MATH 120 Detailed Schedule (Spring 2021)

This schedule will be periodically updated as we go along. It is subject to change, so DO NOT download a hard copy! Check it before each lecture. For the syllabus, click here.


Class: (1) Attendance  (2) Go over syllabus (3) Decimals and rounding (4) Survey and Quiz-1 (Quiz-1 is not counted towards your grade)

References: Rounding rules summarized in “Decimals and Rounding” note on Blackboard (all notes under “Course Materials”).


HW Due: (1) Read book review, What is Education For? and complete assignment R1 on it (Blackboard). All assignments due by class time. (PS: an audio interview by Caplan, the author of the education book, is available here.)

Class: (1)  Answers to R1 and discussion on “What is Education For?” (2) Results of Quiz-1 and discussion of percentages  (3) Class assignment C1 on percentages

References: pages 1-4 of ProblemSolving. (up to and including “Try it Now 2”) Also, watch videos 1,2,3,4 on percents as needed.

Lecture 3: Wed 2/3  LINEAR GROWTH

HW Due: (1) Read  essay by J. Ellenberg and answer R2 on it  (2) Assignment A1 on percentages due by class time (3) Prepare for Quiz0 (based on pages 1-4 of ProblemSolving) Watch videos 1,2,3,4 mentioned above.

Class: (1) Discuss main idea of R2 (2) Answers to A1 and C1 are online (3) Introduction to linear growth (4) Quiz0

References: pages 173-175 of the “Growth Models” chapter in textbook.

Lecture 4: Mon 2/8  LINEAR GROWTH

HW Due: (1) Read abstract of research paper “Will all Americans become overweight or obese?” and decide if you think there’s something odd about what it says.

Class: (1) Answers to Quiz0  (2) Linear growth, pages 176-177 (3) Class assignment C2 (including finding different answers for problems where multiple data points are given). Graph handout given for C2 and for Assignment A2.

References: pages 176-177 of the “Growth Models” chapter in textbook.


Lecture 5: Wed 2/10  POLYNOMIAL GROWTH

HW Due: (1) Do Quiz0R which is the make-up to Quiz0, and is optional – due by 5:30 pm (2) Try assignment A2 (due 2/15), ask questions in class if needed.

Class: (1) Questions answered on A2 (2) Introduction to online regression tool (3) Class assignment C3 on problems like Example 2 (4) Properties of polynomials (5) Finish C2 and C3 by midnight.

References: Use of online regression tool is explained in “Online Regression” note on Blackboard.

Lecture 6: Mon 2/15  POLYNOMIAL GROWTH

HW Due: (1) Assignment A2 due (2) Read article on climate change and Keeling Curve. Also read this article on carbon concentration prediction for 2100. Answer assignment R3 based on these. (3) Try assignment A3 (due 2/17) and ask questions in class if needed.

Class: (1) Questions answered on A3 (2) More explorations with online regression tool: Class assignment C4 includes fitting of Keeling Curve (3) Properties of polynomials

References: Use of online regression tool is explained in “Online Regression” note on Blackboard. Polynomials are explained in “Polynomials” note on Blackboard.

Lecture 7: Wed 2/17  EXPONENTIAL GROWTH

HW Due:(1) Assignment A3 due (2) Try assignment A3.5 (due 2/19) on properties of polynomials and ask questions in class if needed.

Class:(1) Questions answered on A3.5 (2) Twitter/Flu model in class to introduce exponential growth (3) Recursive and explicit forms (4) Class assignment C5

References: Experiments described in “Exponential Growth Experiments” note on Blackboard.

Lecture 8: Mon 2/22  EXPONENTIAL GROWTH

HW Due: (1) Assignment A3.5 due. (2)  Try assignment A4 (due 2/24) and ask questions

Class:(1) Questions answered on A4 (2) More on exponential growth (3) Logarithms and properties (4) Class assignment C6.

References: Pages 178 – 184 and 184-188 of “Growth Models” chapter of textbook. Also see note “Using Logarithms” on Blackboard.

Lecture 9: Wed 2/24  EXPONENTIAL GROWTH

HW Due:(1) Assignment A4 due on Bbd. (2) Assignment R4 due: Read material on Malthus’s theory of population growth to answer it (3) Try A5 (due 3/1) and ask questions in class.

Class: (1) Questions answered on A5 (2) Richter Scale for Earthquakes (3) video on Fibonacci numbers (4) Class assignment C8 on rabbit populations and using the sequence to get the Golden Ratio. (5) Ant vs cockroach problem if there is time.

References: See “Using Logarithms” on Blackboard,  article on Richter Scale (also available under “course materials”) and “Fibonacci Sequence” note on Blackboard.

Lecture 10: Mon 3/1  TAX RATES

HW Due: (1) Assignment A5 due (2) Assignment R5 due. For this, read article on Richter Scale for earthquakes and watch video on Fibonacci numbers again. (article is also available under “Course Materials”)

Class: (1) Tax rates (2) Assignment C9 on tax rates.

References: “Tax Rates” note under course materials on Blackboard.

Lecture 11: Wed 3/3   TAX RATES

HW Due: (1) Assignment R6 due: Read New York Times article on taxation for this. (article is also available on Blackboard under course materials). Also watch video of historian Rutger Bregman at the 2018 Davos conference (up to the 1:53 mark, though the rest is also interesting).  (2) Try assignment A7 (due 3/8) and ask questions in class

Class: (1) Discussion of A7 (2) Discussion of income inequality (3) Class assignment C10 on balancing the budget.

References: Pages 30-34 of “Problem Solving” chapter.

Lecture 12: Mon 3/8   LOGISTIC GROWTH

HW Due: (1) Assignment A7 due

Class: (1) Logistic growth and chaos, limits (2) Class assignment C11 on logistic population growth using 2 programs: logistic and cobweb. (3) How does this relate to scene from “Jurassic Park”:

References: See item “Logistic Growth” under “course materials” on Bbd, which has the PowerPoint “logistic.pptx.” You can also read pages 188-191 of “GrowthModels” chapter of textbook.

Lecture 13: Wed 3/10  RECAP OF GROWTH RATES

HW Due: (1) Assignment R6.5 due. Based on article on the overuse of the word “exponential”. (Also available in BBd under “Course Materials”). NOTE: R6.5 allows you 2 attempts, provided you submit before due date of 3/10, at 5:30 pm. (2) Try assignment A8 on logistic population growth (due 3/22) and ask questions.

Class: (1) Questions on A8 (2) Recap of  Growth Rates (3) Includes new material: Keeling curve revisited – graph is exponential if looked over many thousands of years (4) Was growth at start of AIDS epidemic exponential? Enter data from page 2 of reference (note: you have to scroll to page 2) (5) Simple and compound interest. Student loan refinancing  (6) Classwork C11.5

References: Bbd note on “Growth Rates Recap”  for recap and new material. See also pages 197-200 of “Finance” chapter of textbook for interest. For assignment A8, refer to C11 and materials under “Logistic Growth” on Bbd.

SPRING BREAK 3/14 – 3/21

Lecture 14: Mon 3/22  SAMPLE MID-TERM TEST

HW Due: (1)  Assignment A8 due. (2) Extra Credit assignment E2 (ants vs cockroaches) due. (3) Prepare for mid-term test. Syllabus is all of Part A, covered in Lectures 1 through 13. See review list on Bbd (look under Course Documents, “reviews and grading”)

Class: Sample mid-term test, taken in class.

References: See syllabus and review list in “Mid-term Review” under “Course Materials” on Bbd.

Lecture 15: Wed 3/24  MID-TERM TEST

HW Due: (1) Prepare for mid-term test

Class: Mid-term test

References: Sample mid-term from Lecture 14, “Mid-term Review” on Bbd.

Lecture 16: Mon 3/29  PROBABILITY

HW Due:

Class: (1) Discussion of test (2) Video from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (time on video: 1:30 to 6:18) (3) Experiments with coin toss simulators and (4) Definition of probability and examples (5) Class assignment C12 on probability (use online program for dice throws)

References: Pages 251-262 of “Probability_notes” on Bbd.

Lecture 17: Wed 3/31  PROBABILITY

HW Due: (1) Read Washington Post article on probabilities in diagnosis (also available under “course materials” in PDF form) and answer R7. (2) Try assignment A9 (due 4/5) and ask questions.

Class: (1) Answer questions on A9. (2) Twitter campaign revisited – probabilistic model. Also gist of article on COVID spread from the Atlantic. (3) Monty Hall Problem (4) Class assignment C13 on probability includes rules of probability (see page 279 – 285 of  the Probability chapter of our textbook) (5) Example from page 290-291 of Probability chapter of our textbook and discussion of Washington Post article (also available under “course materials”).

References: Pages 251-262 of “Probability_notes” on Bbd. Also, pages 279-285 and 290-291 of the Probability chapter of our textbook.

Lecture 18: Mon 4/5  EXPECTATION OR MEAN

HW Due: (1) Assignment A9 due (2) Try assignment A10 (due 4/7) and ask questions

Class: (1) Answer questions on A10 (2) Mean or expectation of a probability distribution (3) Expectation and the question of “should you take the bet?” Deal or No Deal (first segment, upto about 4:30) (4) Class assignment C14 on betting.

References: Pages 262-265 and pages 277-279 of “Probability_notes” on Bbd, pages 305-308 of the Probability chapter of our textbook.


Lecture 19: Wed 4/7   NORMAL DISTRIBUTION

HW Due: (1) Assignment A10 due. (2) Try assignment A11 (due 4/13) and ask questions.

Class: (1) Answer questions on A11. (2) Watch video1 and video2 on Galton Board (3) Class assignment C15: analysis using coin toss to show how Normal Distribution emerges

References: For sampling and normal distributions, see pages 265-281 of “Probability_notes” on Bbd.

Lecture 20: Mon 4/12  NORMAL DISTRIBUTION

HW Due: A11

Class: (1) Properties of Normal Distributions (2) Demo of mean and standard deviation using test statistics Also look at desmos animation, where mean is “b” and standard deviation is “a” (3) Class assignment C16 on normal distribution.

References: Pages 265-281 of “Probability_notes” on Bbd.

Lecture 21: Wed 4/14  NORMAL DISTRIBUTION

HW Due:(1) Watch video and do reading on opinion polls, homework R8 based on this due. (2) Try assignment A12 (due on 4/19) and ask questions.

Class: (1) Answer questions on A12 (2) Opinion polls and confidence Intervals  (3) Demo of how opinion polls work (4) Class assignment C17 on opinion polls

References: “Confidence” note under “Opinion polls and confidence intervals” (Course Materials).

Lecture 22: Mon 4/19  CORRELATION

HW Due: (1) Assignment A12 due.

Class: (1) Correlation and relation to linear regression. (2) Difference between correlation and causation (3) Spurious Correlations (4) Diet Soda study (5) Class assignment C18 on correlation

References: Read website on correlation.  Another alternative is this website but only read through Figure 9. Use online regression tool.


HW Due: (1) R9 is due:  Read excerpt from “Weapons of Math Destruction” and answer R9 based on this. The reading is available under “Library Reserves” under “Course Materials”(2) Try homework A13 (due 4/26) and ask questions. (3) Optional: Read article on computer grading: (another article is (PDFs are under “Optional Articles” under “Course Materials”)

Class: (1) Questions answered on A13 (2) Discussion of “Weapons of Math Destruction” (3) Intro to machine learning (4) Class assignment C19 based on discussions: ethical use of probabilities.

References: Read “Proxies” note under “Course Materials” on Blackboard. Be sure to watch all the videos provided as links.


HW Due: (1) A13 due (2) R10 is due, based on articles on gerrymandering: article 1 and article 2 (also available under Bbd “Course Materials”). Also read article 3, which will be needed for class discussion, and on which R11 will be due on 4/28.

Class: (1) Gerrymandering (2) Class assignment C20 based on this

References: articles 1,2,3 above. Also note on “Gerrymandering” under “Course Materials.”


HW Due: (1) R11, based on article 3, was due today, but will now be due on 5/3. The reading will also be needed for class discussion.

Class: (1) Voting paradoxes (2) Class assignment C21 based on this (3) If there is time, we will do C22 as well.

References: Pages 35-42 of “Voting Theory” chapter in textbook.


HW Due: (1) R11 due. (2) Read USA Today article on ranked choice voting and the one on how the Best Picture Oscar is chosen. These are also available under “Course Materials.” R12 is based on this – it will be due 5/5.

Class: (1) More voting methods, ranked choice voting (2) Class assignment C22 on this (due by midnight) (3) Poll in class using ranked choice voting

References: Pages 35-42 of “Voting Theory” chapter in textbook.


HW Due: (1) R12 due. (2) Try Assignment A14 (due on 5/10) and ask questions in class

Class:  (1) Answer questions on A14.  (2) Psych Experiment (Wason Selection Task) (3) C23 (due by midnight)



HW Due: (1) A14 is due.

Class: (1) Various things, including how grade will be determined. (2) Bonus R13 in class: fill out surveys including assessment quiz. (Bonus only for filling out all surveys.) (3) Review for final.


Lecture 29: Wed 5/12    FINAL #1

HW Due: Review material for sample final

Class: Final #1 taken in class. (If you like the score, you don’t need to take final #2).

References: See syllabus and review in “Final Review” under “Course Materials” on BBd. Also, check out sample mid-term and mid-term.

FINAL #2 (optional): Mon 5/17 

Time: 6-8 pm

References:  Final #1 from lecture 29. “Final Review” on Bbd.