Math 1590: The Nature of Mathematics II

Calendar copy: A continuation of some of the themes explored in AS/MATH 2590 3.0.  Further topics include elements of probability and statistics, the nature of computers, elementary set theory and logic.  This course will continue in the spirit of MATH 2590 3.0. The course will provide additional opportunities for students to develop a positive attitude towards mathematics and to achieve success in thinking mathematically. There will be an emphasis on problem-solving both in class and in homework assignments. Students will be encouraged to reflect on their activities by keeping a journal.

Many of the projects in the course will be drawn from the book Thinking Mathematically, by J. Mason, et al. (Addison-Wesley). Students should have a copy of this book.  The final grade will be based on a combination of assignments, projects and participation.

Mike Zabrocki
Office: TEL 3046
e-mail: Mike Zabrocki's e-mail
Office hours: by appt.
Class location: ACE 005
Time: Tuesdays 6-9pm

The Wiki for this class is located at
Most of you will have an account already set up for you for this Wiki so try your login name that is associated with your e-mail address. I have a list of these accounts if you didn't receive a login and password by e-mail so please contact me at the e-mail address above and I will either send you your address or arrange to have an account activated for you.

The course grade will be based on the following breakdown:
  • 20% class participation
  • 10% show and tell
  • 15% math in the news
  • 35% journals/assignments
  • 20% project

Class participation in this class is manditory.  If you are unable to make class you will be missing entire topics as well as an entire weeks worth of class.  I will be taking roll and this will account for a portion of the grade.

The "show and tell" will be a short presentation by each person in the class.  I am asking you to bring in a piece of pop culture that uses or is related to math.  This can be a song, movie, book, game, magic trick, TV show.  I would like you to be creative and think outside the box on this project but I am picturing a book report on a biography or a computer program that you found particularly cool.  Don't let what you bring in speak for itself, explain what you found interesting about what you are showing and how it is related to math.  I will also be bringing things to class, it is good if you let me know right away if you are planning to 'show and tell' something so you don't overlap with me or one of your fellow students.  Your presentation need not be more than a few minutes can be much longer if you feel like it.

I will also ask you to bring in 3 news articles throughout the term which are related to mathematics.  These should be current news events (no more than a week old) and I would like a printout and a web reference (if possible).  We will add these to a web page which includes pdf versions of the articles.  This should be a much easier assignment than people realize because I am very flexible about what it means to be 'related to' mathematics.  You should include with your article a paragraph which summarizes the idea in the article as well as the relationship to mathematics.

The journals will contain your diary related to the problems which I assign from the book 'Thinking Mathematically' (mentioned in the course description).  If you have taken the course 'Math 2590 : The Nature of Mathematics I' I expect that this portion will be very familiar.  It is ok for you to work together on the assignments but I expect that your solutions to be very different from each other. Working together is OK, but I do not want you copying or even doing the same thing.

As a mathematician I am often asked the question 'What good is mathematics?'  It is a vague question, but I think that people are really curious about how mathematics is used.  Students want to know why they should bother to learn math when they will never use it in real life.  I think that statements like that are a total myth and that most jobs use mathematics regularly and if you start scratching the surface of any field or industry and you will find that mathematics is use a lot (and I am not talking about arithmetic or accounting).  This class project will attempt to answer that question.  I will ask each of you to chose a profession and I would like you to interview someone who is in that profession (or related) and get them to answer the question, 'What is mathematics used for in your field?'  You will post your findings in a class 'Wiki.'  More details on this project will be posted here.