Welcome to MA 132!

What is this course?

As the title of the class ("Computational Mathematics for Life and Management Sciences") implies, this is a mathematics course that uses computers and is targeted at students who are not math majors.

The formal prerequisite for the course is passing some kind of course in calculus. But we won't use that very much. All you need to be familiar with is the basic ideas of algebra: what's a function, what does it mean to solve an equation, and what a graph is.

a screencast of the course websites and other information

Is this really a math class?

Sort of. If what "math class" means to you is spending a lot of time with paper and pencil, probably making algebra mistakes and erasing and starting over -- then, no. This class isn't like that at all.

What we're going to do is use math. And because the sorts of math we're going to use gets a little tedious when it's applied to real-world scenarios, we're going to make computers do it. This is for two reasons:

  • Computers don't complain.
  • Computers don't make mistakes.

That's not to say there won't be some frustrations. The price we pay for making computers do math is: computers are very good at doing what you tell them, but they're very persnickety about how you tell them to do it. So we'll have to take a lot of care.

How do I succeed in this class?

First, make sure you read the syllabus. The entire grade is based on work in WebAssign; the problems in WebAssign are based on the corresponding Lesson.

Second, make sure you use the help resources available to you. That means:

  • Read the Lesson page. (There will be some information here that's not in the video.)
  • Watch the Lesson video. (There will be some information here that's not in the Lesson page.)
  • Ask a question by email.
    • To make sure our email communication is efficient, be sure to attach a screenshot or (much better) a complete file showing your work so far.
    • The more information I have about what you've tried already, the better I can help. "It's not working" isn't very informative.
  • Come to office hours.
  • Stop by the Mathematics Multimedia Center.

Third: the syllabus allows you to put everything off to the last minute. But I don't recommend doing that. A suggested calendar is in WebAssign.

How do I use the Lessons?

I recommend the following workflow for each Lesson. It's not required, but if you follow it, you'll do well.

  1. Read over the Lesson page. (Don't skim it; read it from top to bottom -- there's a narrative there.)
  2. Open Excel and/or Maple as appropriate. Follow along with the Lesson video. Make sure your Excel sheet or Maple worksheet functions just like the one in the video.
    • Video isn't like a lecture: you can pause it, rewind it, watch it more than once.
    • If you find the video too slow, you can watch at up to 2x speed.
  3. Once you've got everything working like it should, take a look at the WebAssign assignment.
    • Some WebAssign problems are literally the same as the problems worked in the Lesson -- you can just change the numbers and you'll have your answers.
    • Some problems require you to use the tools you learned in the Lesson in a bit more creative ways.
    • The information you need is always contained in the Lesson somewhere.
  4. Profit!