Trent University 2001-2002

Mathematics 280

Mathematics for the Contemporary Classroom


David G. Poole
Lady Eaton College N127-2
(705) 748-1011 x1358 (office)


Mathematics Beyond the Numbers , by George T. Gilbert & Rhonda L. Hatcher
Wiley, 2000.


200% of Nothing: An Eye-Opening Tour through the Twists and Turns of Math Abuse and Innumeracy, by A. K. Dewdney
Wiley, 1995.


The I Hate Math! Book, by Marilyn Burns
Little, Brown & Company, 1975.


This course is an attempt to convey to a general audience an appreciation of mathematical thinking while introducing some of the many interesting topics in modern mathematics. It would be impossible to cover the full spectrum of mathematics, so we will adopt a "smorgasbord" approach, sampling topics from various fields in mathematics. Mathematics being as much an art as a science, the emphasis throughout the course will be on developing an appreciation of the spirit of mathematics and mathematical methods rather than accumulating computational techniques. At the same time, however, we will focus on some of the many applications of mathematics and we will discuss the role of mathematics in society.

The course is "activity-oriented": students will work in groups on problems and projects designed to illustrate and elaborate upon the topics in the course. In addition, students will be asked, on an ongoing basis, to seek out examples of the use and misuse of mathematics in society.

This course has been developed with prospective elementary school teachers as the principal intended audience. There are many topics in the course that might be adapted for classroom use.


We will discuss as many of the following topics as time permits. Most of these can be found in Chapters 3 - 8 of the textbook.

    the integers, some elementary number theory, congruence and modular arithmetic, rational numbers, real numbers

    graphs and directed graphs, Euler circuits, Hamiltonian circuits, spanning trees

    symmetry, patterns, polygons, tilings, polyhedra, surfaces

    similarity and scaling, the growth of populations, models of growth, renewable resources, measurement

    counting principles, probability, probability models

    sampling, randomness, distributions and their graphical representations, describing data


The class will meet for three hours weekly, with part of the class in workshop format and part in lecture format. Videos supplementing the material will be shown periodically.

Class meetings: Thursdays: 7:00--10:00 in BL 107.2


Throughout the course, students will work in groups on 4 assigned problem sets, with each group submitting its collective solutions. On an individual basis, students will keep a journal in which they will record a summary of and their comments on the material discussed in class as well as a weekly example of "mathematics from the real world" found in the news media. Journals will be collected twice per term. There will also be a project, in the form of ascience-fair type exhibit, on a topic chosen by the student but relevant to the course. There will be a two tests. The breakdown of marks is:

 Assignments 50%    Tests 20%    Project 20%     Journal 10% 

Sample tests can be found here .


You will need the following for this course:

Keeping a Math Journal

Your journal is a space in which you will keep a personal record of the course. This is separate from your notebook which will contain your notes taken during class and your workbook where you will work on examples and exercises related to the material discussed in class and assigned for readings.

Each week, you should record in your journal a short description of what was discussed that week. Impressions, observations, comments and criticisms about how each class went or comments about assigned readings would also be appropriate journal entries. At various times throughout the year you may wish to revisit some of your earlier comments and possibly add new comments in light of more recent discussions or information gleaned from the course. At the end of the year, you will have a record of what we did as well as your comments on the material.

Your journal will also contain a "clippings file": items collected on a weekly basis relating to the use and misuse of mathematics in newspapers, magazines, or seen on television, video, etc. Again, recording your comments about these items should prove interesting and, as the course progresses, you may find that your reaction to some of the clippings changes. In the second term, we will discuss the use and abuse of statistics; your clippings will hopefully provide us with lots of good raw material!

I will collect your journals at the end of each term. Your journal grade will be based in part on the amount of effort and care that you put into keeping it.

Trent University's Policy on Plagiarism (printed in the University Calendar) will be interpreted as follows in MA 280. Students are permitted and encouraged to work together on the assignments, make use of any books, and ask anyone willing (especially the instructor and TA) for hints, suggestions, and help. However, students must write the problem sets up for submission entirely by themselves and may not copy part or all of their solutions from any other source (books, notes, or other students' work). Class notes and the textbook may, however, be referenced as part of a problem solution.

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This page maintained by David Poole. Last updated 2001.09.5.