MCS 201: Mathematics for Middle-School Teachers (Spring 2014)

Course Syllabus


In Minnesota, at teacher with a middle level endorsement for teaching mathematics in grades 5 through 8 must demonstrate knowledge of fundamental concepts of mathematics and the the connections among them. These concepts include concepts of patterns, relations, and functions, concepts of number sense, and concepts of shape and space. This course is designed to help you develop your ability to reason mathematically while learning these concepts.

Student Learning Objectives

By the end of the semester, students should be able to:

  • recognize, describe, compare and generalize mathematical patterns using appropriate representations,
  • use a variety of problem-solving strategies to investigate, solve, explain and extend mathematical problems in algebra, number theory, geometry, and discrete math,
  • read and understand mathematical proofs,
  • and make both informal and formal arguments in algebra, number theory, geometry and discrete math. In particular, you will know (and be able to use) several proof techniques, including induction, direct proofs, and indirect proofs.

Required Text

Number, Shape, and Symmetry, by Diane Herrmann and Paul Sally,Jr. Reading assignments for each day of class are posted on the Moodle page for this course. To help you prepare for class, you will complete a reading reflection sheet and turn it in electronically by 8:00 am in the morning before class.

Classes and Homework

Classes will be used for lectures, problem solving, discussions, and other fun activities. Reading and homework assignments are posted on the course Moodle page. Since classes, reading assignments, and homework are designed to help you learn and practice doing mathematics, they will not be graded.

Note that in this course, you are both capable of and expected to learn some of the material on your own; not every topic in the reading or homework will be covered in class.

Class attendance, both physical and mental, is required.

Should you need to miss a class for any reason, you are still responsible for the material covered in that class. This means that you will need to make sure that you understand the reading for that day, that you should ask a friend for the notes from that day, and make sure that you understand what was covered. If there is an assignment due that day, you should be sure to have a friend hand it in or put it in my departmental mailbox (in Olin 312). You do not need to tell me why you missed a class unless there is a compelling reason for me to know.

If you have a serious emergency that means you will need to miss an exam, you should be sure to notify me by 8:00 am of the day of the exam.

Should you miss more than four classes, no matter what the reason, I reserve the right to lower your grade by at least a third.

Homework assignments should reflect your own work.

You are welcome to discuss the homework with your classmates but each of you should write up the solutions by yourself. If you do talk with other classmates, you should acknowledge this in your written work. Looking for (and using) solutions over the internet is not allowed as it will not help you learn and understand the material. Using sources other than your textbook, your classmates, and me will be considered cheating.


Throughout the semester you will keep a portfolio of work that demonstrates what you've learned and how your understanding of the material has grown. Approximately every other week, you will be asked to hand in your portfolio and include a particular type of work - for example, a revised homework problem, a list of definitions, etc.


There will be four tests: three in-term exams and a final exam. These tests will be your opportunity to show how well you have mastered the material. The in-term exams are tentatively scheduled to be given on Thursday, March 6, Thursday, March 27, and Monday, April 12. The final will be a two hour, comprehensive exam. It is scheduled for Saturday, May 24 at 8:00am.

Course grade

Your grade is a measure of your learning and growth in the course, rather than a set of points to be “earned” or “lost.” Viewed this way, a grade shows the extent to which you have mastered and can communicate important concepts and ideas. Not all work is graded – you do many things in a course that contribute to your learning: reading, writing, revising, thinking, talking, and listening. It is useful to think of work, then, as the set of activities that contribute to learning. Graded work is that subset of activities where you show how well you have learned to reason mathematically and how well you can communicate your reasoning to others.

The graded course components will contribute to your grade in the following proportion:

Portfolio problems 20%
In-term exams 51% (17% each)
Final 29%

Letter grades are assigned using the following table.

mastery of the material with developed insight
87 -89.9
80 -82.9
mastery with limited insight
73 -76.9
basic knowledge with limited mastery
60- 66.9
minimal to unacceptable performance

Academic Integrity

You are expected to to adhere to the highest standards of academic honesty, to uphold the Gustavus Honor Code and to abide by the Academic Honesty Policy. A copy of the honor code can be found in the Academic Bulletin and a copy of the academic honesty policy can be found in the Academic Polices section of the Gustavus Guide.

On the homework problems, I encourage you to discuss problems and their solutions with each other. However, each of you should first make a real effort to solve each problem by yourself. Furthermore, each of you should write up the solutions individually. Note that you may not consult sources other than the text, your classmates, and me.

On exams, you are expected to work completely by yourself and use only the allowed sources.

You will be expected to sign the honor pledge on homework and exams.

The first violation of this policy will result in a 0 on that assignment and notification of the Dean of Faculty. Further violations will result in failing the course.

Disability Services

Gustavus Adolphus College is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs. If you have a documented disability (or you think you may have a disability of any nature) and, as a result, need reasonable academic accommodation to participate in class, take tests or benefit from the College’s services, then you should speak with the Disability Services Coordinator, for a confidential discussion of your needs and appropriate plans. Course requirements cannot be waived, but reasonable accommodations may be provided based on disability documentation and course outcomes. Accommodations cannot be made retroactively; therefore, to maximize your academic success at Gustavus, please contact Disability Services as early as possible. Disability Services is located in the Academic Support Center.”

Disability Services Coordinator, Laurie Bickett (x6286) and Disability Specialist, Kelly Hanson (or x7138) can provide further information.

Help for Students Whose First Language is not English

Support for English Language Learners and Multilingual students is available through the Academic Support Center and the Multilingual/English Language Learner Academic Support Specialist, Laura Lindell (or x7197). She can meet individually with students for tutoring in writing, consulting about academic tasks, and helping students connect with the College’s support systems. When requested, she can consult with faculty regarding effective classroom strategies for ELL and multilingual students. Laura can provide students with a letter to a professor that explains and supports appropriate academic arrangements (e.g., additional time on tests, additional revisions for papers). Professors make decisions based on those recommendations at their own discretion. In addition, ELL and multilingual students can seek help from peer tutors in the Writing Center.

Help for any student who is struggling

Your ability to succeed in this course is not predetermined. If you do not think you’re learning as much as you should be, or if your class performance doesn’t reflect the work you’re putting into the course, please come to see me in my office. We will work together to identify ways that you can learn more effectively.