MATH 139:  Contemporary Topics in Mathematics                Fall, 2002


Dr. Roger Simons                                      meets  MW 11:00-12:20 in G255

Office:    G 369                                  REVISED

Telephone:  456-9865                    Office Hours:  Mon. 1:30-2:30 & 3:30-4:00,

website:                                         Wed. 2:00-2:30 & 3:30-4:00,

email:                                             Tue.  & Thu. 1:15-1:45,

                                                                                      & by appointment


This course does NOT satisfy the College Mathematics Requirement.  In fact, you should have completed the College Mathematics Requirement BEFORE taking this course (or any Math numbered above 120).


This course satisfies the Mathematics (M) or (SM) General Education Requirement.  It is a math appreciation course for college students whose academic program requires no particular mathematics course.  Students who excel in this class are encouraged to consider taking either pre-calculus (Math 209), which leads to calculus I (Math 212), or to take a short calculus course (Math 247).  Math 181 is a more technical, math applications course which also satisfies the Mathematics (M) or (SM) General Education Requirement.  Math 181 is designed to provide useful mathematical skills and techniques with useful applications for students in programs like biology, medical technology, nursing , and industrial technology. 



1.  To gain appreciation of the power and usefulness of mathematics as illustrated by a variety of contemporary problems that can be modeled and solved by mathematical means.


2.  To be able to solve elementary applied problems in the topics we engage.  Topics will include:


graph theory

group decision theory

consumer finance



Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry



3.  To gain an appreciation of the ongoing development of mathematics, where some new theorems have immediate applications while others may have very important applications some time in the future.


Text: Mathematics for the Modern World ,  by Dale Hathaway;  Addison-Wesley, 2000.


Grading:                                                          Approximate

                                                                               Points                            Approximate

                        Work                                         Possible                           Percentage

Labs, homework and/or quizzes                             100                                  22.22%

Two 1-hour Exams (100 pts. each)                        200                                  44.44%

Final exam (comprehensive)                                   150                                  33.33%

                                                                                 ------------------                              --------------------------

                        TOTAL                                              450                                 100%



Grading System:


Grading is based on the quality of your individual work, not on the class curve.


Each item on an exam or other assignment is scored so that proportionally better answers get proportionally better scores.  The total points earned by each student is a raw score, whose value depends on the difficulty of that particular assignment or exam.  My exams are usually written with some challenges for performers at each level, including the top level.  Thus, an individual raw score is usually not meaningful.


After grading an exam, or all homework, I determine my standards for the cut-off scores of each grade on that particular exam or all the homework.  I do this by reviewing my answer keys while calculating the raw score of an imagined, idealized weakest A-, B-, C-, and D- performance.  These scores are the cut-offs for the letter grades and are interpreted as 90, 80, 70, and 60, respectively.  All scores within each grade-range are uniformly scaled into an "interpreted" score, which is readily understood in a 90-80-70-60 grading scale.  At the end of the semester, each student's interpreted scores are averaged.  The course grade is based on that average, with each grade-range divided into 3 equally wide zones for plus, regular, and minus grades.  For example, B scores are partitioned into 86.7 to 89.9 for B+,  83.3 to 86.7 for B, and  80 to 83.2 for B-.


The final course letter grade includes considerations of improvement, participation, effort, and any special circumstances I know about.


Late Homework Policy:


Each assignment collected should be your individual work  unless explicitly assigned as a group project.  Getting help with it is considered a case of plagiarism, which may be punished accordingly.  All assignments are due at the beginning  of class.  Consequently, it  is a BAD STRATEGY to finish homework instead of coming to class on time, as the homework will be late anyway.  Homework that is on time is a little better than homework of the same quality that is a little late.  Thus, unexcused late homework loses 4 points per week late out of the 10 or 20 points, pro-rated as follows:


up to 1 day late  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 point off

by start of the next class . . . . . . . . . 2 points off

one class plus up to 1 day late . . . 3 points off

up to 1 week late . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 points off


Late homework should be handed in as soon as completed,  in my office, G369.  If I am not there, slide it under the door.   Of course, you may also hand it to me in class.  Unexcused late homework will not be accepted more than 2 classes late.  However, any assignment that must be done on a computer will be accepted any time up to the last regular meeting of class, with the late penalty accumulating as stated above.


Accommodation for a disability:

Any student needing special accommodations for any disability or special need, please make an appointment to see me very soon.



Legal Copies of Campus Software: 


RIC now has a license, allowing students to install, on their own home computers, the same Microsoft software we have in our labs.  Ask how to get the software at Campus Card opposite the bookstore, or at the Help Desk in Horace Mann.


Math-Anxious Students:

If you have had a pattern of panicking in math courses or on math exams or have been avoiding math out of fear, I can probably help you overcome it enough to succeed in this course.  But you must see me individually or in small groups. Come very soon!


Make-up Policy:


You are expected to take all exams and quizzes as scheduled with the rest of the class.  You should make every effort to do so, as there is normally no alternative for you.  A make-up exam is a privilege (not a right) available only in the case of exceptional emergencies or conflicts.  The make-up exam is usually harder than the original; so, it is always better for you to take all exams as scheduled with the class.


Permission for a make-up exam must be arranged directly with Dr. Simons.  In the case of a conflict,  the permission and detailed arrangements  MUST be made BEFORE the regular exam time.  In case of an emergency,  contact Dr. Simons as soon as possible (within 24 hours), and ALWAYS BEFORE the NEXT MEETING of this class.  If I am not in, leave a message, including your phone number and when you can be reached.  If you meet these conditions, a make-up exam must be scheduled for some time before the regular exam is returned to the rest of the class, if at all possible.




I can be reached in my office, Gaige 369, at various times including office hours:


REVISED to:      Mon. 1:30-2:30 & 3:30-4:00,

Wed. 2:00-2:30 & 3:30-4:00,

Tue.  & Thu. 1:15-1:45,

and by appointment


My office telephone number is 456-9865.  If I am not in, leave a voice-mail message.  Be sure to include your phone number  and when you can be reached.   Messages can be left there any time 24/7 (i.e., day, night, week-day, week-end, or holiday.)






Note:  Class policies such as those in this handout are like a contract.  Your continuing to be enrolled in the class implies your acceptance of the policies.  Be sure you understand them. 


If you do not understand or if you disagree with one or more of the policies, either ask in class or see your instructor soon about it.