MAC1147: Pre-Calculus Algebra

Times and Locations

  • Section 3032: Tuesdays, Period 4 (10:40 – 11:30) in LIT 127
  • Section 3033: Thursdays, Period 5 (11:45-12:35) in LIT 127
  • Office hours: Mondays during 6th and 7th period and Tuesday during 6th period, both in LIT 457.

Description and Goals

This is the discussion section for MAC1147: Pre-Calculus: Algebra and Trigonometry.  In terms of course content, we will review algebra and trigonometry with an eye towards future applications in calculus.  Considering the name of the course, this should be unsurprising.

More specifically, the undergraduate course listings on the Mathematics department website provides the following description of MAC1147.

College algebra, functions, coordinate geometry, exponential and logarithmic functions, and trigonometry. This fast-paced course is designed as a review of algebra and trigonometry to prepare the student for calculus. This course assumes prior knowledge of intermediate algebra (Algebra 2) and trigonometry.

Below is another description, provided by Paul Lockheart, of algebra courses in general.

So as not to waste valuable time thinking about numbers and their patterns, this course instead focuses on symbols and rules for their manipulation. The smooth narrative thread that leads from ancient Mesopotamian tablet problems to the high art of the Renaissance algebraists is discarded in favor of a disturbingly fractured, post-modern retelling with no characters, plot, or theme. The insistence that all numbers and expressions be put into various standard forms will provide additional confusion as to the meaning of identity and equality. Students must also memorize the quadratic formula for some reason.

– Paul Lockheart, A Mathematician’s Lament

My goal as a discussion leader is to stray as far away from the latter description as possible while still satisfying the constraints of the former.  In other words, I aim to provide the material to the student with the proper context, motivation, and attention commonly left out of mathematics courses at this level.  Emphasis will be placed on conceptual understanding over computation, with the idea that problem solving is more valuable than rote memorization of process.  By the end of the course, students will be expected not only to solve the problems that they are given, but to write down mathematical thoughts in a way that will allow them to be solved.  Since our time is quite limited, I expect students to read the chapter and lecture notes before coming to class, as this is required for genuine participation.

Discussion Policies

Class Format

We will begin each class with an easy “warm-up” quiz, which will not be collected or marked.  The problems on this quiz will be primordial models of the type of problems we will be focusing on in during the class, so that students will be on the same page. If we wish to understand advanced problems, we’re going to have to start with easy ones.

During the lecture, I will talk about what the goal of the current material is and why it works.  Interspersed will be step by step explanations of how to solve certain examples from the book.  Before class, students may write requests for problems on the board, if there are particular problems that can be covered.


Most classes will include quizzes.  If a student misses a quiz and desires a make-up, he should talk to Dr. Tornwall.  If a student misses a class where homework is collected, or comes to class but forgets the homework, there is a one week grace period to turn it in with a penalty of 4 points.

Students are advised to come on time.  I will assume that any students who come late have simply lost track of time while studying Precalculus, and will endeavor to call on them more frequently, so that they may share their knowledge with the rest of the class.

Quiz and Homework Grading

All work must be shown (within reason).  If you believe I have unreasonably marked off for lack of work, see me and I will look at it again.  Any answer with insufficient work will receive zero credit, even if it is correct.

The following is a rough rubric explaining how I will mark off for various types of errors.

  • This is an algebra class, so arithmetic errors will be forgiven within reason.
  • I will mark off no more than half credit for procedural errors, i.e. if the student knows what to do, but has done so incorrectly.
  • If the student does not know what method to use to solve the problem, but knows what is being asked and has made a reasonable attempt to find the solution, partial credit may be awarded for effort or a creative idea.
  • If the student does not even know the question is asking for (e.g. answering a “solve for x” problem with an expression in terms of x), the answer will receive zero credit, regardless anything else the student has written.

Getting Help

The easiest way to get help is to come to my office hours, which are 6th and 7th period on Monday and 6th period on Tuesday. My office is LIT 457.  If you can’t make these office hours, please feel free to email me questions you run into.  I like talking about math by email.

Alternatives are: using the tutoring center at Broward, asking for help from another TA, buying one of those ripoff private tutoring services that are all over Gainesville, or using the internet (allow me to suggest MSE for online help).  With that said, the best thing you can do to catch up is to study and do problems.  If a problem takes you hours to figure out, you’ll never forget how you did it when you’re done.