Jen Paulhus, Ph.D.

Demystifying Mathematics

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Office Hours:
    Monday, and Friday: 10:30-11:30 AM
    Tuesday 3:30-4:30 PM
    Thursday 9:30-10:30 AM
Office: 2519 Noyce Science Center

Text: Math With Bad Drawings, Ben Orlin
Material Covered: We will use the content in the book as a starting point for our conversations. Occasionally material from other sources may be provided.

Why this course? Most students leave high school believing that mathematics is just a tool for other STEM disciplines, and that it is a dry subject in which the only way to succeed is to memorize a series of tedious steps. Additionally, there are terrible misconceptions about who can and cannot do mathematics. Many people believe that the only people who can successfully do mathematics are naturally gifted "geniuses" who never have to work hard to solve the problems they encounter in mathematics. We will spend the semester dispelling these false narratives about mathematics. Armed with just curiosity, some creative thinking, and a bit of persistence, we will explore a wide range of mathematical topics in order to reveal the beauty of math.

2nd Half Updates


Daily Topics

Class Date Pages Section(s) Covered
Jan. 22 Introduction and get to know each other
Jan. 24 pg. 1-19 What is mathematics?
Jan. 27 pg. 20-29 What do people think math is?
Jan. 29 pg. 30-37 Relationship betwen math and science, and some knot theory.
Jan. 31 "Solve For X" (podcast below*) Some unexpected ways to use math.
Feb. 3 pg. 38-47 What makes someone "good" at math?
Feb. 5 pg. 52-64 Triangles!
Feb. 7 - Primitive Pythagorian Triples
Feb. 10 pg. 65-72 Some other number systems.
Feb. 12 pg. 73-88 Scaling
Feb. 14 pg. 105-119 Spheres
Feb. 17 3 articles on PWeb "Article" tab Who do we exclude from math?
Feb. 19 pg. 89-104 How to build a better dice.
Feb. 21 pg. 121-140 In which we convince you never to buy a lottery ticket.
Feb. 24 group projects Eulerian and Hamiltonian paths and circuits.
Feb. 26 group projects Trees and graph colorings.
Feb. 28 pg. 141-150 How to compute odds.
Mar. 2 - More counting techniques.
Mar. 4 - Even more counting techniques.
Mar. 6 pg. 151-157 "Human beings are terrible at probability."
Mar. 9 pg. 158-177 Insurance. Can you spot the math error?
Mar. 11 Prep work on modular arithmetic.
Mar. 13 Different sizes of infinty.
Mar. 30/31 Numbers encoding information.
Apr. 1/2 Redundant information in numbers.
Apr. 6 Correcting errors.
Apr. 8 No class. Group meetings with me.
Apr. 13 Correcting more errors.
Apr. 15 pg. 283-285, 299-314 Tax Day!
Apr. 20 Monty Hall Door Problem.
Apr. 22 Poker and Powerball.
Apr. 27 pg. 314-328 Voting.
Apr. 29 Other voting schemes.
May 4 pg. 267-281 Gothic Novels.
May 6 pg. 329-345 The Game of Life.


Homework Assignments

Make sure you are familiar with the Grading Policies and Rubric for the class. Homework is due by the time class starts.

HW Due Date Problems
# 0 Jan. 24 Email me with answers from class 1/22, and read syllabus
# 1 Jan. 31 [pdf]
# 2 Feb. 7 [pdf]
# 3 Feb. 14 [pdf]
# 4 Feb. 21 [pdf]
# 5 Mar. 13 Mar. 18 [pdf]
# 6 Apr. 10 [pdf]
# 7 May 1 [pdf]
# 8 May 8 May 11 [pdf]