Math 114Q Course Description

From the catalog:
This course covers the basic algebra and technological tools used in the social, physical and life sciences to analyze quantitative information. The emphasis is on real world, open-ended problems that involve reading, writing, calculating, synthesizing, and clearly reporting results. Topics include descriptive statistics, linear, and exponential models. Technology used in the course includes computers (spreadsheets, internet) and graphing calculators.
That description is out of date. Here's a better one:
This course covers the skills and tools needed to work with quantitative information in daily life - numbers in the news, taxes, debt, inflation, probabilities. The emphasis is on real world, open-ended exercises that involve reading, writing, calculating, synthesizing, and clearly reporting results. Topics include back-of-an-envelope estimation, descriptive statistics, linear, and exponential models, spreadsheets and the wise use of internet resources.
If you plan to major in science or mathematics this is probably not the right course for you. It will not count toward your major, and will not prepare you for the math courses you will need. Speak to your instructor about this before you commit to taking it.

Course web page

You are looking at the course web page for section 17 which can always be found at Bookmark it in your browser, since you will be visiting often.


The current version is always available at


An appropriate score on the

Math Placement Test.

Where and when?

Class meets Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00AM - 12:15PM in McCormack M02-0616.

Hardware and Software

Much of our work this semester will use a computer for email, internet research, writing and data analysis. You will need lots of computer access for your homework. There are many labs on campus available for that. If you have your own computer, the only software applications you will need are an internet browser, a word processor, and a spreadsheet program. You probably have Microsoft Excel, but that's not required. You can use Open Office, which is freely available at All the UMass machines have the latest version of Microsoft Office, but older versions will do just fine. You may need to be careful about transferring files from school to home. Later in the semester we will be using computers in the classroom. If you have your own laptop you can bring it. I will arrange for UMass machines for those of you who don't.

The best way to move computer files from one machine to another is with a small portable disk ("flash drive", "thumb drive", "usb stick"). Buy yourself one - they're not expensive. But they are easy to lose (I have lost several) so take care of yours. You can also send yourself files as email attachments.


The good news and the bad news is that there is no textbook that covers the material in the way I have chosen to present it. Professor Maura Mast and I have written one. We will be using the latest draft, which we will provide for you (free). You can also read the instructor's manual if you wish.

We will be updating and improving the text as the semester progresses. You can also always look at the latest version, incorporating changes made while the course is going on.


Ethan Bolker

Office - Science 3 091
e-mail: eb at cs dot umb dot edu
Office hours TTh 10-11, after class and by appointment.

The best way to reach me is by email. I read it regularly pretty much all day every day. But please do not send attachments, and try not to send email meant to be read as a web page (there may be a way to tell your email software to send plain text, not html).