Colorado State University, Pueblo
Math 124 — Precalculus Mathematics, Section 2 — Spring 2011

Here is a shortcut to the course schedule/homework page.

Lectures: MTWΘF 1-1:50pm in PM 108      Office Hours: MTWF8-8:50am, T2-3pm, or by appointment

Instructor: Jonathan Poritz     Office: PM 248     E-mail: jonathan.poritz@gmail.com
Phone: 549-2044 (office — any time); 357-MATH (personal;please use sparingly)

Text: Precalculus, Fifth Edition, by James Stewart, Lothar Redlin and Saleem Watson.
[This book is not too bad (although it is insanely expensive and weighs a ton, much of that due to chapters we will not cover in this course). It is available used (look for the fifth edition). Please note that I will assume in class that students will actually read the text sections I assign on the HW/schedule web page, usually before we cover them in class, but certainly the same week.]

Prerequisites: A satisfactory grade on a placement exam and two years of high school algebra, or a C (or better) in our Math 121, or the equivalent. [In particular, we are assuming students can: solve linear and quadratic equations; simplify algebraic expressions involving radicals and rational exponents; multiply and factor polynomials; etc.]

Objective: Fundamentally, this course is designed to bring students to a fairly high comfort and fluency level in their problem-solving with algebra and trigonometry. This is a necessary foundation for the entire calculus sequence which many students will go on to take, as well as for many courses in the sciences. Pursuant to this objective, we will cover Chapters 2-8 and 10, with some sections omitted, of our textbook.

Academic integrity: Mathematics is more effectively and easily learned — and more fun — when you work in groups. However, all work you turn in must be your own, and any form of cheating is grounds for an immediate F in the course for all involved parties.

Attendance and work ratio: Regular attendance in class is a key to success. I will assume students will generally be present (e.g., in terms of making announcements), although I will not take attendance and will try to keep my HW/schedule web page up to date will all important notices. Outside of class, you should expect to spend 2-3 hours per day on this course, mostly on homework. This is not an exaggeration (or a joke), and you should make sure you have the time and energy — but I guarantee that if you put in the time and generally approach the class with some seriousness you will get quite a bit out of it (certainly including the grade you need).

Classroom participation: There will be organized opportunities for students to be active class participants, such as when working in groups and presenting problem solutions, as well as less formal opportunities — when students ask questions — all of which will be worth extra credit points.

Calculators: A Texas Instruments graphing calculator is required. Calculators such as the TI-89 or TI-Nspire that can do symbolic calculations are forbidden. The department has a calculator rental program: the (non-refundable) fee is $20 per semester, while an additional $110 is billed if the calculator is damaged or is not returned. Please contact Mary Sandoval in PM 216 for more information.

Students with disabilities: The University abides by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which stipulate that no student shall be denied the benefits of education "solely by reason of a handicap." If you have a documented disability that may impact your work in this class for which you may require accommodations, please see the Disability Resource Coordinator as soon as possible to arrange accommodations. In order to receive this assistance, you must be registered with and provide documentation of your disability to the Disability Resource Office, which is located in the Psychology Building, Suite 232.

Homework: Mathematics at this level is a kind of practical (although purely mental) skill, not unlike a musical or sports skill — and, like for those other skills, one must practise to build the skill. In short, doing problems is the only way truly to master this material (in fact, it is the only way to pass this course). Note that what I mean by "doing a problem" usually includes steps like:

The above strategy, and the attitude behind it, are particularly important: in the roughly twenty years I have been teaching college-level mathematics, I have had only a handful of students who put in the time and energy on their math course (time and energy being, of course, the most basic required student inputs) who were not successful ... and it was always because of skipping some of the above steps. The easiest to skip are usually the understand it yourself and learn from your mistakes steps: e.g., if you have a really helpful tutor who dictates complete solutions to you, and you also do not look over returned HW, quizzes, and tests, then you will get nothing out of (and therefore most likely fail) this class.

To give you this daily problem-solving practice, there will be daily, fairly extensive homework set. We will also spend much of our time in class discussing problems. In fact, I am happy to work with you during class time on the homework set due on the following day (or even due that very day).

Since so much homework will be coming in to me, I ask your help in keeping it organized. So here are some individually trivial (some of them) but useful guidelines I would like you to follow:

Quizzes: Most Fridays, during weeks in which there is no hour exam, there will be a short (10-15 minute) quiz at the end of class. These will be closed book, but calculators will (usually) be allowed. Quizzes will be graded out of 5; your lowest quiz score will be dropped.

Exams: We will have four in-class hour exams: Test I on Chapter 2 of the text, scheduled for Thursday, February 3rd; Test II on Chapters 3 and 4, scheduled for Friday, March 4th; Test III on Chapters 5 and 6, for Friday, April 1st; and Test IV on Chapters 7 and 10, for Tuesday, April 26th (these dates are reasonably certain, but might change — always with a week or more advance notice — if circumstances warrant). Our final exam is in two pieces: a multiple choice part, common to all sections of precalculus at CSUP, on Tuesday, May 3rd at 1pm, and a more free-form, comprehensive exam for our section only, on Wednesday, May 4th at 1pm. Both of these will be in our usual classroom.

Grades: Your total homework points (including also the MIs) will be scaled to be out of 150. Total quiz points will be scaled to 100. Each hour exam during the term will be graded out of 100, while the final will be out of 200. This means that the maximum possible course points are then 850. Letter grades will then be calculated in a way no more strict than:

A: 765-850   B: 680-764   C: 595-679   D: 510-594   F: 0-509

(This amounts simply to the old "90-100% is an A, 80-90% a B, etc." business.) Note that by Math Department policy, there will be no +'s or -'s. On quiz or exam days, attendance is required -- if you miss a quiz or exam, you will get a zero as score; you will be able to replace that zero only if you are regularly attending class and have informed me, in advance, of your valid reason for missing that day.

Nota bene: Most rules on due dates, admissibility of make-up work, etc., will be interpreted with great flexibility for students who are otherwise in good standing (i.e., regular classroom attendance, homework (nearly) all turned in on time, no missing quizzes and tests, etc.) when they experience temporary emergency situations. Please speak to me -- the earlier the better -- in person should this be necessary for you.

Contact outside class: Over the years I have been teaching, I have noticed that the students who come to see me outside class are very often the ones who do well in my classes. Now correlation is not causation, but why not put yourself in the right statistical group and drop in sometime? I am always in my office, PM 248, during official office hours. If you want to talk to me privately and/or cannot make those times, please mention it to me in class or by e-mail, and we can find another time. Please feel free to contact me for help also by e-mail at jonathan.poritz@gmail.com, to which I will try to respond quite quickly (usually within the day, often much more quickly); be aware, however, that it is hard to do complex mathematics by e-mail, so if the issue you raise in an e-mail is too hard for me to answer in that form, it may well be better if we meet before the next class, or even talk on the telephone (in which case, include in your e-mail a number where I can reach you).

The Math Learning Center: located in PM 132, is a fantastic resource for CSUP math students. Use it often! (Although during my office hours, come to my office, preferentially, please.) It is free and fun, staffed with friendly and helpful tutors. Availability is likely to be:

The MLC opens at 8:30
weekdays and closes at:   
M T W Θ F
5pm 5pm 5pm 5pm 3pm

A request about e-mail: E-mail is a great way to keep in touch with me, but since I tell all my students that, I get a lot of e-mail. So to help me stay organized, please put your full name and the course name or number in the subject line of all messages to me. Also, if you are writing me for help on a particular problem, please do not assume I have my book, it is often not available to me when I am answering e-mail; therefore, you should give me enough information about the problem so that I can actually help you solve it (i.e., "How do you do problem number n on page p" is often not a question I will be able to answer).


Jonathan Poritz (jonathan.poritz@gmail.com)