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Math 25: Basic Mathematics Applications
Syllabus for Spring Term 2017

Math 25 logo

Class Information

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:00 am to 11:20 am, Building 16, Room 213

CRN 40025, MRC CRN 44562

3 credits, 3 lecture hours per week, 6 hours homework per week

Instructor Information

David Van Slyke

website:, home email:, work email:, cell phone: (541) 357-7551

Office: Building 16 Room 261, Office half-hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 am to noon, or by appointment

It works best to communicate with me using the above e-mails or cell phone. Do not use my LCC office phone or moodle's messages.

The Big Secret

Pst... Did you know that you have probably never taken a real math class?

Imagine a class about art where you learn about many famous paintings, and painters, and styles of painting, and historical influences for painters, etc. But you never picked up a brush and actually painted. That would be an "art appreciation" class, right?

And imagine a class about music where you listen to many famous songs, and learn about composers and orchestras, and styles of music, etc. But you never wrote notes and actually composed, or used an instrument to play a song. That would be a "music appreciation" class, right?

Now imagine a class about math problems where you learn about famous, old math problems that millions of other people have already solved, but you never actually create any new and original and personal math. That would be a "math appreciation" class, right?

That's what our school systems do. Everyone lies and call them "math classes" but they are really "math appreciation classes". The idea of a real math class might be so strange that you have trouble imagining what it would be like!

Math 25 is probably your first real math class. It has a lot of group work and is all open-book. (Real math is like that. No one at their job is told "go in a room and solve this math problem without talking to anyone else or looking at a book".)

In Math 25 there are still many "math appreciation" problems that help guide you and your group to think about issues carefully. But a lot of problems are "real math" problems where there is no one right answer: how to solve the problem depends upon your personal decisions about budgeting priorities, retirement plans, renting versus home-ownership, dieting and exercise preferences, etc. There is a right answer for you in that knowing your budgeting priorities allows you to find an optimal answer for how to fix a broken budget, or knowing your retirement plans allows you to find an optimal way to save for retirement, etc.

It can be a bit scary, in the same way that after a few art appreciation classes it is scary to start painting for the first time. But it is also useful and rewarding, in the way that actually painting goes beyond art appreciation.

A key task as a Math 25 student is to condense your notes, thoughts, and favorite example problems into your personal "solutions manual" for the practice test problems. This personal "solutions manual" will become the notes you are ​allowed to use on the tests.

Most days we start class with three kinds of review: warm-up problems from the LCC Math 25 Packet, problems from the online Math 20 final exam, and student questions about homework problems (from the LCC Math 25 Packet or the list of small questions). Then we discuss new material, work on projects, and perhaps conclude with a random homework problem used as a quiz.

In Math 25 we try to approach new tasks through a discussion that starts with a simple yet focused question (and, if possible, a picture) and use intuition and brainstorming to identify how our toolbox of math tricks can create a "How To" sequence of steps for solving the new problem. Perhaps Dan Meyer can explain. Mastering new math ideas ultimately involves changing how we think and practicing thinking critically—these have been called the two keys to student success.


You grade will be based on the eight items listed below. In addition, passing the class requires earning at least 65% on the final exam.

This course will require you to learn and use specific techniques and processes that may be different from what you have used in the past, and to develop your ability to communicate mathematically by showing your work in a neat and organized manner.

Communicating About Mathematics (30%)

Topic Mastery (70%)

Students who are not content with a midterm score can improve it by finishing and presenting an additional project.

Materials Needed

There is no textbook. The LCC bookstore sells an inexpensive Math 25 Packet written by the Math Division. The class discussions, online notes, and packet all work together to provide three different ways of understanding each math topic.

Please bring to class paper, a pencil, a highlighter, and a notebook. Organized notes and carefully written homework are invaluable!

You will need a calculator that can do exponents and has a π key. Suggestions are here.


By LCC policy, missing all classes during the first week causes you to be dropped from the class.

The deadline for a tuition refund is 11:59 pm on the Sunday at the end of the first week of the class. The last day for schedule changes during Fall term is Friday, November 18thth.

The Spring Term holidays are Spring Conference (May 5th) and Memorial Day (May 29th). Neither is a class day for us.

Our final happens on Tuesday during finals' week, starting at 10:00 am (our normal class start time) but lasting for 110 minutes.

Midterm dates are estimated. They may change slightly based on how fast we move through the math topics.

You can add this calendar to your own calendar app using this ICAL address.

Please note that LCC policy allows students with three or more finals on the same day to reschedule one of them. Sometimes final exams may be taken early because of medical or other concerns.


Besides registering for our class, please also use the MRC CRN if you plan to use the Math Resource Center at all. It provides drop-in tutoring, online tutoring, calculator help, a quiet study room, a computer study room, and a place to check out the DVDs provided by textbook publishers. The MRC CRN costs nothing and has no credits. It is used by the college to get appropriate state funding for the MRC staff.


To request assistance or accommodations from the Center for Accessible Resources please visit room 19/231, call 541-463-5150 (voice) or 711 (TTY), or email

Please be aware that any accessible tables and chairs in this room should remain available for authorized students who find that standard classroom seating is not usable.

For many, many more resources, please see the math tips portion of this website.

Other Issues Regarding Stuff in Class

At the end of the second week of the term I will share by e-mail a class list with everyone's first names and e-mails. This can be a big help for forming study groups. If you do not want your name and e-mail to be included, please let me know.

You are welcome to use a cell phone calculator, except on the final exam (when cell phone use is not allowed).

You are welcome to refer to a tablet or laptop during lectures, but may not use these during tests. Please do not use any computer or phone for personal communications during class time.

Food is not allowed in our classroom. Drinks are allowed in containers that try to be spill-proof.

Children that are not disruptive may visit class on non-test days. I have toys in my office to keep small children occupied while helping a parent during office hours.

Lecture and discussion are not formal. You may leave the room quietly without permission. When you have something to contribute, raising your hand might help me guide the flow of conversation and ensure all students have a chance to talk—or it might not be important to do. When speaking without raising your hand, please be polite and socially aware.

I would love to have more links to online videos of our math topics. Each term I offer a challenge to the entire class: if you can share with me enough new online videos that fit our math topics, I will use those problems (with the numbers changed) on an alternate final exam.

Although it has never been an issue in my many years of math teaching, please know that LCC employees are Mandatory Reporters who cannot extend confidentiality to threats of imminent harm or death to one's self or others.

Emergency Procedures

Phone Numbers

Evacuation Routes

Follow instructor’s directions to exit the building or follow the exit signs. Walk, don’t run. Move away from the building.

Public Phones

Building 16 has phones in the southeast and northwest second floor lobbies, outside rooms 202 and 226. Please familiarize yourself with their locations.

Bad Weather

Sign up for LaneAlert

Sign up for LaneAlert to receive e-mails or texts about weather closures! Log into mylane. In the Home tab, locate the box labeled Personal Information. Select the Lane Alert Emergency Notification link. Select which notifications you would like to receive. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click Save Changes.

You can also listen to KLCC (FM 89.7) or KUGN (AM 590 or FM 97.9) for campus closure information. You can also check the websites of LCC and FlashAlert.

If roads are icy or snowy, depart early and drive very carefully. Watch for black ice in shady locations on freezing temperature days. Please do not call LCC or KLCC. If absent, use the class website to read the assignments and be ready to quickly go over missed material.

LCC's website has more about its weather closure policies.

Truth, Wisdom, and Encouragement

Anything new is hard. But the math topics in Math 25 are not themselves hard. All of them become okay, if not easy, with enough practice.

Math 25 is about turning free time into grade points. If you put in the time, you can pass the class. Some students with jobs and kids are too busy to put in the time during a single term. There is no shame in needing two terms if you have many real-life responsibilities. It happens all the time.

I have taught Math 20 or 25 for twenty-six terms. Among all those hundreds of students I have only had one who could not pass the class after putting in the required time. (She had her own circumstances.) If you have a weak math background it might take you a bit more time than if you have a strong background. But it is still just an amount of time. Study, practice, do homework, and do practice tests. You can pass.

One reason Math 25 is simply a matter of time is that brains experience training and growth like muscles. Research shows that people of all ages can form new brain connections, larger brain cells, and deeper brain networking. These changes happen most when doing something new—and they can be permanent improvements! However, just like building muscle, improvement only happens through effort and challenge. (Watching the instructor solve problems does not exercise your own brain.) And just like for building muscle there are proven techniques that are efficient and keep increases happening. (Think of your instructor as a "study skills coach" and the study skills as exercise techniques that prevent you from getting stuck on a low plateau.)

We start each class with homework questions. No questions are silly. You will never be the only student with that question. If you already knew all the answers, you would not be in Math 25.

In Math 25 we are learning two very different things. We are learning a bunch of math topics. And we are learning study skills for how to be a good math student. The bad news is that you have a double curriculum this term. The good news is that once you learn those study skills you're done with that. In all the rest of your math classes you will only need to learn the math topics. You classmates there will look at you and say, "You're good at math!" What they mean is, "I am still doing a double curriculum but you're not. You are passing the class while doing half the work."

Never be ashamed of how many mistakes you make. I assure you that by the time I earned my masters degree in mathematics I had made more math mistakes than you will make during your entire life. In fact, unless you have a family member who also pursues a graduate degree in mathematics, by the age of 21 I had made more math mistakes than your entire family will ever make in their entire lives. You will never catch up! Bwahahahahaha.

During the group work tests it is common for every group to score 80% or more. Now, maybe a student fakes it and just nods his or her head in confusion while other group members do the work. But I seldom see that, except for a very few students with the one hardest problem on each test. Mostly I see everyone leaves the room having understood 80% of those problems. Think about what that means. Your brain can understand 80% or more! It did then. It can again. If it does not today, that just means you need more time to practice. Everyone can earn a B or better. Your brains can handle that. The math will fit, if you have time to make it stick.

If your score on a midterm test is ever not as high as you would like, I would appreciate you talking to me after class or coming to office hours. I cannot require it. You're not in high school. But if you are ever not as successful as you want, I can probably help you brainstorm ways to become more efficient with your studying and more successful on your final exam.

Items to Respect

• Right answers that show me what I know
• Wrong answers that show me what I know
• Questions and guesses that no matter what the answer show me what I know

• Asking questions to resolve confusion
• Asking questions to calm uncertainty
• Asking questions to explore what happens

• When a math topic is scary
• When a math topic is no longer scary
• When it doesn't matter if a math topic is scary, I am doing it anyways

• Math is a bunch of problems that need answers (I start by hunting for the answer)
• Math is a bunch of problems that need new tools (I start by hunting for the right tool)
• Math is a bunch of tools to answer other problems

• When I can first see something in class, and then learn by myself
• When I can first see something in class, and then learn in a group
• When I can first see something by myself, and then learn by myself
• When I can first see something by myself, and then learn in a group

• Trying to fix an ignorance arising from never before having been taught that topic at all
• Trying to fix an ignorance arising from never before having been taught that topic skillfully
• Trying to fix an ignorance no matter what its source
• Establishing accountability for learning and growth

That Would be Telling

penny farthing bicycle with canopy

Warning! A few decades ago, researchers decided that a few students learn math better if the basic skills were separated from the interesting but unavoidably more complicated applications. Ever since, most math classes have had a boring focus on learning skills through repetition.

At Lane Community College, Math 20 is the skill-based course and Math 25 is the interesting class. If you are a Math 20 student reading this Math 25 website because real-life applications interest you, read ahead at your own risk! The Powers that Be have decided you may not be ready for interesting applications.