Algebra for Calculus

Professor Hlas
hlascs (@)
Drop-in hours / Zoom appointments

Course Information

Section 012: MTWTh 1-1:50 (HHH 231)
Section 013: MTWTh 4-4:50 (HHH 301)

This course is designed for students pursuing degree programs that require calculus. Topics covered include: algebraic concepts, techniques, and applications including polynomial and rational expressions, linear and quadratic equations, complex numbers, inequalities, absolute value, functions and graphs, exponential and logarithmic functions, systems of equations and inequalities, and zeros of polynomials.

Course objectives will be achieved by:

  1. Group work -- Working in groups provides insight to mathematical problems and different ways of thinking than your own. Think of your group as a mini-classroom. How can you guide group members to an answer without showing them how to solve it?
  2. Conceptual understanding -- Before we can become proficient, we must first understand why the mathematics works, which will aid in the remembering of important mathematical procedures.
  3. Procedural fluency -- Improvement of algebraic skills will be necessary in order to focus on upper-levels of mathematics. This will be done by focusing on increasingly faster and more efficient techniques.

This course meets the following Liberal Education Learning Goals: creative and critical thinking, and effective communication.

Required Materials

Connally, E., Hughes-Hallett, D., Gleason, A.M. et al. (2007). Functions modeling change: A preparation for calculus,third edition. John Wiley & Sons. (ISBN: 978-0-471-79303-8)


Graphing calculator (i.e., TI-84). Calculators with computer algebra systems (e.g., TI-89 and TI-92) and cell phones will not be allowed on exams.

Math Lab - free mathematics help (

Tips for a successful semester

The course schedule is your friend. I update this before and after class to make sure it is always as current as possible.


In this course, we expect you to master the material at a variety of levels: basic skills, applications, and conceptual understanding. The homework assignments will focus on mastery of basic skills. Quizzes and projects will test your conceptual understanding and your ability to apply what you have learned. Exams will test all three: skills, applications, and concepts.

In order to maximize your scores, it is important to clearly and accurately show your mathematical thinking when working on problems. If any concerns arise regarding grading, please contact the instructor.

Grading scale (by percentage):
A ≥ 92.5; A- ≥ 90; B+ ≥ 87.5; B ≥ 82.5; B- ≥ 80; C+ ≥ 77.5; C ≥ 72.5; C- ≥ 70; D ≥ 60; F ≥ 0

Final Exam (20%)

This course uses a comprehensive, common final with the other sections. Other details have not yet been finalized with these sections. Remember that university policy does not allow students to take an examination prior to its scheduled time, so plan accordingly.

Exams (30%)

"To assess conceptual knowledge, researchers often use novel tasks … Because children do not already know a procedure for solving the task, they must rely on their knowledge of relevant concepts to generate methods for solving the problems." (Rittle-Johnson, Seigler, Alibali, 2001, p. 347). Assessments are a part of the learning experience so will require mastery of class material and the ability to apply class material to new situations.

Exams are in-person and individually completed. Each exam focuses on more recent material, but mathematics is cumulative so expect to see previous material again. Exams allow for a note sheet (1 page, 1-sided, handwritten), approved calculators and other class manipulatives.

There will be three in-class exams. All exams will be comprehensive, but will focus on more recent material. For each exam, one side of an 8.5x11 piece of paper is allowed for notes. These notes must be handwritten and turned in with your exam. Calculators will be allowed on all exams, but calculator work will not be accepted for credit. Exams will be weighted 5%, 10%, and 15% for the lowest to highest scores, respectively.

Group quizzes (20%)

During most weeks a group quiz will be given. Only one quiz per group will be scored with each group member receiving the same score. It is expected that all group members contribute to quiz responses and that all answers are fully explained.

MapleTA homework (20%)

MapleTA is a computer software that creates unique mathematics questions and can evaluate correct answers. Most MapleTA homework assignments will have a week for completion and be worth 10 points. Assignments may be retaken as many times as necessary to get a desired scored. Only the best score will be recorded.

Best score (10%)

The highest score (exam 1-3, final exam, quiz, or homework) will be weighted an extra 10% to allow for individual differences between students.

Suggested homework (0%)

After each class, suggested book problems will be posted on canvas. These problems will not be graded, but will be the basis for class discussion and weekly quizzes.

Tips for a successful semester

The course schedule is your friend. I continually update it to make sure it is always as current as possible. All class activities, handouts, and daily recommendations should be listed. If something is missing or unclear, please let me know so I can make improvements for the benefit of everyone in the class. Speaking of calendars, the one thing I wish I knew as a college student is to schedule study time for each class. This strategy ensures time is spent on each classes in productive ways.

Mathematics is a form of abstract thinking that is better learned through active participation. In one study (Deslauriers et al., 2019), students were either taught via lecture or through active learning. Students in the lecture class felt like they learned more, but they actually scored lower than the active learning group. Active learning means that class will often begin with a challenging problem. During class the students and the instructor will work together to solve the problem(s) and learn some mathematics along the way (Liljedahl, 2017; Brown et al., 2014; Ericsson, 2006).

One way to actively engage with mathematics is to try homework or Webwork before class discussion on the topic. This strategy helps inform your learning during class time because you will have an idea of what you know and what you still need to learn (Pan & Sana, 2021; Brown et al., 2014).

When solving problems do not expect perfection. Problems are designed to be challenging to encourage learning. Little, if anything, is learned from "easy" tasks. Speaking of learning, we will try to avoid tricks/shortcuts as these often distract us from the mathematics and create extra work to unlearn bad habits.

After each class, educational research recommends we reflect on what was learned. One way to review is to rewrite class notes. For a specific note-taking suggestion, please see the Feyneman's Notebook Method that encourages rewriting a day's lesson with a one-page restriction. Hand-written notes also lead to more brain activity than other methods (Umejima et al., 2021; Askvik et al., 2020; ScienceDaily, 2011).

Another method for review is to focus on activities with immediate feedback. For example, WeBWorK, flash cards, study groups and practice testing all have elements of formative feedback that is immediate (Weimer, 2017; Dunlosky, 2013; ScienceDaily, 2013; Butler et al., 2008; Ericsson, 2006).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

When/how is the professor available outside of class?

Email is the best way to reach me. I typically respond within 24 hours, but I do not check email in the evenings or on Saturdays.

My student drop-in schedule and sign-up for Zoom appointments are posted at

What is the attendance policy?

A record of attendance is required by the University to maintain accurate class rosters. Attendance is not graded but poor attendance may impact participation in group activities (e.g., taking a group quiz individually).

If you are absent, please check the course schedule then meet with the instructor via drop-in hours, Zoom, or email to make sure you are caught up. Graded work that occurs during an authorized absence (school functions, emergencies or illness) may be made up for full credit. Other absences may complete graded assignments late for 90% credit or these assignments may be completed early for full credit.

Late work is expected to be completed within two weeks of the due date or by the last day of classes, whichever occurs first. In situations where a makeup cannot occur, the final exam score may be used as a proxy for a missing assignment. Students missing a week or more of class should contact the Dean of Students Office to get extra support.

What if I am stressed out?

College can be difficult. After all, if it wasn't then you likely are not learning very much. Everyone can benefit from placing their personal well-being as a top priority throughout the semester. Should you want some emotional support for any reason, you can access free counseling services (even one short session to problem solve solutions) from the UWEC Counseling Services on campus. They provide a variety of online and in-person services, including some virtual wellness workshops. Call them at 836-5521, stop by Old Library room 2122, or check out the website to make an appointment:

Students also have FREE access to UW System Mental Health Support through Mantra health – a telehealth service available 24/7 days a week (call or text: 888-531-2142 or go online at:; sign up using your UWEC email address). You can also reach out to the WI-branch of the national crisis/emotional support text line by texting "HOPELINE" to 741 741 or use the national suicide prevention lifeline: 988 Please use these resources to support your mental well-being and success as a Blugold!

What if the math class is too easy or too difficult?

The Department of Mathematics also allows students within entry-level mathematics courses (i.e., 010, 020, 104, 109, 112, 114, or 246) to move up to a higher numbered course during the first two weeks of a semester or move down during the first three weeks. Please contact the instructor for more details or for other solutions.

How does grading work?

Final scores (rounded up to the nearest whole number) are compared to the grading scale given in the syllabus to determine a final grade. Individual scores or grades will not be modified because they represent a student's progress in the class throughout the semester. If there is a mistake in scoring, please contact the instructor as soon as possible to get the error fixed.

Midterm grades do not have a score table so are based on the percentage of points completed at the time of midterm submission.

Note: I dislike the University's scale of "F" because I have never once felt that a student has "failed" a class. Instead, I prefer to think of this as a "not pass" where insufficient evidence has been demonstrated by a student to move on to the next level.

What if I need accommodations (like extra time on tests)?

Please let me of know ways that I might be helpful when you notice possible suggestions. For individual accommodations, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities Office in Centennial Hall 2106 at the beginning of the semester.

What else do I need to know?