Math 242 — MATLAB Computation — Spring 2014

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

**Lectures:** M-F 3-3:50pm in PM 116 (scheduled)
**Office Hours:** T$\Theta$10am-1pm and W12-1pm, 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)

**Prerequisites:** A satisfactory grade (C or higher) in Math 126
(Calculus I) *and* Math 207 (Matrix and Vector Algebra). The point of
these prerequisites is to ensure that you are comfortable with a range of
basic mathematical manipulations and techniques, including operations with
vectors and matrices.

**Postrequisites:** This course is required for the computation
mathematics, physics, biophysics, and chemical physics minors.

**Course Content/Objective:** The Catalog describes this course as
follows:

The Mathematics and Physics Department is filing the paperwork this year to change the title of this course toIntroduction to mathematical computation using MATLAB. Includes projects in numerical, graphical and symbolic computation. Loops, conditionals, functions, scripts, recursion, errors, program testing and documentation.

Note that the only difference it the removal of the wordIntroduction to mathematical and scientific computation. Includes projects in numerical, graphical and symbolic computation. Loops, conditionals, functions, scripts, recursion, errors, program testing and documentation.

Consonant with this proposed change is the approach we will take this semester:
we will use MATLAB itself very little, if at all, and instead use a variety of
other tools. Most of these tools will be FLOSS (="Free/Libre Open-Source
software", see
Wikipedia
on *Free and open-source software*), such as
**GNU Octave**, our
primary replacement for MATLAB (although we will use a number of other FLOSS
tools as well).

The primary learning outcome for this course is very simple: to initiate
students into computer programming, which is one of the great achievements of
the human intellect on par with the use of tools (which, in fact, our species
shares with at least ten others on our planet), the invention of writing, the
scientific method, and other such epoch-defining innovations. This new step
of inventing computers and programming has been around for only about fifty
years and yet it has already changed nearly every aspect of the human
experience. You have an opportunity in this course (and elsewhere, to be
fair) to get in at the beginning of this revolution and become one of the new
type of humans fluent in the new language(s) and way(s) of thinking: you
can *Program or be Programmed*,
as a
recent book pithily put it.

The specific goal of the course, to realize this learning outcome, is to give students a basic understanding of how to design, write, debug, and use computer programs, and to expose them to a number of software tools and environments which aid in this process. The particular tools do not matter in the end, it is the approach and way of thinking which we will emphasize.

**Class ***[dis]***organization:** One unusual feature of this
class is that we will not be using a physical textbook. Instead, reference
and reading materials will be posted on, or linked to from, the course web
site. Please do read and use these

Here's how it will all play out in detail:

- Keep an eye on the course schedule page, at least as frequently as we have class.
- Read the assigned material we will be discussing
*before*the class in which we will discuss it (and probably again after the first class discussion of that material). - There will be regular homework assignments, roughly once a week, which will consist each of only a few problems — but they will be fairly challenging!
- Some specifics about the homework:
- Homework is assigned by day but graded by problem. Each problem will
typically be worth
**5 points**. - Homework problems will appear on the homework web page on a regular basis. Please get used to going to that page frequently.
- Late homework will count, but at a reduced value — generally, the score will be reduced by around a point for each day late.

- Homework is assigned by day but graded by problem. Each problem will
typically be worth
- Regular attendance in class is a key to success. But if you absolutely have to miss a class, please inform me in advance (as late as a few minutes before class by phone or e-mail would be fine) and I will video the class and post the video on the 'net. You can then watch the class you missed in the comfort of you home and (hopefully) not fall behind. Classes I have videoed will have the icon next to that day's entry on the schedule/homework page to remind you of the available video. (But you must e-mail me for a link to the video, you will not be able to search for it.)

**Revision of work on homeworks and tests:** A great learning
opportunity is often missed by students who get back a piece of work graded by
their instructor and simply shrug their shoulders and move on. In fact,
painful though it may be, looking over the mistakes on those returned papers
is often the best way to figure out exactly where *you* tend to make
mistakes. If you correct that work, taking the time to make sure you really
understand completely what was missing or incorrect, you will often truly master
the technique in question, and never again make any similar mistake.

In order to encourage students to go through this learning experience, I will
allow students to hand in revised solutions to all homeworks and midterms.
You will be able to earn a percentage of the points you originally lost, so
long as you hand in the revised work at the very next class meeting. The
percentage you can earn back is given in the "revision %" column of the
table in the **Grades** section, below.

**Final Projects:** Instead of a final exam, each student will choose a
topic for a careful, detailed, extensive final project. This may require
research, and will definitely include programming, a write-up, and a public
presentation of results.

**Exams:** We will have two midterm exams on dates to be determined (and
announced at least a week in advance). These may have a take-home portion in
addition to the in-class part. Our **final exam** is scheduled for
**Monday, April 28th from 1-3:20pm** and **Tuesday, April 29th from
3:30-5:50pm, both in our usual classroom** — but we will use those slots
for final project presentations, not an exam.

**Grades:** In each grading category, the lowest *n* scores of
that type will be dropped, where *n* is the value in the "# dropped"
column. The total remaining points will be multiplied by a normalizing
factor so as to make the maximum possible be 100. Then the different
categories will be combined, each weighted by the "course %" from the
following table, to compute your total course points out of 100. Your letter
grade will then be computed in a manner not more strict than the traditional
"90-100% is an **A**, 80-90% a **B**, *etc.*" method. *[Note
that the math department does not give "+"s or "-"s.]*

pts each | # of such | # dropped | revision % | course % | |
---|---|---|---|---|---|

Homework: | 5/prob | ≈75 probs | 7 probs | 75% | 40% |

Midterms: | >100 | 2 | 0 | 50% | 20% |

Final Project: | 100 | 1 | 0 | 0% | 40% |

** 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 (

**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).

**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.

**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. In
particular, some assignments, such as take-home portions of tests, will have
very specific instructions about the kinds of help you may seek or resources
you may use, and violations of of these instructions will not be tolerated.

**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 accomodations, you must be registered with and provide
documentation of your disability to: the Disability Resource Office, which is
located in the Library and Academic Resources Center, Suite 169.