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Math 20 Syllabus
 Winter Term 2020 Will Be Awesome 

Class Information

LCC home

Monday/Wednesday noon to 1:20 pm, Friday noon to 12:50 pm

Building 16, Room 184

4 credits, 3.5 lecture hours per week, 8 hours homework per week

CRN 30411

Math 20 logo

Instructor Information

David Van Slyke


work email:

cell phone: (541) 357-7551

office: Building 16 Room 261

Office hours on Fridays from 1pm to 2pm 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

This course 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. In-person study groups are best, of course, but doing homework together on speaker-phone or computer voice chat is also usuallly better than working alone.

Official Course Description

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.


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 has a due date one week after we finish discussing its material.

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.

Time Needed

Math 20 has a lot of homework. Expect to spend 4 to 8 hours each week doing homework if you have an average Math 10 foundation.

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.

Bittinger textbook cover

The recommended textbook is Basic Mathematics by Marvin L. Bittinger. Both the 12th Edition and the 13th Edition are available online for less than bookstore prices. Avoid more expensive versions with an "online access code".

Optionally, the bookstore sells a student's solutions manual with step-by-step solutions to all of Bittinger's odd problems. There is also an optional book: Math! A Four Letter Word, by Sembera and Hovis.

Together our class lectures, this class website, textbook, and the OER textbooks linked in the online lecture notes provide four different ways of understanding each math topic.

A key task as a Math 25 student 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!

Office Hours

Visiting Office Hours can serve several different purposes.

You do not need to bring questions to Office Hours. It can be nice to simply study quietly while knowing that help is available. That help can look like a few things:


By LCC policy, missing all classes 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 deadline for adding a class without an extra fee is 11:59 pm on the Monday of the second week of class.

The last day for schedule changes (including the grade option of letter grade versus pass/fail) is Sunday, September 30th.

The Winter term holidays are Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, January 20th) and Presidents Day (Monday, February 17th).

Our final happens in our normal classroom on Monday during finals' week, starting at noon (our normal class start time) and lasting for 110 minutes.

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.


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 Math Resource Center (MRC) provides drop-in tutoring, online tutoring, calculator help, a quiet study room, a computer study room, and a place to check out the DVDs provided by textbook publishers. It also proctors make-up tests, but be warned that its test-taking procedures are very strict.



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 visit room 19/263A. Please be aware that any accessible tables and chairs in this room should remain available for authorized students who find that standard classroom seating is not usable.

Other Issues Regarding Stuff in Class

You are welcome to use a cell phone calculator, except on the final exam (when cell phone use is not allowed).

You are welcome to refer to a tablet or laptop during lectures, but may not use these during tests. Please do not use any computer, tablet, or phone for personal communications during class time.

Food is not allowed in our classroom. Drinks are allowed in containers that try to be spill-proof.

Children that are not disruptive may visit class on non-test days. I have toys in my office to keep small children occupied while helping a parent during office hours.

Lecture and discussion are not formal. You may leave the room quietly without permission. When you have something to contribute, raising your hand might help me guide the flow of conversation and ensure all students have a chance to talk—or it might not be important to do. When speaking without raising your hand, please be polite and socially aware.

Although it has never been an issue in my many years of math teaching, please know that LCC instructors are Mandatory Reporters who cannot extend confidentiality to threats of imminent harm or death to one's self or others.

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 in Math 25 are not themselves hard. All of them become okay, if not easy, with enough practice.

Math 25 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 thirty-nine 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 Math 25 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 Math 25.

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 your score on a quiz is ever not as high as you would like, I would appreciate you talking to me after class or coming to office hours. I cannot require it. You're not in high school. But if you are ever not as successful as you want, I can probably help you brainstorm ways to become more efficient with your studying and more successful on your final exam.

Emergency Procedures

Phone Numbers

Evacuation Routes

Follow instructor’s directions to exit the building or follow the exit signs. Walk, don’t run. Move away from the building.

Public Phones

Building 16 has phones in the southeast and northwest second floor lobbies, outside rooms 202 and 226. Please familiarize yourself with their locations.

Bad Weather

Sign up for LaneAlert

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 roads are icy or snowy, depart early and drive very carefully. Watch for black ice in shady locations on freezing temperature days. Please do not call LCC or KLCC.

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 office hours, schedule special office hours, 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 office hours, 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 does something during lecture 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 lecture 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. During lecture and 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 linking to videos within my online lecture notes. 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 lectures. Each class starts by summarizing what we will be doing that day. Lecture notes are available online. During class 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 lecture. In case the questions from students do not cover the "core" of what was covered during the previous lecture, 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 plan less-scheduled time. A few classes will deliberately have lecture end early to give students some time to get started on homework in groups during class time. Please do not abandon class early! The topics for which I do this are ones for which the homework generates worthwhile questions. During these times of group work I will pause working to share things on the board.

I help students learn note-taking. Learning about note-taking during a math lecture is not an official part of the curriculum, but it is something many students need to work on. Note-taking for math is different than note-taking for other subjects.

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, especially during office hours, 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.