Mathematics 5, Winter 2006

The World According to Mathematics

Course DescriptionCourse Information Syllabus Homework Assignments
Friday Discussions Maple Stuff Take-home ExamsStudent Writing


Information about Math 5

In the following paragraphs, you will find the most important facts about the structure of the course: for example, when and where it meets, the names and office hours of the instructors, the course requirements, dates and times of the exams, and the Academic Honor Principle as it applies to the course.

Textbook: Mathematics and Knowledge: Models of Reality, draft manuscript by Dwight Lahr. The text is available in the College Copy Center, Thayer Hall, at a no-profit cost.

Dwight Lahr
410 Bradley, 646-2672
Office hours: MW: 2:00-3:30 (and by appt.)

Do not hesitate to contact me by e-mail for purposes of asking questions, making comments, or setting up meetings.

Writing Specialist:
Jane Whittington
314 Bradley, 646-9020
Office hours: MWTh: 11:00-5:00; Tu: 10:00-3:00 (and by appt.)

Class Meetings: MWF 10:00-11:05 in Bradley 105 (x-hour Th 12:00-12:50)

Homework: Our homework grader is Andrew Herchek. Each week exercises will be assigned that are intended to give you facility with the concepts being developed in class. All material will be covered in class, and you should be able to do the exercises listed for that day after having attended the class. Every Friday we will post the next week's assignments on the course website at

Class Discussions: Each student will be expected to participate in the class discussions, especially those that occur on Fridays. Some students may even want to volunteer--either individually or as part of a group--to lead a discussion on a given day. The student or students leading the discussion should be prepared to start off with a ten-minute presentation. The presentation should have been developed in consultation with Dwight Lahr and might include approximately three to five questions that will be used to focus the discussion of the class following the presentation. The Friday discussions will also provide a good opportunity to review homework exercises assigned in that week.


The mid-term writing assignment will be to write a five-page double-spaced paper on a mathematical application in the everyday world. You should begin thinking about that paper from the first day of Math5. You might want to discuss your ideas with your instructor. At the beginning of week 4, you will be submitting a draft to the Writing Specialist for comments, and consultations. The completed mid-term paper will be worth 50 points. If you score between 40 and 50 points, then no additional paper is necessary at the end of the course, and we will credit your final with 1.5 times your midterm-paper score for a maximum of 75 points. If you fail to achieve at least 40 points on the midterm, then you will have to write a final paper. The final paper can be on the same topic but increased to seven pages, or it can be a seven-page paper on a new topic.

Even if you are not required to do so, you may choose not to take the credit and write another seven-page paper for the final for a maximum score of 75 points. All papers must contain at least 20% mathematics, involve mathematical ideas, and develop material that goes beyond what is covered in class.

There will also be group reports and presentations on a topic of the group's choosing in weeks 8 and 9. Each group should consist of 2-3 people, and no more. Both oral and written reports will be done. Once again, the Writing Assistant's participation will be invaluable (and required). Here are the guidelines governing the report and presentation:

Each group will give a 45-minute presentation based on a written report (5-7 double-spaced 12-point-font pages, at least 30% math, on an example of the use of math in the real world), and lead a class discussion afterward. To motivate the discussion, you should introduce 3-4 questions for the class to consider. All students are expected to attend all presentations. A grade will be assigned for both the oral presentation and the written report; each will count 50% of the overall grade for the project.

The deadline for giving a draft of your report to Jane Whittington for her comments is February 15th. This is the latest date to submit it to her, and you are encuraged to get it in earlier. You may email papers to her at any time.

You are also encouraged to discuss your paper with your instructor as you formulate your ideas.

Library Resources: Barbara DeFelice, Kresge, Cook and Physical Sciences Librarian, has put together a guide to the kinds of resources you should be using. She writes: "Exactly which resources and what terms to use all depends on student topics; but it's a good place to start when for example, looking for sources of articles that are readable but scholarly. If students understand how materials are organized, they can use these examples to locate related book material by call number and subject headings." Here is the link: MATH 5 Guide to Library Research. It's linked on the Kresge/Cook web page under Instruction Services, Course Guides.

Grading: Final grades for the course are determined primarily on the basis of performance on the course requirements. However, a student's contribution to class discussions, including, if applicable, his or her performance in leading a class discussion, will also be taken into account in the determination of the final grade. The formal weightings are reflected in the following point-scheme:

Total Points: 225

Precise letter grades that take into account total performance will not be assigned until the end of the course. However, after the mid-term, you will be given enough guidance to determine the approximate level of your overall performance relative to a three-point scale such as "excellent, satisfactory, unsatisfactory." Feedback will also be provided on your contribution to class discussions.

Academic Honor Principle:
On exams: No help is to be given or received.
On homework, papers, or projects: No copying. You may seek help from anyone associated with the course, or from a librarian, as much as you need. You may work with other students except on exams, but must always write up whatever you are working on on your own. Copying from someone else's work, including the sharing of electronic or other files, is not permitted and is a violation of the honor principle.

Disabilities: We encourage students with documented disabilities, including "invisible" disabilities such as chronic diseases, learning disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities, to discuss possible accommodations with your instructor. Students might want to consult as well the Student Disabilities Coordinator, Cathy Trueba, at extension 6-3771, in the Academic Skills Center. In addition to providing information and services, the Center is in charge of registering disabilities and approving accommodations.

Math 5 Website: We have a website that organizes the materials of the course. The address is There you will find all the handouts of the course, as well as the homework assignments.





Copyright © 2006 by C. Dwight Lahr