Math 256A
Discrete Structures and Linear Algebra
Spring, 2005


Course Topics

In this course we explore various types of logical statements, methods of proof, and fundamental ideas of linear algebra. Our texts (there are two) are Kenneth H. Rosen, Discrete Mathematics and Its Applications, 5th Edition, in which we will cover Sections 1.1-1.5, 2.4-2.6, 3.1(?) and 3.3, and Elementary Linear Algebra, 3rd Edition, by Stephen Andrilli and David Hecker, in which we cover most of the first five chapters (except perhaps Section 5.5).

Course Objectives

Among the many objectives of this course, some of the most important are

Contacting the Professor

My office is NH 281. The hours I am intentionally in my office for student questions are posted on my homepage, and are subject to change during the semester. If we cannot hook up at one of these times, feel free to talk with me about an appointed time to meet, or swing by my office in the hopes that I am available to help. If you feel yourself falling behind in the class, it is very important not to put things off, but to seek help right away. Do not wait until a time close to an exam before speaking with me.

I may be reached by phone at x66856, but a better way to reach me is by email. If you require my approval for something, do not consider having left a message for me as equivalent to having obtained that approval.

Use of Technology

A good deal of computer use will be expected of you in this course. Generally speaking, daily homework assignments and other course information are available on the the web, and it is your responsibility to access this information online. (I strongly urge you to download and use Mozilla's Firefox web browser for this purpose instead of Microsoft Internet Explorer, as the latter will frequently look in the wrong place for files and then say they cannot be found.) While many announcements, hints, etc. may be given in class, things that cannot wait until the next class period will be sent to you as email messages. Thus, it is important that you be checking your email daily, preferably later in the day. I have requested a class email list to which you can send messages at

Any mail sent to this address will be received by all members of the class (including me). You may use it as a forum for discussing assigned problems, topics that came up in class, etc.

Academic Integrity

You may borrow someone's idea for solving a problem, but the words must be yours. When it is the case that you have taken an idea from another source, indicate this on your write-up (i.e., give the person's name if a member of the class, the url of the pertinent website, etc.). All assignments (except for projects specifically assigned in groups) are to be written up separately on your own. Give as much attention to presenting your solutions in a coherent manner (using mathematical symbols as part of your sentence structure) as you give to actually solving problems, as it is the explanation of each problem that is graded (not simply the answer itself). Handing in another's writeup (even on homework) will be considered academic dishonesty. (See Section 4.2.8 of the Faculty Handbook.)


Each of the following will be components of your overall grade: assignments (graded for correctness), exams (there will be three — see the course calendar for their dates), and a cumulative final.

Homework will be assigned on a daily basis and usually collected twice per week. I will do what I can to see that it is marked in a timely fashion, at which time I will place it in a folder marked “graded homework” in the box outside my office where you may pick it up at your convenience. There is a corresponding “new homework” folder, in which you may place homework that is to be collected that day. I consider it late if it has already been collected by the grader by the time you place it in the folder, so the safest thing is to hand it in at the end of class. Homework that is late may receive only 75% of the score it would have received otherwise, and that only if it is handed in before the others of the set have been returned.

At semester's end, I will compare your grade on the final exam with what you have received on the three in-class exams. If the final is better, then I will replace the worst of these with the final exam grade. Make every attempt to be present to take exams on the days they are scheduled, as make-ups are offered only under extreme and rare circumstances (low airfares and family vacations are not considered to fall into these categories, for instance), and only with prior approval.


Reasonable academic accomodations will be made for individuals with documented disabilities. Any student who this concerns should notify one of the coordinators for services for students with disabilities in the Center for Student Success, Spoelhof College Center 360. That student should also meet with me during the first two weeks of the semester to discuss academic accomodations.

A Final Note

Please speak with me about problems or issues as they arise during the semester, so that you do not get behind. I would also be glad to hear your comments about how the class is going, giving us the chance to understand one another's goals and make changes in the course when it seems appropriate.

This page maintained by: Thomas L. Scofield
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Calvin College

Last Modified: Tuesday, 01-Feb-2005 14:07:08 EST