Math
398 -- Math in the City

Fall
2008Instructor: Petronela Radu (Office: Avery Hall 239 Phone: 472-9130)

E-mail: pradu@math.unl.edu

Office Hours: Monday 2:30 - 4:00 pm ; Tuesday 12:00 -2:00; or by appointment

Schedule of classes: MWF 1:30 -- 2:20 Oldfather Hall 204

Info about the course:

This is a modeling course offered to math and non-math majors and it is run in collaboration with local

businesses, research or administrative centers in town. The course has two components: one which revolves

around the lectures (the homeworks and the exam will be based on this material) and the second is

the project. In order to complete the course you need to perform well on each component.

The mathematical content of the course will revolve around modeling. Using simple analysis one can give

fairly good estimates to questions like: How tall can a mountain be? How many cobblers are in the United

States? How much warmer is a densely populated urban area than the surrounding countryside? (questions

solved in John Harte's books: Consider a Spherical Cow and Consider a Cylindrical Cow). In the process, we

will learn more on probablity and statistics, differential equations, linear optimization, physical sciences,

and even some programming (Maple).

The difficulty of the topics will be perceived differently by students; each of you will discover that it

depends a lot on your background, the way you think and communicate in mathematics. The discussions

will be more beneficial if you keep up with the material on a day-to-day basis. Do not hesitate to ask

questions in or outside the class whenever in doubt about an argument, notation, etc. At the end of this

course a successful student will not only have performed very well on the tasks during the semester,

but s/he will be able to approach other real life problems that involve mathematics with more confidence.

The course was awarded a University ITLE grant in 2007.

References for the course:

John Harte: Consider a Spherical Cow, A Course in Environmental Problem Solving

John Harte: Consider a Cylindrical Cow, More Adventures in Environmental Problem Solving

The Project: In partnership with the Jim Dyck and Deb Hansen from The Architectural Partnership we will focus

on qualitative and quantitative features in sustainable design. As models for our investigation we will use two

green buildings: the Earth House from the Prairie Hill Learning Center and the Nature Center from the Pioneers Park.

Outline for the project

Project Members:

The Prairie Hill Learning Center :

Dichele Jackson

Josh Lindsteadt

Sarah Scofield

Brianna Pinquoch

The Nature Center:

The Costs/Savings Group:

Jordan Dudzinski

Logan Dudzinski

Christie Shaw

Matthew Troupe

The Green Group:

Miranda Chrastil

Jennifer Determan

Rachael Farrar

Resources for the projects:

United States Green Building Council

Nebraska Green Buildings and Homes

Capital-E - Costs and Benefits for Greening America's Schools

Before writing your final essay for the class you may wish to consult the following resources:

Resource 1 Resource 2

Guidelines for grading the project:

20 points for the mathematical content - correct formulas and arguments, complete explanations

10 points for good/steady progress during the semester (accomplishing the tasks on time, meeting with your

colleagues every week to work on the project, full participation with remarks and questions during the

meetings will invariably lead to a very good turn out for your efforts)

15 points for esthetical aspect (use of graphs, diagrams, colors) and organization

5 points for presenting the novelty and the significance of the work (any research that was done on the

subject, new methods, programming skills that you learnt while working on the project, emphasize the

importance of the work).

Total: 50 points

Each project should have 3 parts. The Introduction will contain a project description, an outline of the

methods used, and the significance of the work. In the Main Body you will include the work: a set-up

of the problem, the hypothesis, the arguments, and the steps taken to solve the problem. The

conclusions will contain the final results and their interpretation. All participants in a group project will

get the same grade, so it is important that each person in the group participate fully and equally.

Homework: The homework will be announced in class and posted on the web. You are encouraged

to discuss the problems with your colleagues, but you have to write your own solutions.

Homework 1

Your grades will be posted on Blackboard.

Oral Presentations. At the end of the semester students will be required to give a presentation of their

work. This will be a collective effort such that every person will have the chance to do a slide presentation

with the results of their project. These group presentations will be scheduled on the last week of classes and

will be free to the public (faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students will be invited).

Exam: There will be a two-hour in-class exam for this course covering the topics discussed during the

lectures.

Assessment: Your final grade will be computed based on the follwing scheme.

50 % Project

25 % Exam

15 % Homeworks

10 % Oral Presentations

Honor Code: Some of your work during the course will be done individually, while some will be

collaborative. I expect you to acknowledge the help you have received from your colleagues, outside

friends, or me on homework assignments. I will assume that you will adhere to the UNL Policy on

Academic Honesty.