Note: this syllabus is temporary, and may change up to the first day of class.
This version posted on: 2013-08-27
Math Modeling is the art of taking a real-world problem and stating it
in mathematical terms. It often involves making simplifying assumptions.
In our class, we get in the habit of doing all the parts of the
math modeling cycle: modeling, solving, checking, and guessing.
Often, a large part of the problem is even deciding which problem to solve.
For example, should you find the best schedule for your staff at one
location, or consider opening new locations? Should you
start with a theoretical model then match it to data, or just model
the data directly? We will also consider a lot of common
mathematical models, and explore their properties.
Course Catalog Entry
The modeling process; model building and evaluation, techniques of
modeling; model fitting and models requiring optimization; empirical
model construction---experimental models, dimensional analysis, simulation
models, dynamic models; use of derivatives in the modeling process,
single and multivariable dynamic models.
Math 120 and Math 122.
Some experience using Excel, VBA, Mathematica, Maple, or Matlab will also
be VERY helpful, but it is not strictly a prerequisite.
Follow-up courses: Math 325 Differential Equations, Math 418 Modeling
with Linear Algebra, Math 419 Advanced Math Modeling (stochastics),
Math 425 Math for Scientists, Math 436 Numerical Analysis
The U of M has two related courses: Math 462, "Mathematical
Modeling", and Math 463, "Mathematical Modeling in Biology". However,
focus on differential equation models, while this class focuses on
regression, operations research, and dynamical systems.
Tue Dec 17: Final Presentations (instead of exam), usual class time; Project 2 due
3 credit hours.
Class meetings will be mostly interactive lectures, with some time to work on
problems in class, and some time to go over problems from the homework.
Many class sessions will meet in a computer lab or use a cartful of laptops.
I expect that you will work on Math 319 for 6 to 9 hours per week outside of class
during a regular (Fall or Winter) semester, and twice that during a Summer semester.
Professor Andrew Ross
(734) 487-1658, but I strongly prefer e-mail instead of phone contact.
Math department main office: Pray-Harrold 515, (734) 487-1444
Office Hours and other help
Here is my complete schedule.
10:30-11:00 office hours
11:00-12:15 Math 360-0, PH 520
12:15-12:30 office hours and lunch
12:30- 1:20 Math 120-4 (though might slide to 12:45-1:35 ?)
1:30- 2:30 office hours
9:00- 9:30 office hours
9:30-10:45 Math 319-0, PH 520
11:00-12:15 Math 360-1, PH 520
12:15-12:30 office hours and lunch
12:30- 1:20 Math 120-4 (though might slide to 12:45-1:35 ?)
1:30- 2:30 office hours
no schedule--I'm often on campus, though.
I have various meetings to go to.
Send e-mail to make an appointment.
I am also happy to make appointments if you cannot come to the general
office hours. Please send me e-mail to arrange an appointment.
The Mathematics Student Services Center (or "Math Lab") is also here to
help you, in Pray-Harrold 411
Their hours are posted here.
Please give them a call at 734-487-0983 or just drop by.
A good place to study, if the Math Lab doesn't suit you, is the Math Den, Pray-Harrold room 501.
Many assignments in this course will be in the form of papers, which I
want to be well written. Please consult with
The Writing Center
for help in tuning up your writing.
Teaching philosophy, interests
I am a very applied mathematician. Applied, applied, applied. Not pure. Impure.
I try to focus on real-world problems, rather than artificial drill problems (though
I do recognize the need for some drill). My classes spend much more time on formulating
problems (going from the real world to math notation and back) than on proving theorems.
If you want the theoretical basis for anything we are discussing, please ask!
My general math interests are in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR).
In particular, I do research in applied probability and queueing theory,
the mathematics of predicting how long
it takes to wait in line for service. You can learn more about this in Math 319 and 419
when I teach them. I also enjoy teaching about cost-minimizing/profit-maximizing methods
called Non-Linear Programming (NLP) in Math 560.
I am a licensed amateur radio operator, and enjoy bringing aspects of electronics and
the physics of sound/music into the classroom. You will see lots of sines and cosines
in my classes, and exponentials/logarithms, but not much in the way of tangent, secant, etc.
Most students do well in this course without a textbook. For those who
feel the need to have one just in case, I suggest finding
"A First Course in Mathematical Modeling", 3rd or 4th Edition, by
Giordano, Weir, and Fox, in a library or the Math Den (PH 501).
A lot of our work will be done on computers, specifically in Excel. If you
had been waiting for a good reason to buy a laptop, this is it.
Course Web Pages
I will post data files, homework assignment files, etc. on
my home page.
We will use an on-line gradebook (via
EMU-Online) to keep track of grades.
You are expected to keep an eye
on your scores using the system, and get extra help if your scores
indicate the need.
Nearly everything will be submitted via the various dropboxes inside EMU-Online. The rule is: if it's not in a dropbox, it doesn't exist (for grading purposes).
Here is a list of books that I have found interesting and related to
math modeling. Perhaps some of them will strike your fancy, too.
I own the ones that are starred (*) and can lend them to you.
Others you will have to find at the library or on the usual Internet
booksellers. Links are given to Amazon, but I do not specifically endorse
them or any particular bookseller. Of course, if you like a book you can
see what similar books the online bookseller recommends.
Elementary Mathematical Modeling: A Dynamic Approach/ Sandefur, James
Microsoft Excel, or other spreadsheet software like Gnumeric or OpenOffice or Google Docs
Mathematica, Maple, or Matlab/Octave/Scilab
Our primary goal is to teach you to be a good (or great!) math modeler.
To be a good modeler, you need:
Good habits and procedures, just like a scientist, and
Knowledge of common math models.
We have a few secondary goals, which may be more or less applicable to your
Get enough people together to form a few teams for the
Math Contest in Modeling (MCM), Thu Feb 6-Mon Feb 10, 2014.
I participated in this
3 times as an undergrad and had a lot of fun. Recent EMU teams have done well!
Give future teachers some great ideas to
show your kids how high-power math is used in the real world. You may enjoy reading Meaningful Math.
Give computer-science students lots of interesting things to program. You may like reading this blog entry about math for programmers.
Teach you how to communicate your math models by writing math papers and giving math presentations.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
(General modeling skills):
categorize problems into operational/tactical/strategic categories,
identify nearby problems in the oper./tact./strat. hierarchy,
evaluate models and implementation by constructing simple test cases,
conduct cross-validation when needed,
select the most important variables to start modeling with,
(Empirical modeling skills):
use ordinary, semilog, and loglog plots to evaluate relationships in data sets,
perform linear regression in software,
interpret the correlation coefficient,
perform transformations before regression as appropriate,
perform multiple variable linear regression in software,
fit sine/cosine functions to data using multiple linear regression (simplified Fourier),
fit a function to data using nonlinear regression,
decide when to use logistic regression (logit), and interpret the results
write a technical report,
differentiate between literature of varying quality, e.g. peer-reviewed vs. working paper vs. white paper vs. web site,
design appropriate figures to communicate models and results,
Formulate non-linear programs (NLP) as appropriate,
solve NLP using software,
describe the (im)possibility of multiple optimal solutions (convexity/concavity)
Implement and interpret x=time plots, phase-plane plots, and delta-a_n versus a_n plots
(?) describe basic Queueing models,
describe the Traveling Salesperson problem (TSP)
(?) describe project-scheduling models (PERT)
(?) describe dynamic-programming models (DP)
(optional topics that we might not get to are marked with a ?)
This course was originally organized around the Giordano modeling textbook, though it is not required for the course.
Here we show which chapters from that book we cover,
in roughly the order we will cover them. A star (*)
denotes full coverage, a plus (+) denotes partial coverage, and no
symbol denotes no coverage. For example, DTMCs (as cool as they are)
will be covered in Math 419 rather than 319.
Ch 2:+ proportionality, similarity
Ch 3:* model fitting, least-squares
Ch 4:+ experimental modeling, high-order polynom, low-order polynom, splines
Ch 5:+ simulation
Ch 6: Discrete Time Markov Chains (DTMCs)
Ch 8:+ modeling using graph theory
Ch 7:+ Linear Programming (LP), one-dim. line search
(and add Integer Programming?)
Ch 13:* Non-Linear Programming (NLP), inventory
Ch 9:+ dimensional analysis and similitude
Ch 10: graphs of functions as models
Ch 1:* difference equations, dynamical systems
Ch 11:+ one-dim ODEs
Ch 12:+ systems of ODEs
Some variations in this outline are to be expected.
Detailed Semester Schedule
Some variations are to be expected, of course.
seasonal heating; repeated dosing; observation noise; process noise; fitting
chaos; splines; pert/cpm; modeling misconceptions
final presentations: 9:00-10:30 A HALF-HOUR EARLY
project 2, M5
last day of other classes' finals
Regular attendance is strongly recommended. There will be material
presented in class that is not in the textbook, yet will be very useful.
Similarly, there are things in the textbook that
are might not be covered in class, but are still very useful.
If you must miss a class,
arrange to get a copy of the notes from someone, and arrange for
someone to ask your questions for you.
My lectures and discussions mostly use the chalkboard, along with
demonstrations in Excel and other mathematical software. I do not
usually have PowerPoint-like presentations, and thus cannot hand
out copies of slides.
Homework will be assigned about once every week. It will
sometimes be a small problem set designed to help you
understand the behavior of math models. Other times, it will involve
writing up a little paper on an assigned topic. All homework should
Homework papers should be submitted on-line, where they might be
TurnItIn.com or a similar
service. This is partly to help keep you honest, and partly to help you
learn acceptable ways to cite the work of others. A side benefit is that
sometimes TurnItIn finds papers relevant to your work that you would not
have found otherwise!
There will be no exams, unless the class demonstrates an unwillingness
to be motivated any other way.
Instead of a mid-term and a final exam, you will do a mid-term and a final
project. Your results will be reported in a paper and a presentation to
the class. You may work by yourself or in a team of 2 people, but no
groups larger than 2 will be allowed. You may switch project partners
at your will. Your project grades will each be split something like this:
10 pct: proposal
80 pct: work and written report
10 pct: presentation
The final presentations will be made during the
time slot reserved for the final exam.
On average, students should spend a total of about 30 minutes in office hours
discussing the project. Plan for this in advance!
No scores will be dropped, unless a valid medical excuse with
In the unfortunate event of a medical need, the appropriate grade or
grades will be dropped entirely, rather than giving a make-up.
You are highly encouraged to still complete the relevant assignments
and consult with me during office hours to ensure you know the
Your final score will be computed as follows:
50 percent for all the homework together,
20 percent for the mid-term project, and
30 percent for the final project.
Final percentage scores will be given letter grades as follows:
92.0 and above : A
88.0 to 92.0: A-
84.0 to 88.0: B+
80.0 to 84.0: B
76.0 to 80.0: B-
72.0 to 76.0: C+, etc.
The instructor reserves the right to make changes to this syllabus
throughout the semester. Notification will be given in class or
by e-mail or both. If you miss class, it is your responsibility
to find out about syllabus and schedule changes, especially
the due dates and times of projects, assignments, or presentations.
Advice from Other Math Modeling Students
In the last two semesters, I've asked my math modeling students to give
advice to you, future math modeling students, based on their experiences
in my course. Here are some of the highlights:
I can honestly say I have probably never worked this hard on a project before and it has given me a new found respect for people who do this on a daily basis.
* work in groups * start the first day assignment is given *
don't take too many credits w/ this class * ask a lot of questions *
utilize Dr. Ross
Do go to his office hours more than you normally would; if you have a question ask don't wait.
See Prof. Ross in office hours and don't be afraid to email him. He is usually very helpful and approachable.
Plan on visiting Prof. Ross during office hours in order to do well in
the class. You will learn a lot in the end, but be ready to work.
[prof ross:] add a note to the syllabus stating something
to the effect of, "This class will not be like other math classes.
Instead of straight-up problems or proofs, the biggest amount of work
will be setting up the models, exercises, etc. and in analysing what
your results mean. It will not be the mathematical work done to obtain
the results that is the tricky part." But word the note better.
attend the office hours Prof Ross is really good at explaining & helping out with the homework
Take notes during the computer lab days and send yourself the excel sheets.
Go to class. The computer lab days help even if you know excel well.
Go to class. Go to office hours and pick project that you're energized
about and interested in even if they're harder. It will make this math
class the best one you've ever taken.
Don't drop the class! It sounds impossible in the beginning, but stick with it.
Take differential equations close to this class, it will make more sense!
Start projects ASAP.
Ask questions!!! The professor will guide you along the way like Yoda.
Talking to anyone about your projects or the homework, be it Prof. Ross or other students, is a really, really good idea.
Never be afraid to ask for help.
If project falls through, have backups.
Standard University Policies
Religious Holy Days
Current University policy recognizes the rights of students to observe religious holidays without penalty to the student. Students will provide advance notice to the instructor in order to make up work, including examinations, they miss as a result of their absence from class due to observance of religious holidays. If satisfactory arrangements cannot be made with the instructor, the student may appeal to the school director or head(s) of department(s) in which the course(s) is / are offered.
Academic dishonesty, including all forms of cheating, falsification,
and/or plagiarism, will not be tolerated in this course.
Penalties for an act of academic dishonesty may range from receiving
a failing grade for a particular assignment to receiving a failing
grade for the entire course. In addition, you may be referred to the
Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards for discipline that
can result in either a suspension or permanent dismissal. The
Student Conduct Code contains detailed definitions of what constitutes
academic dishonesty but if you are not sure about whether something
you are doing would be considered academic dishonesty, consult with the course instructor. You may access the Code online at: www.emich.edu/studentconduct/
Students are expected to abide by the Student Conduct Code and assist in creating an environment that is conducive to learning and protects the rights of all members of the University Community. Incivility and disruptive behavior will not be tolerated and may result in a request to leave class and referral to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (SJS) for discipline. Examples of inappropriate classroom conduct include repeatedly arriving late to class, using a mobile/cellular phone while in the class session, or talking while others are speaking. You may access the Code online at www.emich.edu/studentconduct/
Those who use laptops during class should sit in the back row if possible,
to avoid distracting others with what is on their screens.
Special Needs Accomodations
Students with Disabilities: Eastern Michigan University has a tradition of providing access to education for students with disabilities that began long before the enactment of federal or state law governing accommodations. To see an outline of the accommodation information for faculty and students provided by the Disability Resource Center, visit the DRC homepage: http://www.emich.edu/drc/
If you wish to be accommodated for your disability, EMU Board of Regents Policy 8.3 requires that you first register with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) in 240K EMU Student Center. You may contact DRC by telephone (734.487.2470). Students with disabilities are encouraged to register with the DRC promptly as you will only be accommodated from the date you register with them forward. No retroactive accommodations are possible.
Student and Exchange VISitors (SEVIS)
Foreign students should be aware of the requirements of the SEVIS program. For information about maintaining your visa, go to http://www.emich.edu/ois/immigrationstatus.html
The Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) requires F and J students to report the following to the Office of International Students 244 EMU Student Center within ten (10) days of the event:
Changes in your name, local address, major field of study, or source of funding;
Changes in your degree-completion date;
Changes in your degree-level (ex Bachelors to Masters)
Intent to transfer to another school.
Prior permission from OIS is needed for the following:
Dropping ALL courses as well as carrying or dropping BELOW minimum credit hours;
Employment on or off-campus;
Registering for more than one ONLINE course per term (F visa only)
Endorsing I-20 or DS-2019 for re-entry into the USA.
Failure to report may result in the termination of your SEVIS record and even arrest and deportation. If you have questions or concerns, contact the Office of International Students at 734.487.3116, not the course instructor.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law designated to protect the privacy of a student's education records and academic work. The law applies to all schools and universities which receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education and is applicable to students at EMU. All files, records, and academic work completed within this course are considered educational records and are protected under FERPA. It is your right, as a student in this course, to expect that any materials you submit in this course, as well as your name and other identifying information, will not be viewable by guests or other individuals permitted access to the course. The exception will be only when you have given explicit, written, signed consent. Verbal consent or email is insufficient.