Mathematics 1000

Fall 2012

Instructor: Kelly A. MacArthur

Class Time and Place:10:45 a.m. – 11:35 a.m.
Wednesdays in LCB333

Office Hours: Mondays 3:00 -4:00 p.m., Tuesdays 1:00-2:00 p.m,
Fridays 1:00-2:00 p.m. or by appointment.
Office Location: JWB226
Office Phone Number: 581-8341
E-mail address:

Text: There is no official text for this course. There will be articles to read and homework that will be uploaded to my website regularly.

Prerequisite: None.

Computer Lab: also in the T. Benny Rushing Mathematics Student Center, Rm 155C.
M – Th 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
F 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Link to computer lab

Grading: The grades will be calculated as follows:
Math Journal 20%
POWs 20%
Practice Exams 20%
Attendance and Full Participation in class 40%

Background/Course Need: Mathemaphobia was coined by Mary Gough in 1954, as she discovered many of her math students were struggling with this phenomenon. She claimed the term itself was self-explanatory. Math anxiety was a term coined in the mid 1970s and is defined as feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations. (Tobias, S., 1993, Overcoming Math Anxiety. New York: W. W. Norton & Company). Marilyn Burns, a leading mathematics education expert, in her book Math: Facing an American Phobia (1998), contends that two thirds of American adults loathe and fear mathematics. And, as reported in the book Overcoming Math Anxiety (Sheila Tobias, 1978, 1993, 2nd edition), in 600 interviews with college students, Tobias found three significant variables that stunted the students' ability to succeed in college-level mathematics courses, with the leading cause being a fear of mathematics.

Course Description: This course is designed for the mathematics student who either suffers from a self-reported case of mathemaphobia or is simply interested in understanding the phenomenon to better teach mathematics. Through self-reflection, practice of mathematics skills, practice of test-taking skills, reading research papers on this topic, and in-class exercises & discussion designed to challenge the negative thought process surrounding mathematics, students will gain confidence, understanding and problem-solving skills.

Teaching Philosophy: I believe strongly that mathematics, at its core, is the art/experience/science of problem solving and pattern recognition. It is inherently a creative process, one to be struggled with, repeated, and enjoyed. The process requires imagination, persistence, courage, processing time, and ultimately produces experiential, mathematical skill. It is from this perspective that I teach. I'm not as concerned with the destination, i.e. the answer, as I am about the journey of problem-solving and mathematical exploration since it is exactly the entirety of the journey that creates the answer. And, self-confidence and mastery are then natural by-products of the mathematical journey.

Attendance: As you can see, a large part of your grade is based on your attendance for all classes. I expect you to be there and participate every day. This policy is in place so you can maximize the benefit from this class. The grading scale for this category will be as follows: 100% == no or one excused absence, 90% == two or three excused absences, 80% == four or five excused absences, 70% == six or seven excused absences, 0% == more than seven excused absences. For every unexcused absence, you will get deducted 10 percentage points for this portion of the grade.

Math Journal: You will be required to keep a journal of your thoughts regarding mathematics. Every week, I will provide a seed or article for thought or pose a question that you will reflect on and write about. Your typed reflections will be submitted to me in class every week, and will be somewhere between 1 to 2 pages long, depending on how much you feel you need to write to thoroughly explore the question/thought. Although I will check for grammar or typing errors, when grading the papers, I will be most focused on the thoughtfulness and authenticity of your responses. These reflections are meant to provide personal insight into your own mathemaphobia and the journal will likely be the most meaningful feature of this course for you.

POWs: POW stands for Problem of the Week. I will assign a POW in every class, and give some time to work on this in small groups and as a whole class. These problems will be mathematical in nature, but available to all levels of mathematical skill. Some examples would be logic puzzles or story problems that require very basic algebra skills. You will be required to turn your written solution in, as a group, at the end of the class, after we've all discussed the many ways it was solved by various students. The intent of the POW is to provide you with important practice in your mathematical thinking and thereby increase your mathematical knowledge base, your self-confidence and challenge your negative thinking process regarding mathematics.

Practice Exams: Since many students who suffer from mathemaphobia also report much difficulty with test-taking, I will give two practice exams throughout the semester. We will discuss successful math test-taking strategies and then you will have the chance to practice your skills. The level of these exams will be the same level as the POWs, so the material will be available to all students.

Online Grades: I will put your grades online on Canvas.
You can get there easily from the main University of Utah website To log in, you use the same student id and password that you use for Campus Information System. I do my best to update the grades on a regular basis and keep everything accurate. However, I would advise you to check your grades often to make sure there were no data entry mistakes. I'm always happy to correct any mistakes I've made. You just need to let me know about them.

Grading Scale: Although I'm not philosophically opposed to curving grades, I find it's rarely necessary. The grade scale will be the usual: A (93-100), A- (90-92), B+ (87-89), B (83-86), B- (80-82), C+ (77-79), C (73-76), C- (70-72), D+ (67-69), D (63-66), D- (60-62), E (0-59). If I do need to curve the grades, I will simply shift everything down by a few points (whatever is necessary).

Other Policies: Due to experience, I have decided to make some additional policies regarding my classroom administration and grading.
  1. There will be no retakes of exams ever. Your score is what you get.
  2. You may take an alternate exam if you talk to me about it first and explain the extenuating circumstances that make it necessary. Needing to work, babysitting your siblings, oversleeping, or needing more time to study do not pass as acceptable reasons to inconvenience me. Getting in a car crash or your mother's death, on the other hand, is sufficient reason to request to take an alternate exam. But, it is 100% your responsibility to communicate with me as soon as is possible, before the exam occurs (or as soon as possible). Talking to me after the problem will be sufficient reason for me to allow you to get a zero on that test. I reserve the right to make alternate exams more difficult than the scheduled exam.
  3. I will demand respectful behavior in my classroom. Examples of disrespect include reading a newspaper or magazine in class, social chatting with your friend in class, text-messaging your buddies during class or cuddling with your girl/boyfriend in class. If you choose to be disrespectful during my class, I can guarantee I will take action to terminate your disruptive behavior.
  4. There will be no cursing nor negative ranting (for example, “math sucks”) on any written work turned in. The penalty for such things on your written work will be a zero score on that assignment or test!
  5. You need to have a valid email address registered with Campus Information System. I will regularly send emails to the class and will hold you accountable for receiving that information. If you have troubles receiving my weekly emails, you can (1) check to make sure your email address at Campus Information System is correct, (2) make sure my emails are not going directly to your junk mail folder, or (3) contact the webmaster at Campus Information System.
  6. If you have crisis-level extenuating circumstances which require flexibility, it is completely your responsibility to communicate with me as soon as possible. The longer you wait to communicate with me, the less I can and am willing to do to help.
  7. If you have questions about any exam grade, or you want to appeal the grading of the exam, you must bring it to me within one week of the exam. After that, you will have to live with whatever grade you got.
  8. Please make sure you do your best throughout the semester and come talk to me if you need further study strategies. I will NOT offer any extra credit at the end of the semester or any other way for you to improve your grade at that time. If you ask me toward the end of the semester if I'll make special arrangements for you to improve your grade by some means, I will automatically deduct one percentage point from your overall grade, just for asking the question!!
  9. If you cheat on any homework, project, quiz or exam, I will automatically give you a zero for that grade. Depending on the severity of the cheating, I may decide to fail you from the class. In all cases of cheating, I will also report the incident to the Dean of Students.