Math and Science in the Media and Popular Culture

In this Freshman Seminar, we will discuss the latest developments of issues related to mathematics and science in the media and in popular culture. In this context we will focus on what math and science is, strategies for success in these fields, diversity issues, ethical considerations, public perceptions, and applications to daily tasks. Students will present a short oral report from an article of their choice, and discussion and debate will be encouraged when complex issues arise. For example, we may discuss breakthroughs such as human cloning and genetic engineering of food and animals, debate Lawrence Summers' comments about the innate ability of women in mathematics, and explore articles about whether we still need to learn multiplication tables, the representations of math and science on television, and the relationship to American competitiveness and the global economy. We will also reflect about math and science connections in our daily lives and on this campus. This course will be linked with Calculus (Mat 1110).
Prerequisite: Students must score 13 or better on the Calculus Readiness placement exam.
Professor: Dr. Sarah Greenwald (Freshman Seminar) and Dr. Katrina Palmer (Math)
Mon/Wed 2-3:15 in OLC 1116

Our section is modeled after the general education taskforce report:
  1. Utilize at least two different modes of inquiry We will use the scientific method, mathematical thinking, and statistical thinking and analyses as our different modes of inquiry.
  2. Use engaging pedagogies and involve students in a shared process of inquiry Students will choose many of the topics we will cover. The seminar will incorporate various pedagogies, including group work, individual work, class discussion, student presentations, guest speakers...
  3. Involve students in problem-based learning with a research component ... a library component and academic integrity We will engage in a variety of research projects, on current topics in mathematics and science, on living scientists, and on a final project, and library research and academic integrity will be addressed as a fundamental part of the course.
  4. Help students make connections with faculty, other students, their courses, and the university The campus tour, guest speakers, icebreaker activities, time management activities, and many other activities are designed to do just that.
    Include an intentional focus on community building (to ensure students build an academic community, make a connection with faculty members, and feel a sense of belonging) Icebreaker activities, our class slide show, attending the GIC and convocation together will help to build our social community. Guest speakers, projects, etc, will help to build the academic community.
    Foster out-of-class engagement and incorporate some level of co-curricular involvement We will attend convocation together and each student will attend at least two additional out-of-class university sponsored experiences, with at least one of those related to mathematics or science. The class may decide to use our money to see a play together. Each week, Tori will give a summary of upcoming events on campus, including colloquium in mathematics and science and mathematics and science club activities, and students might chose to volunteer in a mathematics or science tutoring lab. See Mathematics and Science Activities.
    Help students appreciate interconnectedness of knowledge and the disciplines and integration of coursework In the process of our class discussions and activities we will explore the connections.
  5. Include an element of "how to do college" [including] explicit support/expectations for how to meet level of challenge and include exposure to appropriate campus resources We will take a campus resources tour, and discuss time management and study suggestions.
  6. Utilize a Peer Leader Tori Ajemian is our Peer Leader.
  7. Be linked to at least one other course We are linked to Calculus 1 (Mat 1110) with Dr. Palmer.
  8. Help students understand the purpose of college and general education We will examine these issues.
  9. Require the use of the Summer Reading book We will attend convocation together and will also discuss connections from the book or convocation speech to science and mathematics.
  10. NOT be narrowly focused or an introduction to a specific discipline Exposure to science and mathematics faculty across campus, use of the New York Times Science Times and other interdisciplinary topics and perspectives will ensure the interdisciplinary nature of this course.
The taskforce report also lists the following general education goals for the seminar. We will satisfy these during the course of the semester: Freshman Seminar has been designated as a Writing, Computing, and Cross Disciplinary course, so you will receive credit for these designators.

Required Resources

  • POWER Learning by Bob Feldman (Rental text)
  • New Connections: A Handbook for Freshman Seminar by Friedman, Marsh, and Brantz (available in the ASU Bookstore Paperbacks for purchase)
  • Summer Reading book
  • Tuesday edition of the New York Times (available for purchase in the ASU Bookstore)
  • access to a web-browser and to campus pipeline at least once every 48 hours
  • Where to Get Help

  • Dr. Sarah's Office Hours 326 Walker Hall, 262-2363, I am always happy to help you in office hours. An open door means that I am on the floor somewhere, so come look for me to let me know you are there.
  • WebCT Bulletin Board Postings This is the easiest way to ask a math question outside of class and office hours. I prefer that you use office hours since it is easier to discuss material in person, but if you can not make them, then this is a great alternative. Sometimes I will respond to questions of interest with a message to the entire class, so you are responsible for reading all posts by me. I usually check the posts at least once a day, including the weekends. Check the main web page and the bulletin board at least twice a week.
  • Walker Math Help Faculty and students answer questions.
  • Peer Leader Tori Ajemian can be contacted at

    Assignment Types and Grades

  • Homework and Participation 30% You are expected to contribute to discussions in a meaningful way and actively engage the material. You must be prepared for each class and check the main web page regularly for hw. Satisfactory completion of these kinds of baseline activities will result in a participation grade of 25/30. Asking and answering thought provoking questions, coming up with creative ways of thinking about the material, and explaining the material to others are some other examples of positive participation that will increase your grade. On the other hand, actions that illustrate you are not taking the class or the activities seriously or that detract from the professional classroom environment will result in a lower participation grade. Attendance is required at ALL classes and outside activities, and will form a portion of your grade. If you must be late to a class, or must leave early, then do still attend.
  • Projects 50% Work must be turned in on or before the due date because solutions will be posted. If there is some reason you must miss a class, then obtain the assignment from the web pages. The lowest project will be dropped - save this for emergencies. If all of your work is turned in on time and you have received at least a grade of 75% for all work, then you will receive +1 added onto your final average.
  • Final Project 20% No makeups allowed.
    * Work may occur during the last week of classes. Accommodations in the determination of your final grade will be made for extenuating circumstances that are documented to prevent you from completing work early/on time.

    When writing up work, be sure to give acknowledgment where it is due. Submitting someone else's work as your own (PLAGIARISM) is a serious violation of the University's Academic Integrity Code.