Math 406, Spring 2018: Information and Policies



M. Randall Holmes


We meet WF 10:30-11:45 AM in MB139. The final examination for this class will be in the same room on Wed, May 2 at 10 am-12 pm. Dates of hour exams may be added below later.

·         Jan 12 last day to add without permission number

·         March 16 DROP DEADLINE attempts to drop after this date will often fail

·         Wed May 2 10 am-12 pm Final Examination

Office and Hours:

Office: MB 240A. Office hours to be announced. My other class is MWF 9-9:50 am.  I do not know what my routine will be on Tuesdays or Thursdays.   Do note my Open Office Policy below.

Please note that I do not hold office hours on the day of an exam for members of the relevant class. Members of either class are welcome to attend the hours designated for the other.

Please note further that I am introducing a scheme of optional credit for visits to my office hours. It will be possible to earn credit applied toward your homework grade by attending my office hours (at any time, not just the official times). I will have a rubric for awarding such credit (which I do not intend to make public at this time); in general terms, you are more likely to get credit if you show up with a definite question (or a definite administrative purpose, this counts too) and you have done some work on it.


My office telephone number is 6-3011 (426-3011 from off-campus). My personal cell phone number is 208-509-3278: 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):

 class announcements page for this class: here

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

This electronic version of this syllabus is the official syllabus (no paper copies will be made), is subject to change, and any changes will be posted here.

Electronic announcements for this class (and announcements to both classes) will appear in three different ways.  Announcements tied to specific assignments will appear on a posted class schedule, embedded either in this syllabus or in the class announcements page. Some announcements and any handouts, will appear on the class announcements page accessible from my main page near the link to this syllabus (or from the link just above).  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 406: Number Theory. This is section 001.


The textbook for this class is A Friendly Introduction to Number Theory (4th edition), Joseph H. Silverman. It has been used before and there should be used copies in the bookstore. Ordering it from other sources does carry risks of late arrival or getting the wrong edition, for which I will not offer much if any support. I would use the bookstore.

When considering the financial temptation of getting an e-book, remember that I give open book final exams and you cannot bring an e-book to a final. I do not undertake to provide extra physical copies of the book in this case.


It is very important to look at class schedule for the add deadline, drop deadline, and dates of tests. In particular, attempts to drop after the deadline of March 16 will very likely fail. If you foresee any conflicts with test dates, please inquire as to what is possible with me in advance.


This is the usual calculator language from my generic course syllabus, but you may actually be permitted to use powerful calculators on some or all exams. A really good calculator (TI89 or so) or a laptop computer is probably useful for classroom activities.

We may sometimes have occasion to use calculators in class. Use of a plain scientific calculator (without graphing or symbolic computation capabilities) will be allowed on tests; more powerful calculators will not be allowed.   Make sure you have an allowed calculator if you want to use a calculator on tests. I will not provide calculators for loan.

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 will be assigned most days. There will of course be sets of exercises from the book; I may also prepare handouts. The homework assignments will be posted on the class schedule online. I will usually indicate a “due date” but if not the default due date is two class sessions after the assignment is given (not counting exam days: an assignment is never due on an exam day, and there will always be a non-exam day when you can ask questions about it before it is due. I will mark selected problems from each homework set; you will not know which ones are to be marked in advance. Your grade will be 30 percent for handing in your paper with the remaining 70 percent determined by your performance on selected problems. There may be some computer labs assigned which will count as homework assignments.

How Your Course Grade Will Be Computed:

I expect to give three 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 or otherwise adjusted 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) [this may be modified if web-based homework is introduced].   The final counts 200 points; your percentage grade on the final may replace the lowest of the other three 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).

I do not assign +/- grades except under special circumstances. I will never award a grade of A+ or C- for any reason whatsoever [I must confess that I did once award an A+ in this class, but I expect this to remain a unique event].   I may award the other +/- grades under special circumstances, but no score earns a +/- grade: there will always be some other consideration. You will not succeed in negotiating a +/- grade.

Exams other than the final will be no book, no notes. On the final exam only you are allowed your (physical) book and one standard sized sheet of notebook paper with whatever you like written on it.


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).   If the door to my office is closed, knock!!! If I don't answer, check for post-it notes that say where I am... Information about times of availability will be posted on my main web page.

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. I disavow any consistent policy about late homework papers: a late paper might go into the pile and be graded, it might get a penalty, or you might get the 30 percent for handing it in. You will always get at least the 30 percent.

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 must be turned off and completely out of sight (no exceptions whatsoever) during an exam.

You may not listen to portable music players 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, in advance if at all possible, 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 :-)