Math 61 Modeling Syllabus

Math 61 Modeling, taught by Jim Wiseman

Office: Science Center, Room 153, 690-5763.


Office hours: Tues 2:30-4:00, Wed. 2:00-3:00, Thurs. 1:30-3:00, and by appointment.

Textbook: Edward Beltrami, Mathematical Models for Society and Biology. I have a list of errata at . The new list of errata that we've discovered this semester is at .

Plan:  We'll cover chapters 1, 2, 4-6, 8, and 9. We'll also spend some classes doing our own modeling - attendance is mandatory on these days. In addition, there's a final project - an 8-10 page paper and twenty-minute class presentation on a modeling topic of your choice. Here's a list of some possible topics (I encourage you to think of your own): cellular automata, traffic flow, voting theory, drug dosages, arms control, bioinformatics, Poisson processes, diffusion models, game theory, learning, influence and social power... (Meg Spencer, the Science Librarian, has put up a webpage just for this class at .) There's a more detailed schedule at, but it's subject to change.

Homework:   Working problems is vital to learning math; there will be homework assignments nearly every week, due at the beginning of class on Wednesday.  Assignments will be posted at - you are responsible for checking the assignments, as I won't give them in class. 

Group work:   I strongly encourage you to work on the homework in groups.  I suggest that you work on the problems by yourself first, making a note of anything giving you trouble; then meet with your group and work through the remaining problems together; and finally write up the solutions by yourself.
    Every group member must write up his or her own solutions independently; just copying the group's answers is plagiarism and is unacceptable.

Getting help:   As Talking Barbie says, "Math class is tough."  (Unless she's the hacked version - then she says, "Eat lead, Cobra.")  Chances are that sooner or later you'll get stuck on something, so don't get frustrated.  Think hard, and if you're still stuck, do something else for a while.  (It's amazing how often that works.)
    My office hours are above - these are times when I'm guaranteed to be in my office and willing to talk.  If you want to see me at other times, the best thing to do is to set up an appointment with me by email or after class.  Of course, you're welcome to just drop by my office, as long as you don't mind if I'm not there or don't have time to talk.
    Finally, I can't emphasize enough that your classmates are your best source of help.

Grading:   Homework 1/4, midterm 3/8, final project 3/8.

Exam and deadlines:

  • Proposal for final project due: Monday, Sept. 27, in class.
  • Midterm: Wednesday, Oct. 6, in class.
  • Final project outline and bibliography due: Monday, Oct. 25, in class.
  • Final presentations begin: Monday, Nov. 15.
  • Final paper due: Monday, Dec. 13, 5:00 pm.
  • No final exam.

Late work and make-ups:   Late homework won't be accepted, and you won't be allowed to make up missed exams, except under very exceptional circumstances (e.g., the sasquatch attacks - and even then you should get a note from the sasquatch).  In the case of a conflict that you absolutely can't resolve, you may arrange to take a midterm exam early.

Feedback:   I'm very interested in your feedback throughout the class:  what you like, what you don't, what's working for you, what isn't - anything that you think might help me make the course better.  If you have any comments (and you probably should), the easiest thing to do is to talk to me (or send email) about them.  If you want to remain anonymous, you can fill out the anonymous feedback form on my feedback page.

Webpage: Please check the course webpage for updated information and announcements:

Jim Wiseman
Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics
Swarthmore College