Topics, policies, and grading, MATH 5020/7020 Fall 2016

MATH 5020/7020 Fall 2016, University of Georgia, Dr. Beckmann

The course syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations announced to the class by the instructor may be necessary.

Required text: Mathematics for Elementary Teachers with Activities, fourth edition, (monkey figures on the cover) by Sybilla Beckmann, published by Pearson. Any version, electronic, looseleaf, or hardcover, is fine as long as you will have the Class Activities available with you in class to work from.  The electronic version of the book is available at using the instructor’s course ID beckan75917. More detailed information on obtaining the electronic version of the book is here.

Course topics: Numbers and the base-ten system (chapter 1); fractions (chapter 2), addition and subtraction (chapter 3, with a focus on fractions); multiplication (chapter 4); multiplication of fractions, decimals, and negative numbers (chapter 5); division (chapter 6). The course focuses on the arithmetic taught in the middle grades and goes deeply into this material.

Course objectives: To strengthen and deepen knowledge and understanding of arithmetic, how it is used to solve a wide variety of problems, and how it leads to algebra. To reason about quantities to explain why various procedures from arithmetic work. To communicate clearly about mathematics, both orally and in writing. To explore and explain mathematical phenomena. To experience that many problems can be solved in a variety of ways. 

Class work: Because our interactive work in class is an important component of this course, class attendance is required. In the event of an illness or emergency, please contact Dr. Beckmann as soon as possible. Students with four or more unexcused absences may be dropped from the course. Please turn off cell phones and devote your full attention during class.

Writing Intensive Program: This section of MATH 5020/7020 is part of the Writing Intensive Program. The Writing Intensive Program is designed to help courses teach the writing process within various disciplines. Although you have taken English courses on writing, and although these courses will help you with all your writing, mathematical writing has its own special features. In mathematics, we seek coherent, logical explanations, in which the desired conclusion is deduced from starting assumptions.

Our graduate teaching assistant, Matt Just, has been trained by the Writing Intensive Program to help you learn to write good mathematical explanations. Think of Matt as a coach, who will give you feedback to help you improve your explanations over the course of the semester.

Why are we emphasizing writing in this course? To be an effective teacher of mathematics, you need to understand the mathematical ideas you will teach well and beyond the level at which you will discuss them with your students. By writing your initial thoughts and then revising your writing to produce clear, thorough, well thought out explanations, you will have a chance to develop and refine your understanding of the ideas you will teach. Because of the benefits of writing, we think that the writing intensive format is a perfect fit for this course.

Assignments: All assignments will be posted on the Assignments and Announcements page, which is also linked to the main course webpage. You should expect to spend at least 6 to 9 hours outside of class each week. If illness or emergency prevents you from turning in your work on time, please let us know as soon as possible.

You are encouraged to form study groups and to work on homework assignments with your classmates. (Perhaps some of you might like to form facebook groups.) Of course, you must adhere to UGA's Academic Honesty Policy. Therefore, always write your homework up on your own, using your own words to express the ideas you have discussed with others. It is not academically honest to simply read someone else’s work and then put it in your own words. Instead, when you work with others, you must participate in the development and refinement of the ideas by discussing them. All partners should “give and take” in the discussion. It is not academically honest to allow others to copy your work.

There will be several different types of assignments:

  • Reading: Expect to have daily reading assignments. The reading is designed to help you shore up the ideas discussed in class and be ready for the topic to be discussed in the next class. Consider using the effective method of retrieval practice in which you read a passage (without writing notes) and then write down what you remember, then reread the passage (again without writing notes), and then write down what you remember once again.
  • Preparation for class: Expect daily assignments to prepare for the next class. These assignments may ask you to work through some Class Activities in the Activities portion of the textbook and to be prepared to discuss your ideas with classmates in class. Sometimes you will be asked to post your ideas on e-Learning Commons so that selected students can be invited to share different approaches.
  • Practice Exercises: Each section in the textbook has a collection of practice exercises whose solutions are in the book. You should work these exercises first without looking at the solutions and then read the solutions and compare them with your own. It’s a good idea to discuss exercises with a study group. Quiz and test problems will often be similar to the practice exercises. You do not hand in these exercises.
  • Writing Assignments: Expect daily “writing assignments,” which you will post on e-Learning Commons in the Writing Assignments folder. Your work should be typed or neatly written. If you like to do your work by hand, then scan it and upload it. (Note that TurboScan is an inexpensive scanning app for that might come in handy.)

Some assignments will ask you to reflect on ideas we discussed in class and/or that were in the assigned reading and will ask you to express, explain, and summarize them in your own words. Other assignments will ask you to solve a problem and explain the solution. Mathematics requires precise language, so attend closely to the way you express your ideas. Explain all your solutions unless there are explicit instructions not to. During the semester, Matt will guide you to improve your explanations and to be more precise and clear with mathematical language. We may ask you to revise and resubmit your work to receive credit. Revisions must be completed within a few days. Some exemplary postings may be made public to the class.

Grading: In grading your work we will be looking for the extent to which it meets the following criteria:

  • The work is factually correct, or nearly so, with only minor, inconsequential flaws.
  • The work addresses the specific question or problem that was posed. It is focused, detailed, and precise. Key points are emphasized. There are no irrelevant or distracting points.
  • The work could be used to teach a student: either a child or another college student, whichever is most appropriate.
  • The work is clear, convincing, and logical. An explanation should be convincing to a skeptic and should not require the reader to make a leap of faith.
  • Clear, complete sentences are used. Mathematical terms and symbols are used correctly. If applicable, supporting pictures, diagrams, and/or equations are used appropriately and as needed.
  • The work is coherent.

How your grade will be calculated:

We will grade all your work on a 10 point scale, and we will assign points as follows.

# of points



10 points

very good

Correct work that is thorough and carefully done

9 points


Work that contains only a minor flaw

8 points


Good, solid work that is largely correct

7 points


Work that has merit but also has some shortcomings

0 points


Work that has has significant shortcomings, or no attempt

Your course grade will be based on tests, quizzes, writing assignments, activity assignments, and a comprehensive final exam. The tests and final exam will emphasize problems that require you to write clear, complete, logical explanations.

In-class and take-home tests and quizzes




Final exam


Letter grades are expected to be assigned as follows.

for scores from

up to

letter grade


10 or above

A if the final exam is A- or above; otherwise A-



A- if the final exam is B+ or above; otherwise B+






















below 5.0



Observers: You may notice that some students never turn in any work and never take any tests! How do they get away with it? These students are graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are observing the class in preparation for eventually teaching courses for prospective elementary or middle grades teachers.

MATH 7020: If you are enrolled in MATH 7020 you will need to do extra work, such as a project or a paper. Please see Dr. Beckmann.

As a University of Georgia student, you have agreed to abide by the University’s academic honesty policy, “A Culture of Honesty,” and the Student Honor Code. All academic work must meet the standards described in “A Culture of Honesty” found at: Lack of knowledge of the academic honesty policy is not a reasonable explanation for a violation. Questions related to course assignments and the academic honesty policy should be directed to the instructor.