General Information

Title: MA2000: Introduction to Formal Mathematics
Time: TR 9:30-10:15am
Location: Hyde 317

Instructor Information

Instructor: Dr. Dana C. Ernst
Office: Hyde 356
Office Phone: 603.535.2857
Email: ude.htuomylp|tsnrecd#ude.htuomylp|tsnrecd
Office Hours: MWF at 1:00-2:00pm (or by appointment)

Course Information and Policies


Regular admission to Plymouth State University

Catalog Description

Focuses on understanding and appropriate use of formal mathematical language. Intended for mathematics majors and students interested in the study of mathematics.


There is no textbook for this course. Instead, we will rely on notes, handouts, and class discussion.


The primary objective of this course is to introduce new mathematics majors to the formal language of mathematics. In addition, we will address questions such as:

  • What is mathematics?
  • How do you typeset mathematics?
  • What resources (with an emphasis on technology) are available to mathematicians?
  • What career options does someone with a mathematics major have?

Also, the purpose of any mathematics class is to challenge and train the mind. Learning mathematics enhances critical thinking and problem solving skills.


Homework will usually be assigned every lecture day and will usually be due at the beginning of the next lecture day. I will always tell you when a given homework assignment is due (so, there should never be any confusion). Your homework will always be graded for completion and usually some portion of your work will be graded for correctness. You are allowed and encouraged to work together on homework. However, each student is expected to turn in his or her own work. Each assignment will be worth 5-10 points depending on the level of difficulty and/or amount of time required to complete an assignment (generally, more time consuming homework will be worth more). There will be approximately 20-25 homework assignments. Five (possibly more) of your lowest homework scores will be dropped. In general, late homework will not be accepted. However, you are allowed to turn in up to 5 homework assignments late with no questions asked. Unless you have made arrangements in advance with me, homework turned in after class will be considered late. Occasionally, you may be required to submit your homework via Moodle, Sage, or Lurch. Your overall homework grade will be worth 25% of your final grade.


Active participation during class is expected. Students will be asked to discuss ideas and present their work at the board. When a student is presenting, the other students in the audience are expected to be attentive, engaged, and be asking questions. Your overall participation in the class will be worth 15% of your overall grade and attendance will likely play a role in computing your grade in this category.


There will be 2 midterm exams, which are tentatively scheduled for Thursday, September 30 and Thursday, November 4. Each midterm exam will be worth 20% of your overall grade. There will also be a cumulative final exam, which will be on Tuesday, December 14 at 8:00-10:30am. The final exam is also worth 20% of your overall grade. All of the exams are likely to be a mix of in-class and take-home portions. Make-up exams will only be given under extreme circumstances, as judged by me. In general, it will be best to communicate conflicts ahead of time.

About Calculators and Other Technology

I am a huge fan of technology and believe that when it is used appropriately, it can greatly enhance one's learning experience. However, when learning, technology should never replace one's own amazing cognitive abilities. When we are discussing concepts in class or when you are doing homework, you should feel free to use whatever resources you feel will help you understand the concepts better. So, feel free to use things like Sage, Lurch, Wolfram|Alpha, your graphing calculator, etc. when doing homework. However, be warned that I am much more interested in the process by which you arrived at your answer than the answer itself. An answer to a homework or exam question that is correct but lacks justification may be worth little to no points. If you understand a concept, then barring a silly computational error, the correct answer comes along for the ride. Yet, getting the correct answer does not imply that you understand anything! You are not required to purchase a graphing calculator and you are not allowed to use them on any of the in-class exams.

Basis for Evaluation

Your final grade will be determined by the scores of your homework, labs, exams, and final exam.

Category Weight Notes
Homework 25% each homework assignment worth 5-10 points
Participation 15%
Midterm Exam 1 20% Thursday, September 30
Midterm Exam 2 20% Thursday, November 4
Final Exam 20% Tuesday, December 14, 8:00-10:30am

Grade Determination

Grades may be "massaged" at the end of the semester, but in general this is what you should expect:

Range Letter Grade
93-100% A
90-92% A-
87-89% B+
83-86% B
80-82% B-
77-79% C+
73-76% C
70-72% C-
67-69% D+
63-66% D
60-62% D-
0-59% F

Additional Information

Getting Help

There are many resources available to get help. First, I recommend that you work on homework in groups as much as possible, and to come see me whenever necessary. Also, you are strongly encouraged to ask questions in the course forum, as I will post comments there for all to benefit from.

To effectively post to the course forum, you will need to learn the basics of LaTeX, the standard language for typesetting in the mathematics community. See the quick LaTeX guide for help with $\LaTeX$. If you need additional help with $\LaTeX$ or editing/posting content to the wiki, post a question in the course forum.

There are substantial resources available online to help you learn the Wikidot markup, which is quite simple. I regularly consult Wikidot's Wiki Syntax page and Wikidot's Quick Reference Guide. Lastly, you can always contact me.

Math Activity Center

This student-run organization provides peer tutoring services for most 1000 and 2000 level math courses and some 3000 level courses. Tutors are typically math majors interested in teaching math and practicing their instructional skills. The Math Activity Center is located in Hyde 351. You can drop in anytime during open hours. For more information see this page.

Student Handbook

The PSU Student Handbook addresses policies pertaining to students with disabilities, religious observation, honor code, general conduct, etc. The Handbook can be found here.

ACT for Growth

All teacher education majors are subject to the Areas of Concern/Targets for Growth policy, which is located here.

Closing Remarks

When does the learning happen? It might happen in class, but most likely it happens when you sit down to do your homework. Most of you can follow what happens on the board in class, but the question is, can you do it on your own? To learn best, you must struggle with mathematics on your own. It is supposed to be difficult. However, if you are struggling too much, then there are resources available for you. I am always happy to help you. If my office hours don't work for you, then we can probably find another time to meet. You can also get help from each other. Get a study buddy! Help each other learn. Go the Math Activity Center. It is your responsibility to be aware of how well you understand the material. Don't wait until it is too late if you need help. Ask questions!