MAT 331: Mathematical Problem Solving with Computers
Spring 2000

Serge Ferleger   Office: Math. Bldg. 4-119
Phone: 632-8358   email:
Office hours: Monday and Wednesday, 1:00 - 2:00

General Information:
This course serves as an introduction to computing for the math student. After a general introduction to the use of the computers, including use of email and the world-wide-web, we will turn to more mathematical problems. We will try to keep the emphasis in this course on the ``problem solving'' portion of the title: we will take a series of problems and try to find solutions (or approximate solutions), keeping in mind that we have access to computers. The discussion of the problems and development of necessary mathematics will be done in the classroom, and then we will turn to the computers to explore and work out the solutions.

We will use the math computer lab in S-235 of the math tower; this lab contains 30 Sun workstations running Unix, as well as a number of PCs running Windows NT. We will be using the Unix machines in class; however, much of the work can be done on other systems. We will rely heavily on Maple (a program that can do algebra, calculus, graphics, etc.), although if other tools are better suited to the task, we may make use of them. No previous experience with computers is needed.

Maple is available for most platforms (Windows, Macintosh, Unix, $\ldots$); a student version of Maple can be purchased from Waterloo Maple for $99. You can also use the campus modem pool to dial-in to the mathlab computers.

The text for this course is a set of notes written by Professors Sutherland and Simanca. These are available on the web page, and a printed version of much of it should be available in the bookstore after the first few weeks of class. You might find it useful to obtain a book about basic UNIX commands, and/or about Maple. Most of what you need will be covered in class, but it is often useful to have a reference at hand. Much material will be made available on the class web page, at

Projects and Exercises:
There will be a number of ``exercises'' assigned, as well as approximately 4 projects. An ``exercise'' is like a homework assignment- something that you should be able to do in at most a few hours. A ``project'' is more like a term paper-- you will be expected to devote a significant amount of time to doing it, as well as taking care with the presentation.

Working together on the projects is encouraged, although, each student will be responsible for turning in a write-up of the problem and solution. This should contain a detailed description of the problem or topic, what means were used in solve it, and the solution. These write-ups should be produced by each student individually, and should be detailed enough so that someone who has not taken the class can read and understand them, and will believe the solution is correct. These write-ups are often acceptable for the mathematics writing requirement.

Your grade will be based on the projects, the exercises, and in-class participation. Projects will count most heavily (80%). There will be no exams. Both the expository and computational aspects of the project write-ups will be graded.

Special Needs:
If you have a physical, psychiatric medical or learning disability that may impact on your ability to carry out assigned course work, I would urge you to contact the staff in the Disabled Student Services (DSS) office, Room 133 Humanities, 632-6748/TDD. DSS will review your concerns and determine, with you, what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. Please then inform your instructor so that arrangements can be made. All information and documentation of disability is confidential.