Math 301, Fall 2008: Information and Policies

Link to class schedule. The current version of the calendar contains information about both of the courses I am teaching.


M. Randall Holmes


We meet Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in E221, from 9:40 am to 10:30 am.

Office and Hours:

Office: Math/Geology 240A. Hours: To be determined after consulting you all. See ``open office policy'' below.   It seems likely, looking at my schedule, that I will hold official office hours at least during the hour prior to the meetings of this class (8:40—9:30 MTWF).


My office telephone number is 6-3011 (426-3011 from off-campus). My home telephone number is 345-2899: students are welcome to call me but please no calls after 8:30 pm any day or between 6 pm Friday and noon Sunday.

Electronic Information:

WWW (web page):


I read my e-mail constantly (during the working week) and respond promptly.

The electronic version of this syllabus is the official syllabus, is subject to change, and any changes will be posted there and not distributed on paper.

Electronic announcements for this class (and announcements to both classes) will appear in three different ways.  Announcements tied to specific assignments will appear on the class schedule.  Notice that the class schedule includes assignments for both classes:  you should be able to tell which ones go with Math 301.  Some announcements, especially documents such as old sample tests, will appear on my main web page where the pointer to this syllabus appears.  Occasionally I may send e-mail to the entire class.  Make sure either that you read your Boise State e-mail regularly or forward your Boise State e-mail to an account you do read regularly.

Title of Course:

Math 301: Linear Algebra. This is section 001.

The department generic syllabus for this course is found at the URL


David C. Lay, Linear Algebra and its applications, third edition, update. This book has been used before; there should be used copies in the bookstore.  Make sure it is the third edition update, not just the third edition.


The add deadline (and deadline for dropping without a W) is September 8.

The drop deadline is October 8. Petitions to drop classes after this date are almost always unsuccessful.

Dates for in-class exams: September 12, October 3, October 31 (boo!), December 5. The last exam date is firm: it is the last possible day before dead week. All exams will be given on Fridays.

The final exam will be December 15, 10:30-12:30.  It is useful to be aware that final examinations, unlike hour examinations, are always open book in my classes and sometimes (but not always) I permit more powerful calculators on the final than on the hour exam.


We will have occasion to use calculators in class. Use of at least a plain scientific calculator (without graphing or symbolic computation capabilities) will be allowed on all tests; the more sophisticated calculators will be allowed on the later exams and the final (possibly on all exams, depending on how I write them, but be open to the possibility that the first exams will be calculator restricted). Make sure you have an allowed calculator if you want to use a calculator on tests.

You may not use cell phones or PDAs (such as Palm Pilots or Pocket PC's) as calculators during any exam. No exceptions will be made. These machines have communication capabilities which are inappropriate in this context. You may not listen to Walkmans or portable tape or other media players during an exam.

Homework and Computer Labs:

Homework will be assigned regularly (probably weekly), collected and graded. Most homework questions will require clearly written answers in English; even questions that are mostly computational can benefit from explanation in English.. You may be graded on clarity of expression as well as on having correct answers...

I'm currently planning to distribute a homework assignment each Monday covering the material to be lectured during the following week; this assignment will be due Tuesday in the following week. Assignments will include both odd and even numbered problems; there are answers to odd problems in your book. You will get 30 points out of 100 for handing in your homework; the remaining 70 points will be determined by your performance on selected even problems from the assignment (you will not know which problems are selected). I don't admit to having any consistent policy about late homework: I may excuse it, give you the base 30 points for handing it in, or grade it with or without penalty, at my sole discretion.

You may observe on the schedule some days provided for either chapter overflow or computer labs.  I might take the class into the computer lab on or around those scheduled days and do some laboratory exercises in Maple.  Maple labs will be treated for grading purposes like other homework assignments; they will probably be due a week or so after the lab meeting.  My ideas about computer labs are not very definite at this point; you will be provided with computer accounts if you don’t already have them.

How Your Course Grade Will Be Computed:

I expect to give four in-class exams this term. There will not be formal review days for exams, except the final, though I will be willing to take questions about exams during the usual time for homework discussion (within reason).

Exams will generally be linearly scaled so that the median grade in the class corresponds to a mid-range C (75 percent) unless I am seriously dissatisfied with overall class performance.

Each exam is worth 100 points. The total homework grade counts as an exam (100 points). It is possible that I will increase the weight of homework to as much as two exams. The final counts 200 points; your percentage grade on the final may replace the lowest of the other five grades (in-class exams and homework) if this helps you.

90 or above is an A; 80 or above is a B; 70 or above is a C; 60 or above is a D; lower grades are F (after any scaling).

Eligibility for this Class:

No exceptions will be made. If the computer tells me that you don't meet prerequisite or placement exam standards for this course, I will free your seat for someone who does meet them.


Attendance will not be taken except on the first two days. If you do not attend this class on one of the first two days, I will exercise my option to have you administratively withdrawn.

Open Office Policy:

My office hours for these classes are to be announced. I will almost always be in my office at the officially scheduled times, and I will try to warn you when I will not be. If I am in my office during a posted office hour, I am available to help you.

Don't assume that these are the only times when you can get help! I am never offended by a student asking me for help if I am in the office (though I may help only briefly if I am very busy). My other class meets 1:40-2:30 MTWF.  I will provide a summary of times when I am likely to be on campus when this is clearer.

Late Work and Makeups:

Makeups for exams will be possible, and should if possible be arranged in advance of your absence; you should only do this for a good reason, and if you do this more than once I will require official documentation of a genuine emergency. Homework turned in late will be accepted but will have less value (and may or may not be marked, at my convenience).

Academic Honesty:

Collaboration on homework is acceptable. This does not mean copying of homework; any paper you put your name on should be largely your own work. Collaboration on exams is of course not allowed. The penalty for cheating (defined as looking at another student's paper or unauthorized use of books or notes during an exam) will be a grade of zero (0) on the relevant exam. A repeat offense will mean an F in the course.

Courtesy Issues:

Cellular phones must be turned off during class. If there is a good reason that you must await a phone call during class, please inform me in advance and minimize the disruption by sitting near an exit. Cell phones (as well as PDA's such as Palm Pilots and Pocket PC's) must be turned off and completely out of sight (no exceptions whatsoever) during an exam.

You do not need to contact me if you are missing class or if you need to arrive late or leave early; but I do need you to enter or leave the class quietly in either case. Of course, you do need to contact me, preferably in advance, if you are missing an exam.


The word ``yesterday'' is defined to mean the previous class session; the word ``tomorrow'' is defined to mean the next class session, unless I specifically say otherwise :-)