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Math 20 Syllabus
 Spring Term 2020 Will Be Awesome 

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

- Albert Einstein

Math 20 Class Information

Mon/Wed 10am to noon

4 credits, 4 lecture hours per week

about 8 hours homework per week

CRN 43121


Official Course Description

Math 20 logo

MTH 020 begins with a review of whole number, fraction, and decimal arithmetic that includes rounding, estimation, order of operations, averages, and the solving of one-step equations. This review is followed by an introduction to ratios, proportions, percent, measurement, and basic geometry in a problem-solving context, with the review skills integrated throughout. Some applications for technical careers will be incorporated for students in professional technical programs.

LCC home

Instructor Information

David Van Slyke


Zoom room:

work email:

cell phone: (541) 357-7551

office: Building 16 Room 261

Study sessions (office hours) on Mondays from noon to 1pm, Tuesdays 2pm to 3pm, Fridays 3:30pm to 4:30pm, or by appointment

(Please communicate with me using the above cell phone or LCC email. Please do not use my LCC office phone or moodle's messages.

Course Summary

syllabus humor

Math 20 teaches ratios, proportions, percents, measurement unit conversions, and geometry to prepare students for future math courses.

You will be required to learn and use specific techniques and processes that may be different from what you have used in the past, and develop your ability to communicate mathematically by showing all work in a neat and organized manner.

Students are encouraged to use study groups for all types of homework.


This class asks students to spend the term earning meaningful achievements instead of points.

The list of achievements is also our list of assignments.

warning - objects in syllabus are closer than they appear

Some homework assignments are self-graded, and others must be turned in. An assignment that is turned in will have a due date: one class meeting after no one asks a question about that topic for the first time as a class starts.

Unfortanely, every term has students who could have easily earned a higher overall grade by turning in or improving homework assignments that would only take a few hours. That is very sad! Please do not let your grade suffer due to procrastination or over-scheduling.

Earning a D shows that you are capable with a handful of skills. You can follow procedures and mimic example problems. With the right support, you can deeply understand math issues. Your math foundation does not yet have breadth that assures success in your next math class or in improving your career potential. So you are not yet prepared to move on, but are learning. Your progress is commendable and should be acknowledged!

Earning a C shows that you can use the skills for more than half the topics, and can deeply understand math issues. You are prepared to move on. You can expect what you learned to be a little helpful in your next math class or in a career. Earning a C is a respectable grade for a student whose term was too busy with real-life issues for excellent homework, but managed to study hard enough before the tests.

Earning a B shows that you are proficient in almost all skills, deeply understand most concepts, and you can discuss other people's math. You are noticeably above average. Future teachers and employers look forward to this type of person.

Earning an A shows that you are proficient in nearly all skills and concepts, and beyond discussing other people's math can also create and present math topics in an original and practical way.

I believe Robert Talbert first had the idea to use + and − to measure student engagement. That is more meaningful to future employers and teachers.

Time Needed

Our class has a lot of homework. Expect to spend 4 to 8 hours each week doing homework if you have an average math foundation from the previous class.

Please schedule different blocks of time for "prompt homework problems" and for "enough homework problems". Those phrases are explained on the homework page.

Materials Needed


Please bring to class paper, a pencil, a highlighter, and a notebook.

You will need a scientific calculator that can do exponents and has a π key. A model with parenthesis keys and a fraction key is highly recommended. The official class guidelines recommend a Sharp D.A.L. 500 calculator. This model is most popular. Some students instead use a Casio that is also inexpensive and also gets good reviews.

Together our class times, study sessions, this class website, textbook(s), and the videos and OER textbooks linked from the class website provide many different ways of understanding each math topic. Find the resources that work best for you!

One of your key tasks is to condense your class notes, thoughts, homework, and favorite example problems into an improved set of notes that you are ​allowed to use on the quizzes and final exam. Preparing these notes carefully is invaluable!


textbook cover

Our textbook is Prealgebra by McKeague and Pawlik. It is free to access online. It has nice videos for every example problem.

During our class online meetings your instructor will sometimes take screenshots of textbook pages and write on them. It will be easier for the instructor to do this with the e-book than a physical textbook.

The Math 20 textbook committee was considering switching to this textbook for the upcoming school year. We are testing it out early, which is not a bad thing.

A physical copy is availabe from the publisher for $68, if you prefer that.

Basic Mathematics

Bittinger textbook cover

The normal textbook for Math 20 is Basic Mathematics by Marvin L. Bittinger. Unfortunately, it does not have a free online e-book. Prices at that Amazon link for a used copy fluctuate from $14 to $45. It might be cheaper elsewhere online.

For most students the free online Prealgebra textbook is all you need. You can ignore this textbook.

However, this is the same textbook used in Math 10. You might already know and love it, and have a copy, because you took Math 10. Then it might feel nice to keep using this book. It would cover the same topics while looking familiar.

There is also an optional book: Math! A Four Letter Word, by Sembera and Hovis.

Academic Integrity

We do the kinds of real math that help with life decisions. This class is an opportunity to learn. It has been made as engaging, genuine, and fun as possible. It will be more than worth your time.

You will leave this class with more skill and job opportunities than most people for issues such as managing money, making informed plans, understanding health issues, teaching your kids, and recognizing when someone is lying with statistics. That is good stuff! It is the sort of "advanced adulting" that helps people manage a household and be secure in retirement.

Please do not treat this class as a to-do list of chores to grudgingly finish, or a series of tricky obstacles to navigate past. Those mindsets will cripple your learning, ruin your fun, and might even prompt you to consider cheating.

You should strive to end this class with positive momentum. Yes, real life issues might unavoidably drag you down. But the class itself—the teaching, assignments, website, textbook, and achievements—has everything carefully structured so you depart with power and a barbaric yawp. The coming Summer will also be interesting times. Be assured you can be extra ready for your next math class, extra qualified for a job with what is in your brain and on a letter of recommendation, and extra happy with understanding yourself more deeply as a successful learner.

I cannot promise that the degrees and credits earned in 2020 will not be somewhat suspect in the eyes of employers. Everyone knows that academic work done online is easier to do half-heartedly or to fake. I can only say that you will leave this class able to demonstrate your own ability: to me at the end of the term, and to other people in the future.

We work together. My work is to make many things possible. Your work is to claim them.

Study Sessions

Instead of quiet office hours we have chatty study sessions!

These can serve several different purposes.

You do not need to bring questions to study sessions. It can be nice to simply study quietly while knowing that help is available from the instructor or classmates. That help can look like a few things:


By LCC policy, missing all classes and assignments during the first week causes you to be dropped from the class.

The deadline for a tuition refund is 11:59 pm on the Sunday at the end of the first week of the class.

The last day of Spring term (June 13th) is now the final day for schedule changes, dropping classes, grading option changes, etc. This is much later than usual.

The Spring term holidays are Spring Conference (Friday, May 1st) and Memorial Day (Monday, May 25th).

Our final exam has a scheduled time Monday during finals' week, starting at 10am (our normal class start time) and lasting for 110 minutes. This may or many not be useful to us.

If you want to complete any of the end-of-term test taking achievements before the end the term, take a test early. If you score 60% or 66% (or higher) you can check off the appropriate achievement early! Your normally scheduled test remains a chance to improve your score.

You can add this calendar to your own calendar app using this ICAL address.

Please note that LCC policy allows students with three or more finals on the same day to reschedule one of them. Sometimes final exams may be taken early because of medical or other concerns.


Special student resources for Spring Term 2020 are available at the Lane Support Hub.

Please see the steps below for Math Resource Center tutoring this term.

LaneCC Student Resources

LaneCC provides dumploads of resources to help students succeed. You can click on the image to the right to see my own compilation of student resources.

It is often valuable to visit an Early Outreach Specialist who is trained to connect students to whatever resources can help. The one who normally works most closely with Math 20 students is Katherine Kaylegian (e-mail).


The free tutoring provided by the Math Resource Center happens remotely during Spring term 2020. Please follow these steps after getting Zoom working:

First, make a reservation for a 30-minute appointment using the website WC Online. This is quicker if you use the pull-down menu to select the topic in which you want tutoring.

Second, five minutes early before your appointment go to a Zoom meeting room named Study Annex Tutoring, where a front desk person will greet you and assign you to a "breakout room" in Zoom. The front desk person can also help you get Zoom working with text chat, audio, and/or video to best suit your needs and what tools you have available at home.

Third, your tutor joins you in the breakout room. Enjoy your live tutoring!

Math Resource Center online hours are Monday through Friday 9:00am to 4:30pm, and also 5:00pm to 8:00pm on Tuesday through Thursday. The Math Resource Center is considering offering some weekend hours. Please let them know if that would help your schedule.

Also, between 9am and 5pm you can e-mail for general tutoring questions.



Lane Community College is dedicated to providing inclusive learning environments. The Center for Accessible Resources coordinates all academic accomodations for students. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers due to a disability, to request assistance or accommodations, contact CAR at 541-463-5150 or

Stories To Ask Me About

I have lots of silly and inspiring stories from my years of teaching. Here are a few to ask me about:

Truth, Wisdom, and Encouragement

Anything new is hard. But the math topics we study are not themselves hard. All of them become okay, if not easy, with enough practice.

Our class is about turning free time into achievements. If you put in the time, you can pass the class. If you put in more time, you can earn a B or A. Some students with jobs and kids are too busy to put in that much time during a single term. There is no shame in needing two terms if you have many real-life responsibilities. It happens all the time.

I have taught Math 20 or 25 for forty terms. Among all those hundreds of students I have only had one who could not pass the class after putting in the required time. (She had her own circumstances.) If you have a weak math background it might take you a bit more time than if you have a strong background. But it is still just an amount of time. Study, practice, do homework, and do practice tests. You can succeed.

One reason our class is simply a matter of time is that brains experience training and growth like muscles. Research shows that people of all ages can form new brain connections, larger brain cells, and deeper brain networking. These changes happen most when doing something new—and they can be permanent improvements! However, just like building muscle, improvement only happens through effort and challenge. (Watching the instructor solve problems does not exercise your own brain.) And just like for building muscle there are proven techniques that are efficient and keep increases happening. (Think of your instructor as a "study skills coach" and the study skills as exercise techniques that prevent you from getting stuck on a low plateau.)

We start each class with homework questions. No questions are silly. You will never be the only student with that question. If you already knew all the answers, you would not be in our class!

Never be ashamed of how many mistakes you make. I assure you that by the time I earned my masters degree in mathematics I had made more math mistakes than you will make during your entire life. In fact, unless you have a family member who also pursues a graduate degree in mathematics, by the age of 21 I surely had made more math mistakes than your entire family will ever make in their entire lives. You will never catch up! Bwahahahahaha.

If you are not doing as well as you would like, I would appreciate you talking to me about it. I can probably help you brainstorm ways to become more efficient with your studying and more successful in the class.

Emergency Procedures

Phone Numbers

Bad Weather

Sign up for LaneAlert

Distance learning is more immune to weather issues, but we should still know the routines...

Sign up for LaneAlert to receive e-mails or texts about weather closures! Log into mylane. In the Home tab, locate the box labeled Personal Information. Select the Lane Alert Emergency Notification link. Select which notifications you would like to receive. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click Save Changes.

You can also listen to KLCC (FM 89.7) or KUGN (AM 590 or FM 97.9) for campus closure information. You can also check the websites of LCC and FlashAlert.

If class is canceled or you are absent, please read ahead using the class website to familiarize yourself with the upcoming topics and assignments. Then we can more quickly cover the missed material.

LCC's website has more about its weather closure policies.


Student Responsibilities

Note: LCC students are bound by the college's student rights and code of conduct. This page focuses on study skills instead of those legal issues.

(Thanks go to many for helping compile these ideas, especially Deanna Murphy, Mary Stinnett, and Don McNair.)

Ask questions! The instructor does not know what is confusing to you unless you ask questions.

Be aware of the current topic and work towards mastering it. Avoid being "sort of" proficient at important topics. Be aware of how a new topic relates to old topics.

Never be content not understanding a class topic you are expected to understand. Ask questions! Learn it promptly. Visit study sessions, schedule individualized instructor help, or get help from the MRC or friends.

comic from Baby Blues about asking questions at school, by Rick Kirkmann and Jerry Scott, distributed on November 29th 2009 by King Features Syndicate

Do not fall behind. It is expected that students might be very confused about the current topic. After all, if students already understood it we would not need to teach it! But students should not be confused about past topics. If this is your situation do not despair, but prioritize getting the help you need. Use study sessions, the MRC, the textbook, help from friends, or other resources to catch up if you notice yourself falling behind.

Do not rely on extra credit to help your grade. There are no extra credit assignments.

Plan your term wisely, and budget your time carefully. Keep aware of deadlines. Know when you will have quizzes, midterms, and the final exam. If you are in the wrong class, change by the end of the second week. If you wish to change your grading option, do so by the end of the eighth week.

Attend classes. You are paying for an education; if you choose not to show up that's your business, but it's about as smart as ordering a pizza to go and then never picking it up.

Keep in touch when absent. To help build a useful real-life habit please treat the class like a job, and keep in touch with your instructor as you should with a boss.

Be aware of your dominant learning styles. Ask for instruction that fits how you learn. For example, if you are primarily an auditory learner then after the instructor demonstrates something it might help to ask if he or she can explain it out loud a second way. If you are a visual learner, read about the topic thoroughly before we discuss it in class.

Write neatly and organize your written work. For every problem, show at least one step or write an explanatory comment. Developing your ability to communicate mathematically in writing is incredibly important for future success in math classes.

Be polite. Be helpful to classmates who do not "get" something you understand. Talking during class time should be at most a quick and quiet whisper to help a confused neighbor (but it usually would be better if the neighbor asked a question!). Wait to pack up your materials until the class is dismissed. Keep all your papers. No phones or headphones during any kind of test.

Allow the class to challenge you. Achieve your potential. Be pleasantly surprised by the height of your accomplishments.

Instructor Responsibilities

I stop and ask for questions. After doing any problem on the board I stop and ask if anyone has questions. I may even call on students, especially if a few students are dominating the discussion while others are not participating at all.

I am aware of student learning styles. I help visual learners by including some of my spoken commentary on the board (or all of it if requested). I help auditory learners by providing videos. I help kinesthetic by providing time for group work in class and also including a few games and hands-on projects each term.

I have organized class times. Each class starts by summarizing what we will be doing that day. During class times I almost always work each problem freshly (instead of display step-by-step answers written in advance). This slows me down to note-taking speed and demonstrates that success in math is about understanding concepts rather than perfection in mental arithmetic.

I do short-term review each class. For the sake of smooth continuity, each class should start with some review of the previous class. In case the questions from students do not cover the "core" of what was covered during the previous class, I will have ready a problem from the material that does this.

I help students network with each other. Students who wish may give me permission to share their name and/or e-mail or phone number with classmates so I can help students form study groups or share notes. I can also post student notes in one of the departmental glass-fronted display cases if you want to share your notes with the world.

I provide practice exams and time in class to partly go over them together. This is the most efficient way I know to do long-term review as a group. Although students are responsible for asking questions, I sometimes help by providing obvious choices of what to ask questions about.

I plan unscheduled hours. The term includes a couple days during which no new material will be presented. These are initially scheduled during the last week of class time as review days. During the term, if it becomes apparent we need to spend extra time on a topic, I will move one of the "extra" days to avoid rushing through material.

I welcome ideas from students. Sometimes it is appropriate to take a tangent from the lecture to pursue a student's "what if?" type of idea. I also welcome comments about how the curriculum or my teaching can be improved.

I have consistent expectations for "good" answers to math problems. My standards are the same for problems I do at the board, homework solutions, and answers on quizzes and tests.

I am prohibited by College policy from sharing grade information by phone or e-mail.