropriate disposition. See Section 1.3.1 of the Handbook for Operating Procedures.
Due to the course structure, attendance is mandatory. There is no particular
penalty for missing a particular class, but you cannot get a good participation grade if
you miss too many classes. I will usually "excuse" an absence if you tell me about it
in advance, or, in cases of emergencies, as soon as possible afterwards.
Courtesy: We all have to show courtesy to each other, and the class as a whole, during class
time. Please arrive to class on time (or let me know when you have to be late, and
why); do not engage in side conversations when one person (me, or another student)
is talking to the whole class; turn off your cell phone (or at least set it to not ring out
loud), and do not engage in phone, email, or text conversations during class.
Disabilities: If you have, or suspect you have, a disability and need an accommodation, you
should contact the Disabled Student Services Office (DSSO) at 747-5148, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Union East room 106. You are responsible for presenting to me any DSS accommodation letters and instructions.
Exceptional circumstances: If you anticipate the possibility of missing large portions of class
time, due to exceptional circumstances such as military service and/or training, or
childbirth, please let me know as soon as possible.