EXCURSIONS IN MATHEMATICS:
Ethnomathematics
Math 1021, Spring 2009

Instructor: Dr. Rachel Hall
Office: 229 Barbelin
Office Hours: T 9:30-10:30, W 10:30-11:30, F 11-12, and by appointment
Telephone: (610) 660-3096 (Office)
E-mail: rhall@sju.edu
URL:  http://www.sju.edu/~rhall/Ethno

Course Description:  Mathematics has been developed by every culture in the world. Ethnomathematics is the study of mathematical thinking—“ideas … involving number, logic, spatial configuration, and, more significant, the combination or organization of these into systems and structures” (Ascher and Ascher, 1986)—found outside what we traditionally consider “mathematics.”  This course aims to strengthen and expand your understanding of several fundamental mathematical topics—combinatorics, graph theory, number theory, probability, and mathematical reasoning—through investigation of the mathematics of non-Western cultures and the mathematical structures inherent in activities such as games and music.  We will also study these subjects from the perspective of academic mathematics.  You are expected to not only master the mathematics, but to make sophisticated comparisons between cultures, to understand the differences between Ethnomathematics and academic mathematics, to investigate the historical and cultural role of mathematics in non-Western societies, and to appreciate the challenges faced by non-Western mathematicians.

Course Goals:  The student who successfully completes this course should be able to

·          Clearly articulate the difference between academic mathematics and Ethnomathematics

·          Give examples of fundamental mathematical concepts that have been developed in the non-Western world

·          Give examples of multiple methods used to solve the same problem

·          Demonstrate the ability to solve mathematical problems in combinatorics, graph theory, number theory, probability, and mathematical reasoning

Prerequisite: None.  If you have concerns about your placement in this class, please discuss them with me in the first week of classes.

Text: There is no textbook for this course.  I will bring handouts and post other materials on our class Blackboard site.

Calculators: You will need a scientific calculator that can perform basic functions such as square roots.  You do not need a graphing calculator.  You should bring your calculator to class.

Homework:  Learning mathematics, like learning to play a musical instrument or becoming a good athlete, requires practice. Homework problems will be posted on the course web page.  You should start working on the homework problems for a section as soon as we cover that section in class.  Although you may consult with other students and seek help from me, the homework you hand in should represent your own work. Answers unsupported by work will not receive credit.  Be sure to cite all sources properly, including internet sources.

Quizzes:  There will be 15-minute quizzes given in class every Friday when there is not an exam.  Quizzes are based on homework problems.  There are no makeup quizzes, but your lowest two grades will be dropped.

Tests: There will be three tests, scheduled for February 20, March 20, and April 17 (all Fridays).  A cumulative final exam will be given on Wednesday, May 6, 2-4 pm.   Makeup tests will only be given to students who contact me by email (rhall@sju.edu) or phone (610-660-3096) within 48 hours of missing a test.  Students with a valid, verifiable reason for missing a test or the final may take a makeup without penalty if they bring validation; those who have missed a test without a valid, verifiable reason may take a makeup with a 30% penalty, assuming that they contact me within 48 hours.   Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, or an official university activity such as an athletic event or field trip. 

Project (optional):  In order to accommodate different learning styles, I am offering the option of a project that covers one subject of the course in depth.  The project involves a 6-8 page paper and a brief presentation.  Students wishing to take this option must discuss it with me in office hours within the first three weeks of class.  The project grade will replace your lowest test grade or your total quiz grade.

Grades: Grades will be weighted as follows:

240 points:             three test grades (each is worth 80 points)
200 points:             final exam grade
80 points:               quiz grades (each is worth 10 points; lowest two grades dropped)
80 points:               four problem sets (each is worth 20 points) 

The grade cutoffs are 560 A, 540 A-, 520 B+, 500 B, 480 B-, 460 C+, 440 C, 420 C-, 400 D+, 360 D, and below 360 F. Grades may be curved at the end of the semester. You have the option of replacing either your total quiz grade or your lowest test grade with your final exam grade.  If you complete a project, this grade can also replace a low test or quiz grade.

Academic Honesty: Dishonesty includes cheating on a test, falsifying data, misrepresenting the work of others as your own (plagiarism, or improper citation of sources), and helping another student cheat or plagiarize. At the very least, an academic honesty infraction will result in the filing of a violation report and a grade of zero on that particular assignment; serious or repeated infractions of the Academic Honesty policy will result in failure of the course. For complete information about the University’s policy on Academic Honesty, consult the Student Handbook 2008-2009.

Attendance: Class attendance is mandatory.  Although I do not have a rigid cut policy, anyone who has missed lots of classes and is doing poorly in the course should not expect much sympathy from me.  If you do miss a class, it is your responsibility to obtain the notes and assignments from another student and make sure your homework is turned in on time. See my Makeup Exam policy to see what to do if you miss a quiz.

Students with Disabilities: Students who have or think they may have a disability (learning, physical, or psychological) are encouraged to contact Services for Students with Disabilities, Room 113, Science Center, 610-660-1774 or 610-660-1620 as early as possible in the semester.  Accommodations can only be provided to a student with current documentation (within 3 years).  Students are encouraged to discuss their instructional needs and accommodations (“reasonable academic adjustments”) with their professors early in the semester.  All student requests for extended time to take quizzes or exams in a distraction free environment must be discussed with the professor a minimum of one week prior to the scheduled date of the quiz or exam.  The student must complete the Extended-Time Request Form, obtain the professor’s approval, and submit the form to the office of Services for Students with Disabilities a minimum of 3 days prior to the date of the scheduled exam.  Failure to follow these procedures could result in a denial of the request.  Exceptions to exam schedules requires prior written approval of the professor.