Colorado State University — Pueblo, Spring 2015
Math 124, Pre-calculus Math, Section 1

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

Here is a shortcut to the summary table below of components of the grades for this course.

Lectures: MTWΘF 8-8:50am in PM 106      Office Hours: M1-1:50pm and T$\Theta$ 12-1:50pm, or by appointment

Instructor: Jonathan Poritz     Office: PM 248     E-mail:
Phone: 549-2044 (office — any time); 357-MATH (personal; please use sparingly)

Text: Precalculus: Mathematics for Calculus, 6th ed., by Stewart, Redlin, and Watson.

Prerequisites: Satisfactory placement exam score or Math 121 or equivalent. (A grade of C or better is required for prerequisite courses.)

Postrequisites: This course is one of the six classes which satisfy the Quantitative Reasoning Skill of the General Education Requirement. It is also required for the CET major, is a prerequisite for CET 312, CET 412, and MATH 126, and is one required option for CM 231 and MATH 207. Many students take 124 as a step towards the calculus sequence that is needed in many (most) STEM (="Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics") majors.

Course Content/Objective: The Catalog describes it as:

Polynomial, rational, exponential and logarithmic functions; solution of systems of equations; trigonometric, circular and certain special functions.
(In practice, we tend not to spend very much time on systems of equations.) A more precise list of what you will know about by the end of this class is:
  1. Functions
  2. Polynomial and Rational Functions
  3. Exponential and Logarithmic Functions
  4. Trigonometry
  5. Additional topics, time permitting

Calculator: A calculator is necessary throughout this course, often in class and when doing homework, always on quizzes and during tests. The calculator you use must be capable of performing basic scientific computations (including logarithms, exponentials and trigonometric functions) and of doing basic plots. Essentially any Texas Instruments calculator from the TI-83 up will suffice; the instructor will use a TI-84 Plus.

The Mathematics Department does have a TI-84 Plus calculator rental program, with rental of a limited number of calculators available on a first come, first served basis for a non-refundable fee of $20 per semester payable at the Bursar's window in the Administration Building. For more information, contact Prof. Tammy Watkins in the Math Learning Center (PM 132).

Attendance and workload: Regular attendance in class is a key to success — don't skip class, don't be late. But more than merely attending, you are also expected to be engaged with the material in the class. In order for this to be possible, it is necessary to be current with required outside activities such as reading textbook sections and doing homework problems: you are expected to spend 2-3 hours per hour of class on this outside work. This is not an exaggeration (or a joke!), but if you put in the time and generally approach the class with some seriousness you will get quite a bit out of it (certainly including the grade you need).

If you absolutely have to miss a class, please inform me in advance and I will video the class and post the video on the 'net. You should e-mail me no earlier than a few hours after class (to allow for upload time) asking for the link to that video, and 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 Black and white camera icon next to that day's entry on the schedule/homework page to remind you of the available video. Even if you are not the one who originally requested the video, you may want to watch it (as part of reviewing for a test, maybe) — but you have to e-mail me for the links as the videos cannot simply be found by a search on YouTube.

Homework: Mathematics at this level is a kind of practical (although purely mental) skill, not unlike a musical or sports skill — and, like for those other skills, one must practice to build the skill. In short, doing problems is the only way truly to master this material (in fact, it is the only way to pass this course).

Note that what I mean by "doing a problem" usually includes steps like:

The above strategy, and the attitude behind it, are particularly important: in the roughly twenty-five years I have been teaching college-level mathematics, I have had only a handful of students who put in the time and energy on their math course (time and energy being, of course, the most basic required student inputs) who were not successful ... and it was always because of skipping some of the above steps. The easiest to skip are usually the understand it yourself and learn from your mistakes steps: e.g., if you have a really helpful tutor who dictates complete solutions to you, and you also do not look over returned HW, quizzes, and tests, then you will get nothing out of (and therefore most likely fail) this class.

To give you plenty of this problem-solving practice, there will be daily, fairly extensive homework set. We will also spend much of our time in class discussing problems. In fact, I am happy to work with you during class time on the homework set due on the following day (or even due that very day).

Here are some specifics about the homework:

Big Ideas [BIs]: Along with every homework set, you must turn in a written explanation of the Big Idea of the last class. This should be at least a clear and complete sentence, although sometimes several (or a paragraph, or an equation with explanatory sentences) will be more appropriate. The goal here is to get some practice with good exposition of mathematical facts and with mathematics as a body of general results and ideas, not merely a collection of worked examples. Some specifics:

Since we cover a lot of content in this course, there is a rich source of material for potential BIs. You are also doing them without time pressure and at home where you can consult your notes. You should therefore expect to get perfect scores on essentially all of your BIs, at least once you have figured out, in the first few days of class, what kind of thing I am looking for.

That discovery process (of finding out what is good content and style for a BI) at first may be a little frustrating, but students have told me years later that they remember "that whole Big Idea business" and it has served them more than anything else they did in my class.

Quizzes: Most Fridays, during weeks in which there is no hour exam, there will be a short (10-15 minute) quiz at the end of class. These will (usually) be closed book, but calculators will (usually) be allowed. Quizzes will be graded out of 5; your lowest quiz score will be dropped.

Exams: We will have four in-class hour exams: Test I on Chapter 2 of the text, tentatively scheduled for Friday, January 30th; Test II on Chapters 3 and 4, around Friday, February 27th; Test III on Chapters 5 and 6, around Friday, March 13th; and Test IV on Chapters 7 and 11, around Monday, April 20th (these dates are reasonably approximations, but might change — always with a week or more advance notice). Our comprehensive final exam is in two pieces, on Thursday, April 30th and Friday, May 1st, both 8-10:20am in our usual classroom.

Revision of work on BIs, quizzes, 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 — often depositing their graded work in a trash can without even looking at it! 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. This is what is behind the "second chance HW problems" described above.

In order to encourage students to go through this learning experience also in the other parts of the course, I will allow students to hand in revised solutions to all BIs, quizzes, and midterms. There will be an expectation of slightly higher quality of exposition (more clear and complete explanations, all details shown, all theorems or results that you use carefully cited, etc.), but 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 below.

Grades: On quiz or exam days, attendance is required — if you miss a quiz or exam, you will get a zero as score; you will be able to replace that zero only if you are regularly attending class and have informed me, in advance, of your valid reason for missing that day.

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 %
Quizzes: 5 ≈10 1 33.3% 12%
Homework: 3/prob ≈55 sets
≈150 probs
10 probs 100% (on it's
2nd chance prob)
Big Ideas: 2 ≈55 (≈1 per
HW set)
3 50% 4%
Midterms: >100 4 0 33.3% 44%
Final Exam: >200 1 0 0% 24%

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, 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).

Math Learning Center, located in PM132, is a great place to work with other students or get help from fantastic tutors. It is always a good place to go if you want some interactive help and I'm not in my office. The MLC is open 8:30am-5:00pm Monday to Thursday and 8:30am-3:00pm on Friday.

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. Also, if you are writing me for help on a particular problem, please do not assume I have my book, it is often not available to me when I am answering e-mail; therefore, you should give me enough information about the problem so that I can actually help you solve it (i.e., "How do you do problem number n on page p" is often not a question I will be able to answer).

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. Please do not use a cell phone during class. You may not use a cell phone or share a calculator with another student during a test.

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 (i.e., regular classroom attendance, homework (nearly) all turned in on time, no missing quizzes and tests, etc.) when they experience temporary emergency situations. Please speak to me — the earlier the better — in person should this be necessary for you.

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 accommodations, 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.