01:640:103 - Topics in Mathematics for the Liberal Arts

Textbook:  For current textbook please refer to our Master Textbook List page

Math 103 is a popular course taken by many undergraduates not majoring in the mathematical, physical, or life sciences, to satisfy a quantitative course requirement for graduation. It is intended to cohere well with students' liberal arts and social science interests, by investigating applications of mathematics, much of it developed only relatively recently, in contexts which are relevant to individuals who do not necessarily have strong interests in the sciences.

These topics include the mathematics of voting (when there are 3 or more candidates in an election, how do you decide who should win, and how can we define suitable notions of "fair" and "unfair" outcomes?), weighted voting systems (how much power does each party really have in a parliamentary system, or each nation on the UN Security council, or each state in the US electoral college?), the mathematics of apportionment (how many congressional seats is each state entitled to, and what mathematical difficulties can result from apportioning them?), fair division of goods (how can co-owners of a store location but with different retail businesses divide the year fairly? if siblings inherit an estate, what is a fair way to divide it?), financial mathematics and exponential growth (if you invest $100 every month at a certain interest rate, how much will be there in 30 years?), Euler circuits (what is an efficient way to drive over every road in your town, e.g. if you're plowing out the roads after a snowstorm?), the Traveling Salesman Problem (given a table of airfares, how do you find the cheapest itinerary if you must visit 10 cities in some order?), and the mathematics of networks (to build the cheapest possible high speed rail system linking a certain group of cities, which pairs of cities should have direct links built between them?). You will not be left wondering, "what does this have to do with real life?" The course is also intended to reinforce underlying mathematical skills.

Hybrid sections

In fall 2017, there will be six hybrid and three traditional sections of the course, so that students can choose the format which is best for their learning style. The hybrid sections implement the flipped classroom model, so that students first learn the subject matter, on their own time, from carefully working through a series of video lecture segments posted on Sakai interspersed with practice problems. The weekly class meeting will follow up on the students' online work, beginning with a quiz on that work, and proceeding with a highly interactive workshop session. A hybrid section has only half the in-person class time of a regular section, but this does not mean that it requires half as much work! On the contrary, the hybrid format requires a certain extra discipline, to keep up with the online component of the course. But it does have the advantage that students can rewatch the videos as often as they need to, and can also benefit from a more interactive classroom experience.

Each year there is typically an SAS Honors section of Math 103 whose topic varies from year to year. This Web page deals only with the non-honors version of the course.

SAS Core Curriculum Learning Goals

Math 103 fulfills both the Quantitative Information (QQ) and Mathematical or Formal Reasoning (QR) learning goals of the SAS Core Curriculum:
QQ: Formulate, evaluate, and communicate conclusions and inferences from quantitative information.
QR: Apply effective and efficient mathematical or other formal processes to reason and to solve problems.

General syllabus

Spring 2016

Please note that ultimate authority over the precise schedule of topics, quiz policy, and other details rests with the individual instructor. The syllabus distributed in class and/or posted on the Sakai site for an individual section takes precedence over the one posted on this web site.

Please note that Math 106 (Mathematics of Money) is another course with the same prerequisite as 103, satisfying the same graduation requirements, and intended for the same liberal arts audience. Students who wish to take 103 but find all sections closed should consider taking 106 instead. Indeed, students are welcome to take both courses if they wish.

Schedule of Sections

Disclaimer: Posted for informational purposes only

This material is posted by the faculty of the Mathematics Department at Rutgers New Brunswick for informational purposes. While we try to maintain it, information may not be current or may not apply to individual sections. The authority for content, textbook, syllabus, and grading policy lies with the current instructor.

Information posted prior to the beginning of the semester is frequently tentative, or based on previous semesters. Textbooks should not be purchased until confirmed with the instructor. For generally reliable textbook information—with the exception of sections with an alphabetic code like H1 or T1, and topics courses (197,395,495)—see the textbook list.