Math 143 Problem-Solving for Teachers

MW 4-5:15pm SBS B-209

Matt Jones                            email: 

Website: You will find the syllabus and course assignments on the website.        

Office:  NSM A-120             phone:  (310) 243-2410

Office Hours:        M 3:15-3:45pm

                                M 5:15-5:45pm

                                W 1:00-3:45pm (1- 2:30 only on February 8, 22, March 8, 22, April 12, 26, and May 10)

W 8:15-9:00pm

                                And by appointment

Text and Materials: Thinking Mathematically, by John Mason, Revised Edition; and either Teaching Mathematics through Problem Solving, Prekindergarten—Grade 6, by Frank K. Lester, Jr. (Ed.) or Teaching Mathematics through Problem Solving, Grades 6—12, by Harold L. Schoen (Ed.).

Course Description:  This course is designed to improve your ability to solve problems.  In particular, you will learn problem-solving by solving problems, but also by looking at other solutions and at techniques for solving problems.

Goals:  Students will

  • Become better problem-solvers
  • Develop strategies for solving new problems

Expected Outcomes:  Students will demonstrate improved mathematical thinking on assessments by

    • Tackling questions and discussing them
    • Reflecting on this experience
    • Monitoring and evaluating their own thinking
    • Using explicit strategies to solve problems
    • Connecting what is learned to personal experience and prior knowledge


Participation            40

Journals                 170

Homework             180

Exams                     300

Final                       310

Total                       1000 points

Participation is composed of attendance and contributing during class sessions.  You receive 1 point for each day that you attend class.  The remaining points can be earned by participating consistently in class through individual, partner, team, and whole class work sessions.  Also, see the absence policy below.

Journals will be due each Wednesday.  Each journal will involve responding to assigned reading.  You will also turn in a final reflection as part of your journal.  Each journal will be worth 10 points, and the final reflection will be worth 40 points.  The format for the journal and reflection will be discussed separately. 

Homework is assigned every Wednesday and is due the following Monday.  If you cannot be in class, have someone turn your homework in for you or turn it in to my office on the day it is due.  Late homework is not accepted.  Full credit (15 points) is given if all work is completed and correct.  A score of 12-14 points is given to work that is complete but not all correct.  A score of 11 points or fewer indicates that not all the homework was done.

Exams will be given on the following Mondays:  February 27 and April 10.

The Final will be given on Monday, May 15, from 4-6pm, and will be cumulative.

Grading Scale:  A:  92% or better, A-:  88-91%, B+:  84-87%, B:  81-83%, B-:  77-80%,

C+:  74-76%, C:  71-73%, C-:  68-70%, D:  65-67%, F 64% or below

Make-up and Absence Policy:  I do not accept late or make-up work.  If you experience a major emergency, special arrangements may be made at my discretion.  Please make every effort to contact me as soon as possible when you know you will miss a class due to an emergency; do not wait until the next class to ask about being excused from an assignment.  If you accumulate 4 absences, you will receive an automatic F for the semester.  No exceptions.

Academic integrity is expected.  Cheating, fraud, plagiarism or other academic dishonesty is unacceptable and will be cause for disciplinary action.

Creating Conditions for Successful Learning:  Research shows success in math class depends very much on two factors:  the amount of time spent working on the material, and the student’s beliefs about mathematics and what it means to understand and do mathematics.  With this in mind, here are some suggestions: 

  • Be in class, every class, and be on time.
  • Be prepared to participate in group work and discussions every day so that class time is not wasted, and
  • Spend at least 1 hour every day, not including class time, working on homework assignments and readings, and studying.
  • Realize that mathematics is not just a set of procedures, and that mathematical concepts involve a lot of thinking and reasoning.  Consequently, being able to execute procedures accurately is only one part of doing well in this class.
  • Realize that success in mathematics is less about “ability” and more about willingness to think and to work hard to make sense of things.

In addition, you need to have:

  • your assignments with you and ready to turn in on the day they are due
  • the numbers and emails of at least 2 classmates so that you can be informed if you miss a class.

Classroom Norms:  As we will spend a lot of time working in partnerships, in groups, and in class discussions, here are some rules to help you navigate what may be an unfamiliar experience in math class. 

  • Never call out an answer until the person leading the classroom has given permission.  Raise your hand.
  • This is a safe environment.  That means that you should feel free to ask a question or offer an opinion or an answer, and no one will make fun of you for what you say.  We will discuss how to disagree with or question fellow students when they are sharing their work.
  • If you are working with classmates, work with them.  Do not wait and hope that others will do your work for you, and do not move on to other assignments while your classmates are struggling to understand the current one.
  • Be considerate of others.  In addition to the ways to be considerate listed above, do not dominate group or class discussions.  Remember that everyone needs an opportunity to share his/her ideas.
  • Do not expect me to validate your answers or those of anyone else.  You are responsible for making sense of answers and solution methods, and you should always look for ways to verify your work.
  • Cell phones should be off or set to “vibrate.”  Do not place a call during class, and do not answer a phone call without first leaving the room.

These rules are meant to benefit the entire class, and to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute and to learn.