MATH 203 Fall 207 Syllabus

Professor: Alex Kasman
Office: 336 Robert Scott Small Building, 843-953-8018
Office Hours: T 3-4, W 10-11, F 1-2

Please visit me in my office during these times. If you need to see me and cannot come during these times, just contact me by phone or e-mail and I will find an alternative time to meet with you. (I am often in my office anyway, so you can just drop by if you want.)

IMPORTANT (but weird) POLICY: Every student is required to visit my office to talk to me briefly at least once between the first test and the last day of class. This is not optional. Failure to satisfy this (simple) requirement will result in a failing grade in the course.

Textbook: The required text for the class is Linear Algebra and its Applications by David C. Lay (Fourth Edition). It should be available in the bookstore. Please let me know if you have any problems obtaining the book. Unlike some other math classes you may have taken, in this class you really will want to read each section in the book as we cover it in class.
Material to be Covered: At the beginning of the course, we will mostly be learning the algebra of matrices and the applications of these techniques for solving linear systems of equations. However, this is a somewhat misleading start as the theory that has grown out of these beginnings is much deeper, more interesting, and more useful than you might think based only on this material from Chapters 1-3. In particular, in Chapters 3-6 we will encounter vector spaces, dimension, linear operators, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, and orthogonality. These concepts, though very abstract, have turned out to be of fundamental importance in engineering, physics, and any subject in which mathematics has applications. The highlight of the class will be the least-squares method, which combines many of these abstract ideas towards a very practical purpose: finding the best approximate solution to an unsolvable problem.
Class Website: Although this syllabus can be found online at, the official class website will be the OAKS page. Students registered for the class can access that page by logging in at
Handouts: I will prepare a "handout" for each lecture reviewing the key ideas and assigning homework problems. They will be made available on the class OAKS website.
Graded Work: Your grade in this class will be based on: tests, homework, group projects and the final exam.

Tests: A test in this class, as in any college-level course, is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to me how well you understand the material we have covered. Consequently, there will be questions of varying levels of difficulty. Some questions could be answered correctly by anyone who has been paying attention, others cannot be done perfectly unless you have a good grasp of the subject and still others are so hard that only the top students in the class will be able to answer them at all. There will be tests in class on the following dates: Sept 20, Oct 13, and Nov 15.

Group Projects: During every class which takes place on a Wednesday (except for the first day of class and the exam dates listed above) there will be a group project in class. The questions on a group project may be thought provoking and challenging. Each student will work with one or two other students on the questions and they will turn in a single set of answers collectively. Any resource is available to you during a group project; you can use your notes, your textbook or even ask questions of other students in the class.

Homework: In each homework assignment, one or two problems will be "starred" to indicate that they are to be collected and graded. Every Friday all of the starred problems that have not yet been collected and were assigned prior to the preceding Wednesday will be turned in and graded. (Rules for collected homework: You cannot look up the solutions in a book, on the Internet, or in someone else's completed homework. You can work together on the homework as long as each person writes up the solutions individually. Late homework will be accepted as long as it is turned in before the graded assignment has been returned to other students. However, a penalty of up to half of the points can be subtracted applied to late submissions.)

Final Exam: The final exam for this class will be given on the date specified by the College's final exam calendar: December 13th from 8AM to 11AM in our usual classroom. The exam will be comprehensive, testing not only all of the material that we have learned throughout the semester but also your ability to synthesize it (that is, your ability to usefully combine things learned early in the course with things learned later).

Course Grade: Your grade in the class will be determined entirely by your scores on the graded assignments listed above. However, there are two different possible schemes. I will compute your grade both ways and choose whichever one is higher. The first scheme counts all of the tests almost equally. The other grading scheme drops the lowest test grade but counts the final exam very heavily.
Grading Scheme #1
7% Projects
8% Homework
60% Three In-class tests (20% each)
25% Final Exam
Grading Scheme #2
7% Projects
8% Homework
40% Two Highest In-class Tests (20% each)
0% Lowest In-class Test
45% Final Exam
"Make-up" policy:The policy in this class is that there is no way to make up a missed test, project or exam. If you miss a test, that test counts as your "lowest score" and is dropped. If you have a valid excuse for missing a group project, that also will be dropped so that it does not count against you, but you will not have an opportunity to make it up.
Letter Grades: Unlike some other instructors who announce in advance which numerical scores correspond to letter grades of A, B+, and so on, I will be announcing the letter grade correspondences as I return the assignments. It is expected that the average grade in the class will be a B-, that the top scores in the class will receive grades of A, and that the grades near the bottom will be Ds and Fs. However, if I am convinced that a class performed especially well or poorly on an assignment, I my occasionally vary from this policy..
Course Learning Outcomes:Students who successfully complete this class will be able to perform many computations: multiplying matrices, solving a linear system of equations, finding a determinant, determining whether a given set of vectors is linearly independent, finding eigenvalues and eigenvectors, performing diagonalization and Gram-Schmidt procedures, and finally the Least-Squares method. However, there are two non-computational goals that are more interesting (and for most students, also more challenging). Students will learn to write simple proofs, demonstrating that the validity of an equation follows from logical principles and definitions. Moreover, students will answer questions that demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of a vector space and a linear operator.
Undergraduate Mathematics Program Student Learning Outcomes:Students are expected to display a thorough understanding of the topics covered. In particular, upon completion of the course, students will be able to
  1. Using algebra, geometry, calculus and other track-appropriate sub-disciplines of mathematics, students model phenomena in mathematical terms.
  2. Using algebra, geometry, calculus and other track-appropriate sub-disciplines of mathematics, students derive correct answers to challenging questions by applying the models from Learning Outcome 1.
  3. Write complete, grammatically and logically correct arguments to prove their conclusions.
These outcomes will be assessed on the final exam.
Online Resources:I hope that I am the first resource you go to for help. There are several reasons for that, including (a) unlike the book or videos, I can change my behavior as I learn what you do and don't understand and (b) I am the one who writes the tests in this class, and so my viewpoints, biases and notations are the ones you need to learn. However, if you are seeking extra sources of information, you may want to visit these sites: (If you know of other sites that would be helpful to your classmates, let me know and I'll add them here.)
Calculators: Although the use of calculators will not be strongly emphasized, you will find it useful to have a calculator which can do some computation with matrices. We strongly recommend the Texas Instruments calculators for this purpose. Although calculators can be used on homework assignments and group projects, the three exams and the final exam will be calculator-free.
Honor Code: There are lots of reasons you should want to avoid cheating in this class. The Honor Code, of course, prohibits you from cheating. In addition, you face a threat of punishment in the form of failure and expulsion from the College if you are caught cheating. Finally, most people would not be happy remembering that they cheated because of what it reveals about their own integrity and because it damages the reputation and quality of this entire institution.

Fine, but sometimes it is not clear what is and what isn’t cheating. That is why I am providing a document to help clarify the rules for graded assignments. Please read the document "Is It Cheating?" on the OAKS page under Content.