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Authors: Alina Bucur, Zonglin Jiang, Kiran Kedlaya, Jun Bo Lau, Peter Wear
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Math 152 - Intro to Mathematical Software (Winter 2017)

Math 152 - Intro to Mathematical Software

Course description: This course is an introduction to the use of mathematical software. Although mathematics is still largely taught as a pencil-and-paper subject, doing so ignores the fundamental role played by computing technology in the subject. This course will introduce students to a few of the many ways in which one can use software tools to assist with mathematical study and research; we will draw on examples from a broad range of mathematical topics.

The computational platform for this course is SageMathCloud. SageMathCloud is a web service running the Sage open-source computer algebra system, but it can be accessed using any web browser and so requires no special software installation. Sage in turn is based on the Python programming language and the Jupyter notebook system, but no prior knowledge of either of these, or computer programming in general, will be assumed. Familiarity with similar software environments like Mathematica, Maple, or Matlab is not required either.

This course is a trial run for a concept which may be developed into a permanent course (with a different number). Your feedback will be helpful to me, to the math department, and potentially to other students now and in the future!

Instructor: Kiran Kedlaya, kedlaya [at] ucsd [etcetera]. Office hours: Tuesdays 11-12 in APM 7202.

TAs: Zonglin Jiang, zojiang [at] ucsd [etcetera]. Office hours: Mondays 3-5 in APM 5748.

TA: Peter Wear, pwear [at] ucsd [etcetera]. Office hours: Tuesdays 1-3 in APM 6132.

Lectures: MWF 2-2:50 in HSS 1330. No lectures on January 16 or February 20 (university holidays).

Discussion sections: Monday evenings in B402A; check Blink for your section time. Please attend only your assigned section, as space is limited; if you need to switch sections, see the math front office (APM 7401). No sections on January 16 or February 20 (university holidays).

Textbook: None. In lieu of purchasing a textbook, students are required to create an account on SageMathCloud in order to complete and submit assignments. Creating an account requires specifying an email address; in order to access course materials in SMC, you must either register using your official UCSD address or provide the instructor with your preferred address. (It is not necessary to pay for an upgraded account; equivalent functionality will be provided to enrolled students.)

As in-class participation will be an important feature of the course (see below), students will need to bring to class a laptop that can access the SageMathCloud web site. No other software besides a web browser is needed; you can switch devices between lectures. SMC is not designed for small screens such as on smartphones; you might be able to manage with a large tablet and keyboard, but I can't guarantee that this will work. In any case, if you are unable to bring a suitable device, it is your responsibility to drop the course.

Prerequisites: Math 20D, plus any one of Math 18 or Math 20F or Math 31AH. As usual, these can be waived by the instructor, but I will be pretty strict because I have already made a substantial effort to keep the prerequisites low to begin with.

Homework: Weekly problem sets (9 in all), due Tuesdays at 8pm. All assignments will be assigned, completed, submitted, evaluated, and returned using SageMathCloud; the process for this will be explained in class. For security reasons, grades will not be posted within SMC; check TritonEd for those.

  In addition, students are expected to participate in double-blind peer evaluation. After each assignment is collected (on Tuesday), each student will be randomly assigned a certain number of other students' assignments on which to provide feedback (typically due Thursday at 8pm). After this feedback is submitted, homework grades will be assigned by the TAs (who will have the identities of the reviewers).

Midterms: None.

Final exam: None.


  • 70% homework (up to 7 assignments, dropping the rest).
  • 20% in-class participation (up to 20 lectures, dropping the rest). Participation is evaluated based on changes in the lectures/[date] directory during the class hour (as timestamped by SMC).
  • 10% homework evaluations (see homework section).
Since these parameters have been chosen to be somewhat forgiving, no additional excuses will be granted. No exceptions.

Academic Integrity:

  • You are welcome (and encouraged) to work with other students in the class, but you must clearly indicate who you worked with on each problem.
  • You must write your solutions in your own words. Don’t copy/paste solutions: the “TimeTravel” feature makes this apparent.
  • You are welcome (and expected) to do research online using the SMC documentation, Google, Wikipedia, Stack Overflow, etc. But be sure to provide links to sources you use in your solutions.
  • Misuse of SMC, including abusive or intolerant behavior, may constitute grounds for failing the course and/or campus disciplinary measures.