Math 103: Nature of Mathematics, Spring 2019

Instructor: Dr. Brant Jones
Email: jones3bc at jmu dot edu
Office: 325 Roop Hall
Section 0003 class meetings: MWF 2:30 - 3:20 pm in Burruss Hall Room 238
Class webpage:
Office hours: MWF 10:00-11:50 in Roop 325, or by appointment.

Section 0003 final exam: Wednesday, May 1 from 1:00 - 3:00 pm in our usual room.


We face decisions in life, from how to best spend our time and money, to taking a position on a political or business issue with complicated trade-offs. In this course, we'll learn how to use mathematical modeling to help make more effective decisions.

We'll warm up with a study of strategy in games, where the choices for our actions are finite and very clearly defined. Then we'll learn a bit about how to reason with probabilities, including some classic paradoxes. Finally, we will discuss financial strategies to evaluate different courses of action where time and money are intertwined.

Notes for independent reading will be provided. This class satisfies part of the JMU general education cluster three requirements.

There are several components to the grade you will receive in this class:

You will be allowed to bring one page of notes to the exams.


I do not accept late assignments nor allow makeups for missed assignments or exams. You will receive a zero score if you do not communicate in a timely fashion why you are missing the assignment.

Final grades

Your final grade is computed from a raw percentage based on points from the exams and assignments as described above. I adjust the distribution of raw percentages to a letter grade, but this adjustment will never result in a lower grade than you would receive under the standard A = 90-100%, B = 80-89%, ... scale. Individual assignments are not "curved" in any way. You should be able to see your scores as the semester progresses on your JMU Canvas account. As a policy, I do not generally assign WP or WF grades.

Honor Code

In this course, you will be encouraged to discuss problems and study with other students in order to enhance your own learning and understanding of the material. However, all individual assignments, quizzes and exams must reflect your own work, and you are expected to abide by the JMU Honor Code.


Please take advantage of office hours, and feel free to drop my office at other times. If I'm in my office, I'll be happy to discuss the course with you. If you cannot make the regular office hours, email me so that we can schedule an appointment.

JMU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandate reasonable accommodations be provided for students with documented disabilities. If you have a disability and may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodations, please contact me early in the semester so that I can provide or facilitate provision of accommodations you may need. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Office of Disability Services, the designated office on campus to provide services for students with disabilities. The office is located in Wilson Hall, Room 107 and you may call 540-568-6705 for more information.

Please see for common JMU academic policies regarding: Attendance, Academic Honesty, Adding/Dropping Courses, Disability Accommodations, Inclement Weather, and Religious Accommodations.

Catalog information

MATH 103. The Nature of Mathematics.

Goals of the Course
To develop an understanding of the logical structure and style of mathematics by:
a) Using reason in an orderly, cogent fashion.
b) Writing clear, well organized solutions to problems.
c) Evaluating critically and using mathematical definitions.
d) Constructing proofs of mathematical theorems using direct and indirect arguments.
e) Evaluating critically the quality of mathematical proof by considering such things as completeness, assumptions, precision, and flaws.
Structure refers to the foundations of mathematics and to the techniques used to build on those foundations. Style refers to the clarity, elegance, efficiency, and precision desirable in mathematical expression.

Nature of the Course Content
3 credits. Offered fall and spring.
Topics such as geometry, computing, algebra, number theory, history of mathematics, logic, probability, statistics, modeling and problem solving intended to give students insight into what mathematics is, what it attempts to accomplish and how mathematicians think.