Math 387, Spring 2009: Information and Policies

Link to class schedule.     The calendar will contain information on all courses I am teaching.


M. Randall Holmes


We meet Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in MG124, from 11:40 am to 12:30 pm. On Tuesdays we will often meet in MG104 (the Maple computer lab), which is reserved for this class T 11:30-12:30. We will meet in MG124 on the first day of class.

Office and Hours:

Office: Math/Geology 240A. Hours: To be determined after consulting you all. See ``open office policy'' below.   It seems likely that I will hold official office hours at least during the hour before the meetings of this class and after my other one (10:40--11:30 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 387.  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 387: Discrete and Foundational Mathematics II. This is section 001.


For the foundational part, our text will be online lecture notes prepared as we go by myself. For the combinatorics part (which is likely to involve some abstract algebra), the text, available in the bookstore, is Discrete Mathematics (2nd ed), by Norman Biggs. You should buy the book, though we will not be using it initially. Austerity policies imposed by the budget holdbacks and pending budget cuts mean that I will not print copies of the online lecture notes for students.


The add deadline (and deadline for dropping without a W) is Monday, February 2.

The drop deadline is Monday, March 2. Petitions to drop classes after this date are almost always unsuccessful.

Dates for in-class exams: 6 Feb; 27 Feb; 3 Apr; 1 May. 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 Thursday May 14, 10:30-12:30.  It is useful to be aware that final examinations, unlike hour examinations, are always open book in my classes. It is your own responsibility to print a copy of the online lecture notes for use at the final.


I'm not at all sure what to say about calculator use in this class. In the foundational part with which we start, calculators should be irrelevant (but might not be). In the discrete part, I am not sure what the calculator policy will be. It may prove advantageous to allow use of a TI-89 on exams or it may simply prove irrelevant; it depends what we do.

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.

Blue Books and Examination Protocols:

Due to austerity measures imposed on the department by budget holdbacks and pending budget cuts, I am not allowed to print exams in a format with room for you to write your answers on the exam paper. Therefore you are required to supply me with blue books on which you will write your exams. Before the first test, and preferably by the end of the second week of classes, you are required to supply me with twelve 8.5 by 11 (large size) blue books for your use during this semester. You can purchase these at the bookstore. I will distribute blue books at the exams. If you use more than expected (I'm allowing for 2 at each of the 4 hour exams and 4 at the final) then you need to make up the lack before the next exam. If you do not supply me with blue books you may or may not be able to take the exams depending on whether I bring extras or not (I make no promises in this regard).

Please do not write any answers on examination papers, but do be aware that examination papers must be returned to me with your completed blue books. The examination paper at each exam will have a number on it which will be used to post your grade on my web page; be sure to record this number.

It is not inconceivable that some exam or exams (or parts of exams) may be take-home or done on computers. I am not planning this now but I do not rule it out.


Homework will be assigned regularly, probably roughly weekly. Computer labs will also appear roughly weekly and will count as homework. Your total homework grade will count as an exam grade (see below). 

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). If you have not read the section on blue books and examination protocols above it is very important to do so.

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 will count as an exam (100 points) .   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. In fact, this no longer comes to my attention at all: the math department office staff will drop you.


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 MTWF 9:40-10:30.  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. Similar remarks apply to computer labs; it would be advisable for each of you to know how to do the computer exercises on your own, even if you seek help with some examples from colleagues. 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 :-)