Math 153

MWF 11:30-12:40 SCC K144

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 10:15-11:15am

                                M 1:00-2:00pm

                                W 10:15-11:15am

                                W 1:00-2:00pm

                                And by appointment

Text and Materials:  Functions Modeling Change:  A Preparation for Calculus, Connally, Hughes-Hallett, Gleason, et al, Second Edition, and a TI-84 plus graphing calculator, graph paper, a journal folder, and a ruler.

Course Description:  As suggested by the title of the textbook, this course is about functions, and how to use functions to model situations and contexts, and to solve “real-world” problems.  In particular, we will be interested in polynomial, rational, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions.

Goals:  Students will understand:

·         The definition of function

·         Classes (polynomial, rational, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic) of functions in terms of their equations, their graphs, and the contexts in which these kinds of functions are relevant

·         How to model problems in context with mathematical functions and how to interpret solutions in context

·         How to solve problems using problem-solving strategies and metacognition

·         How and when to use mathematical reasoning, explanation, and proof

Expected Outcomes:  Students will be able to: 

·         Identify functions as such from a given representation of a relation

·         Use mathematical reasoning to identify a class of function or a specific choice of function within a class depicted in a graph and explain their choice

·         Use mathematical reasoning to predict the behavior (asymptotes, domain, range, behavior “at infinity”) of functions from their description with an equation or table

·         Set up and justify the use of functions as models for problems set in context and solve and interpret answers appropriately

·         Construct examples of functions with given behaviors

·         Represent functions in words, with equations, in tables, and with a graph, and construct the other representations from a given one

·         Identify problem-solving and metacognitive techniques and use them appropriately to solve problems

·         Prove trigonometric identities and derive properties of functions from other properties


Homework             98

Reflective Essay   50

Journal                   150

Quizzes                  150

Exams                     300

Final                       252

Total                       1000

Homework:  Homework is assigned weekly and turned in each Friday.  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 (7 points) is given if all work is completed and correct.  A score of 6 points is given to work that is complete but not all correct.  A score of 5 points or fewer indicates that no substantial work was done on one or more assigned problems.

Reflective Essay:  You will be given an article on metacognition.  You will then have two opportunities in class to solve a problem and track your metacognitive processes. Based on evidence from these two opportunities and your other course work, you are to write an essay to defend or refute the statement, “My awareness of metacognition and my experience with teaching through problem-solving in this class has changed my beliefs about mathematics and my ability to do mathematics.”  The essay is to be three-quarters of a page to one page long, typed and double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman or Courier font.  You will turn in your evidence with your essay.

Journal:  For each day of class you will have assigned reading, prompts, and exercises (see Reading Prompts and Schedule below).  Your responses to the reading prompts and to the exercises are to be kept in a three-ring folder that will be collected every class period and returned the following class.  See the schedule for details on the reading prompts and the list of exercises.

Quizzes:  There will be 3 quizzes, each worth 50 points.  Quizzes will be held on the following days:  September 9, September 28, and October 28.  Each quiz will last approximately 30 minutes and will be given during the last 30 minutes of class.

Exams:  There will be 2 exams, each worth 150 points.  Exams will be held on Monday, October 10, and Monday, November 21.

Final:  The final will be held Wednesday, December 14, from 11:30-1:30, and will be cumulative.

Grading Scale:  A:  92% or better, A-:  88-91%, B+:  85-87%, B:  81-84%, B-:  78-80%,

C+:  75-77%, C:  71-74%, C-:  68-70%, D:  65-67%, F 64% or below

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, readings, journals, 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.

Make-up 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.

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.


Academic integrity is expected.  I enforce university policies on academic integrity.  In particular, cheating, fraud, plagiarism or other academic dishonesty is unacceptable and will be cause for disciplinary action.


Reading Prompts:  You are assigned reading for each class, and you are expected to make sense of the reading on your own time.  Traditionally, you have probably had instructors who solved exercises for you in class and then assigned you to do similar problems.  Perhaps the instructor didn’t even bother with the word problems, or solved them all for you.  Unfortunately, this practice does not teach you enough about how to process mathematics or to develop your critical thinking and reasoning skills.  Research shows that these practices do not encourage enough people to understand math or to retain the material covered by the instructor. 

As you do math, expect that you will be confused at times, and that you will get stuck.  This is a natural part of learning, and, like a sore muscle, it means you can grow stronger from it.  The reading prompts are designed to help you understand the text and to teach you how to make sense of mathematics on your own.  As you read the assigned section(s), you should be taking notes, asking questions of yourself and of the text, and answering your questions if possible.  You should try to work out the examples in the text on your own (without reading the solution first).

  1. List all definitions encountered in your reading.
  2. For each definition in (1), create one example and one non-example that illustrate the important features of the definition.
  3. Summarize the reading in 50 words or less.
  4. Identify the most important concept in the reading and make an analogy to a non-mathematical situation or explain the concept using a real-life situation.
  5. List the questions which you were unable to answer during your process of taking notes.  Be ready to ask these questions in class.
  6. Solve Exercises 1 and 5, and another odd-numbered problem of your choice from the exercises section.
  7. Answer the additional reading prompts in the schedule.