MAT 331: Mathematical Problem Solving with Computers
Fall 1997
Prof. Sutherland (Section 1) or S. Mandell (section 2)

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. The solutions to the problems should be found by the class with a combination of experimentation and mathematical analysis (and maybe a few hints from the instructors).

We will use the math computer lab in S-235 of the math tower; this lab contains 20 Sun workstations running Unix, as well as a number of PCs running Windows NT. We will make use of whatever facilities seem appropriate. Students may use other computers where appropriate, but should expect to manage ``weird'' environments on their own. 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 (DOS/Windows, Macintosh, Unix, tex2html_wrap_inline35 ); 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.

There is no required text for this course. However, 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. There will be no exams. Both the expository and computational aspects of the project write-ups will be graded.

Special Needs:
If you have any condition such as a physical or mental disability which will make it difficult for you to carry out the work as I have outlined it, please notify me in the first two weeks of the course so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

Email to goes to both instructors. However, it is usually preferable to mail to the appropriate instructor only.

Prof. S. Sutherland Math 5D-148 phone: 632-7306
Stewart Mandell Math 2-105

Office hours will be announced later.

Scott Sutherland
Tue Sep 9 11:16:37 EDT 1997