Course MAT199

Math Alive

Mathematics has profoundly changed our world, from the way we communicate with each other and
listen to music, to banking and computers.  This course is designed for those without college
mathematics who want to understand the mathematical concepts behind important modern applications.
The course consists of individual modules, each focusing on a particular application (e.g., digital
music, sending secure emails, and using statistics to explain, or hide, facts). The emphasis is on
ideas, not on sophisticated mathematical techniques, but there will be substantial problem-set
requirements. Students will learn by doing simple examples.

In past semesters there have been modules on the following topics:

  • Cryptography
  • Error correction & compression
  • Probability & Statistics
  • Birth, Growth, Death & Chaos
  • Graph Theory
  • Voting & Social Choice
Description of classes


  • Problem Sets count for 40% of the course grade
  • Class Participation counts 10% of the course grade.
  • The midterm paper counts for 25% of the course grade.
  • The final paper counts for the remaining 25% of the course grade.

Additional Important Notes:

  • In order to obtain a passing grade, you MUST have obtained at least half of the points on EACH component.
  • Problem sheets will be made available each week except for spring break which is set aside for work on the midterm paper. Problem sets will be collected at the beginning of the lecture on Thursday (11am) following the week when the material was covered in class (the first problem set being due on Week 2 on Thursday at 11). Exact dates will be posted on the course web page.
  • Late homework will NOT be accepted except by prior arrangement with the instructor.
  • Of the 12 problem sets to be turned in, only the highest 11 will be used to compute the grade. That is to say, the lowest problem set grade will be dropped.



More information is available at the course web page.

Who Takes This Course

Fulfills the Quantitative Reasoning requirement in an interesting way for students whose primary interests lie in non-quantitative disciplines.

Sample Material

More information is available at the course web page.