(Last Revised on 09/07/2004 )

Math 105: Math As A Liberal Ar t

Fall 2004

TR 8:30-9:55, Fowler North 1

Instructor Information:  Ron Buckmire, Fowler North Academic Offices #14, x2536.  You may contact me via e-mail at  You may email the entire class at  This is a closed listserv. My AOL Instant Messenger name is Buckmire2536.

Office Hours:  My official office hours for Fall 2004 are MWF 3:30-5:00pm and R 10:00-11:30am. I am committed to be available to you when you need assistance.  You may make an appointment with me (in class, via chat, via email, or at x2536) at any time when I am available. I’m often available online via chat on AOL Instant Messenger for “virtual office hours.”


Course Objectives:  The following are some of the objectives I hope we can accomplish together through this course this semester.

Required Textbook:  Keith Devlin, Mathematics: Science of Patterns, Scientific American Publishing, 1997.  This text will serve as primary reference to get us started with each group of topics.  I expect you to read each chapter thoroughly.  You will quickly see that some topics in the book we will discuss in the class; others we may not talk about at all.  I will give you a reading guide for each chapter to help you sort through what might be our focus and what might not, as well as some ideas to key in on while reading.  The idea behind each chapter is essential and I will assess your reading via questions posed on Blackboard “quizzes.”  The on-going assessments will focus on what we discuss and do in and out of class.

Assignments:  I will update assignments after every class meeting on Blackboard.  You should refer to our Blackboard site frequently as your source for what is due the next class meeting, and for assignments further in the future.  It is your responsibility to check Blackboard and to keep up with all the assignments.

Student Work Expectations:  We will spend different amounts of time focusing on each theme (by chapter) provided in Devlin, depending on how many topics we address and activities we do related to each theme.  You will have a mid-term exam, a final group project (consisting of a group paper and a poster session to be held on December 7) and a final exam.  You will also have regular Blackboard “quizzes,” frequent assignments to do for the next class meeting or to email me between class meetings, and you will have a weekly problem set to turn in.

Readings.  You are to read the corresponding Devlin chapters before and during the course of our discussion of each theme.  Part of your Blackboard “quizzes” will be based on readings you will have done, guided by the reading guide give you for each chapter.

Blackboard.  We will use Blackboard as one of the learning and feedback tools in this class.  In addition to keeping you updated with class assignments and expectations and making announcements as needed, I will post regular “quizzes” that will address both issues brought up in the readings and from in-class and at-home activities. 

The first thing you must do is enroll yourself into this course on Blackboard.  To do so, follow these steps:

You should then take some time to explore the site to see where I will post various things, including the daily assignments and “quizzes.”  Again, it is important for you to check Blackboard regularly – I would advise at least twice a week – and keep up with the assignments and expectations as posted there.

Exams.  You will have a mid-term exam on Thursday October 28 that will cover material up to spring break.  You will have a final exam Thursday December 16 at 8:30am that will cover the material after the mid-term (i.e., it will not be cumulative).  No make-up exams will be given without prior approval of the instructor, and approval will only be given for extreme circumstances. 

Classes.  The time in class will be spend discussing related ideas, building on the themes, and working on some real mathematics.  You will experiment, conjecture, test, refine, and sometimes prove your ideas about this mathematics.  Because this work is important in terms of your immersion in mathematics, your attendance and participation will be part of your final grade.  You will often be asked to work on problems introduced in class or related to the class discussion for homework and bring it to the next class meeting.  You will also often be asked questions on Blackboard “quizzes” about class activities and activities you are to work on at home.  These will be assessed and will be part of your attendance, participation, and daily work grade.  No late work will be accepted without prior approval of the instructor for your absence.
Problem Sets
.  A problem set will be due nearly every Thursday in class.  It will be based on material we discuss the week prior to give you a chance to refine and deepen your understanding.  I will usually give this problem set to you the previous Thursday.  By having them well in advance of the due date, please do not wait until the last minute to complete them!  Work on them over the weekend and throughout the week, and seek help from classmates or from me early in the week.  While I encourage you to work together on these, and on all assignments, what you actually put on your own paper must represent your own understanding of the material and must be written independently of others.  Copying someone else’s work will be considered cheating and will be treated as such.  No late work will be accepted without prior approval of the instructor.

Final Project and Accompanying Paper and Presentation.  During the last part of the semester, you will work on a final project, preferably in groups of 2 to 4 people.  The subject matter for the project is completely open as long as it involves mathematics.  I highly encourage you to work on this final project in teams that you choose.  Approval of teams and final project topics must be given by October 28.  Additional details on the projects will be handed out separately, but a brief description follows.

Each team will submit a well-written paper on November 30 describing the work you did in detail.  This paper should explore both the process as well as the final product of the project and should contain appropriate citations and a bibliography.  In addition, you will prepare a “representation” of your work for an open “poster” presentation on December 7.  I will show you some examples of past work.  This representation may simply be a poster describing and showing your work, may consist of physical constructions you have made for your project, may be a short video, a collection of pictures, etc.  The class and invited guests will have the opportunity to walk around and view everyone’s presentation and ask each group questions about their project.  Each team will be graded on the quality of your paper, the quality of your “poster” presentation, and the overall quality of your project.  The group will receive one grade.  Each individual will be held accountable for her or his contribution to the team effort, and everyone on the team will complete a self and group assessment of everyone’s contribution.  This self and group assessment may alter individual’s grades from the group grade.  If you are absent on either of these poster presentation days and do not have prior instructor approval for your absence, your grade on this project will be lowered by 10 points for each absence.


Academic Honesty:  I expect the highest level of academic honesty from all of my students.  You should read the appropriate sections of the Student Handbook that discuss the “Spirit of Honor” and Academic Honesty.  Any instance of plagiarism or cheating will be dealt with strictly and in accordance with the procedures found in the Handbook.  Copying someone’s homework or problem set solutions is considered cheating.  Including other sources in your papers without appropriate quotes and citations is considered plagiarism.  You may discuss ideas and problems as appropriate, but what you ultimately write and submit must be your own work, written up independently of others.

Grades:  Your final grade will be based on the following accumulation of points:


Mid-term exam  100 points
Final exam  100 points
Weekly problem sets     200 points
Final project (paper, “poster,” individual accountability)      200 points
Preparation, attendance, participation, daily work, Blackboard “quizzes”   200 points
TOT AL   800 points

720 total points will guarantee an A-, 640 a B-, 560 a C-, and 480 a D.  But I take into account a whole range of performance indicators when assigning final grades.

Late work will not be accepted and exams may not be made up without prior approval of the instructor.  Approval will normally be given only for extreme circumstances (serious illness, death in the family, etc.) or for college-sponsored programs.  Even for college-sponsored programs, you must request prior approval from the instructor.  I will not excuse things like a Glee Club trip, an academic field trip, or an athletic trip without knowing about it (well) in advance. 

Caveat:       This syllabus will be available on Blackboard and at . The version online is the official version for the course and is subject to change.