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MA 104 Syllabus

Elementary Functions

Spring 2009, Section 7

Saint Vincent College

General Information

  • 3 credits
  • Prerequisite: MA 100 (Math Overview) or equivalent
  • Instructor: Brother David Carlson
  • Office: Physics 201
  • Office hours:
    • Mon 12:30 - 2:30 pm
    • Tue 9:00 - 10:15 am and 1:30 - 2:30 pm
    • Wed 12:30 - 2:00 pm
    • Thurs 1:00 - 2:30 pm
    • and by appointment
  • Phone: 724-805-2416 or extension 2416 on campus
  • Email:
  • The mathematics department provides tutors. A schedule will be available soon after the semester starts.
  • Text: Precalculus, 6th ed., by Raymond A. Barnett, Michael R. Ziegler, and Karl E. Byleen. McGraw-Hill (2008).


This is a precalculus course with special emphasis on the polynomial, rational, trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions. The course thus involves functions, algebra, trigonometry, and analytic geometry and is designed to prepare the student for one of the beginning calculus courses. This course also assists the student with the mathematical aspects of a number of college courses in other departments. Many students take this course to fulfill their core curriculum mathematics requirement.

The Prerequisite

This course assumes that the student is proficient in high school algebra. Most students will have sufficient background from high school. Some will have sufficient background due to having taken MA 100, our college algebra course. If in doubt, check with the instructor.

Core Goals

This course contributes especially toward the following core curriculum goals, listed in order of emphasis. Writing good mathematics in the solution of problems is the key communication skill for this course.

  1. To develop mathematical skills and quantitative literacy
  2. To form habits of ordered inquiry, logical thinking, and critical analysis
  3. To develop effective communication skills

Course Goals and Means of Assessment

  1. By the end of the course, students should be able to use, with facility, basic precalculus techniques, properties, and ideas.
  2. By the end of the course, students should be able to manipulate and graph the above types of functions, as well as use them in solving problems.
  3. By the end of the course, students should understand the basic concepts of a function and an inverse function.
These goals will be assessed through homework, tests, and quizzes. Feedback from individual students will also be used.

Grading and Course Policies

  • 25% First Exam
  • 25% Second Exam
  • 30% Final Exam: Mon, May 4, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  • 20% Quizzes
Homework may occasionally be collected and graded, but it is typically provided just for your practice. There will be a short quiz during many of the class sessions. Usually the quiz will ask you to solve a problem or problems similar to ones that were recently done for homework. Letter grades will be assigned according to the scheme found in the current College Bulletin. Exams will be announced in advance, but quizzes could be given at any time. Exams and quizzes will be closed book, closed notes in nature unless otherwise specified. Cell phones and pagers should be turned off and put away during exams and quizzes. On a test or quiz students may only use the test or quiz itself, a calculator, pens, pencils, and erasers. Computers are not allowed on quizzes and tests. Calculators cannot be shared by students on a test of quiz. A graphing calculator is required in this course.

Both the instructor and students are expected to do their best to produce a good class and to treat each other with respect. This includes many factors, such as listening when someone else is speaking, trying to understand what others are saying, being of assistance to others, etc. It definitely does NOT include making fun of others. On a practical level, do your best to improve your grade: read the text, attend class, do the work, ask questions, and try to answer questions in class! Mathematics is not a spectator sport! It requires active participation and repeated practice. If you begin to feel lost, consult one of the tutors, see the instructor, or work through the difficulties with the help of another student in the course. Do not let yourself get behind. Note in particular that attendance is expected. Student performance is bound to deteriorate when classes are missed. In order to emphasize the importance of attendance, the policies outlined after this paragraph will be used.

  • The lowest two quiz grades will be dropped at the end of the semester. This is intended to cover absences due to minor illnesses, sports, etc.; it is not intended to indicate that one should skip two classes!
  • Makeup quizzes are not given. For an excused absence, the student will simply be excused from the quiz.
  • Unexcused absence from class means a grade of zero on any quiz given in that class.
  • Late work is not accepted unless resulting from an excused absence.
  • Arriving late for class or leaving early is counted as 1/2 of an absence.
  • Each unexcused class absence after one week's worth results in 1 percentage point being deducted from the final course grade.
  • An unexcused absence from an exam results in the failure of the course.
  • Unexcused absence from more than one-third of the semester's classes results in the failure of the course.
  • A passing exam average is required in order to pass the course.
  • Attendance is used to decide borderline grades at the end of the semester.
  • Written documentation (such as a note from a doctor's office or coach of one's sports team) is normally required for an absence to be excused. Bring this documentation to your instructor if class must be missed. When in doubt or in extraordinary circumstances, consult your instructor.
Make-up exams are strongly discouraged. If possible, take the regularly scheduled exam. For an excused absence for a significant reason, the instructor may agree to give a make-up exam. Whenever possible, see your instructor ahead of time if you know you must miss an exam (e.g. due to sports). At the start of the semester, students participating in sports teams are required to provide the instructor with a schedule of games that might conflict with class. If the documentation or reason for missing an exam is poor, the student can count on receiving a significantly more difficult exam! Do ask for a makeup exam if you have a good reason to miss, however, as it is understood that illnesses and other complications do happen.

Intellectual honesty is important at Saint Vincent College. Attempts to pass off the work of another as one's own, group work as one's individual work, or to copy someone else's answers on a quiz or exam will result in action appropriate to the seriousness of the situation. All cases of apparent intellectual dishonesty will be referred to the administration. In this course, students are expected especially to do entirely their own work on the exams and quizzes. Other work (the homework) can be done together unless explicitly stated otherwise. Some students learn better when working mostly alone. Others do better when working together. However, never simply copy someone else's work as that does little to help you to learn the material. Remember that you are responsible for knowing how to solve the homework problems and that you will have to face the test questions on your own. Be sure to read the Regulations section of the College Bulletin (which covers such things as grading, academic honesty, etc.) as well as the Student Handbook.

Students with disabilities who may be eligible for academic accomodations and support services should please consult Mrs. Sandy Quinlivan by phone (724-805-2371), email (, or by appointment (Academic Affairs - Headmaster Hall). Reasonable accomodations do not alter the essential elements of any course, program, or activity.

If the instructor needs to cancel class, every effort will be made to post a note to this effect on the course web page and on the door to the classroom. If this cannot be done, as a last resort the instructor's phone greeting will be changed to indicate that class is cancelled.

Maintained by: Br. David Carlson
Last updated: January 12, 2009