Professor Ben Ford
Office: Schulz cubicle farm #41
Text: Mooney & Swift – A Course in Mathematical Modeling
Class times: Tuesday and Thursday, 2:30-3:45, Darwin 143
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 2:00-2:30 and 3:45-4:00 (Darwin 127, the Math Lab); by discovery, or by appointment.
Cell phones should be off (not just put in silent mode) during class.
Schedule and Homework
Project Grading Guidelines
Downloadable Mathematica files of all Mathematica code in the book
What's this course all about?
This is a course in problem solving and the application of mathematics to the “real world.” In addition, for this problem solving and application of mathematics to be useful, it must be effectively communicated. Therefore our objectives are
To have an improved ability to take a complex problem or situation and determine the key issues that need resolution (the “problem”) and the relevant background information,
To be better able to take this problem and information and develop a mathematical model that can be effectively simplified and solved,
To be able to successfully relate the solutions obtained throughout the modeling process back to the “real-world” problem being considered and see what the solution tells about this world,
To be better at writing – concisely and lucidly – the mathematical solutions we obtain for the problems we consider,
To be better at orally communicating these solutions.
How will the course run?
My goal in this class is to spend as little time as possible at the board lecturing. My lecturing does not teach you how to be better problem-solvers or communicators. You have to do it yourself to get better at it. The class will be project-based with many examples from our book to help you with the small steps of modeling. We will be looking at problems from finance to biology to public health and safety, and hopefully having fun in the process.
We will quickly develop some familiarity with Mathematica and a spreadsheet program at the least, because our models will generally require solutions we can’t (or can’t easily) compute by hand. If you know and have access to a different computer algebra system (CAS), you may use it. You might find programming experience helpful, but I am not assuming programming skills as a prerequisite. In any case, you will have to spend time at a computer outside of class time. You can check the lab schedule on the web for the up-to-date availability schedule.
This syllabus lets you know what you can expect from me (like how I will run the course, how you will be graded, and project due-dates) as well as what I expect from you. The course content will take many hours of work outside of class. In part, you will be expected to read assigned course material before class, so that you will arrive ready to present material or participate in discussions and small group investigations. Course material will be posted on my web page listed above as needed or requested—make a bookmark for it and check it from time to time. You will be responsible for all material on it.
45% Written project reports (about 4) (No late papers)
10% Oral project presentations
The Projects will be completed in teams of size 3—4.
Written reports will be due at the completion of each project—one per group. The written reports must be typed and carefully proof-read! Pictures, figures, charts, tables and equations must be included as part of the write-up and carefully labeled and referred to in the body of the report.
Separately, each of you will turn in a one-page typed evaluation of each member’s participation in the group (including yourself). This should include a description of how you divided up the work for the project, whether or not you and your group members followed up on their assigned task, and particular disputes or successes you experienced in the group. This is your chance to air your feelings privately about the group experience. Your group evaluation will be graded for thoughtfulness and thoroughness and will count towards your participation grade.
Some of the projects will require an oral presentation. Your oral presentations will not only be graded on the accuracy of the mathematics involved, but also on your ability to clearly and professionally communicate your results. You may use the overhead projector, or I can bring in a Mac with an attached projector. Everyone else in the class will be asked to fill out an evaluation form. I will share these comments with you after.
More guidelines will be given to you later.
A list of problems and examples from the text will be assigned weekly. They will be geared towards helping you complete the projects and improve your modeling skills. A hard copy of the assignment will be turned in to me. In addition, to improve your oral communication skills and to facilitate discussion in the classroom, you will be asked to present selected problems to the class. I encourage you to work in groups to prepare these exercises, but it will be up to you individually to turn in your work and to do the presentations. On the hard copy, please list those people you worked with.
If you are ever unsure whether you understand the problems, please come see me in office hours, or ask during class time.
20% One in-class most-of-the-way-there exam (No make-ups)
There will be one exam tentatively scheduled for December 1. I will allow you to use a limited number of pages of notes for the exam. Be forewarned: there will be NO make-up exams—so let me know immediately if you have a conflict, and we will work something out.
Since this class mostly revolves around team modeling and oral presentation of your work, your participation grade comes from various sources. It will be based on some or all of the following:
Your group members evaluation of your effort to put the projects (written and oral) together,
Your written evaluations of your group members and of other students oral presentations (you see, you will be graded on your willingness to give thoughtful feedback),
Your level of participation in class discussion, by adding new insight, or asking good questions. Remember! This means asking questions of your fellow student presenters.