MATH 1503 – Introduction to Linear Algebra

Syllabus and course information for Section 2A
Available as a PDF file

Fall 2014


Basic course information

  • Classes are Mon, Wed, Fri, 9:30 AM in GWC 122.
  • Instructor: Patrick Reynolds (office: Tilley Hall 408)
  • Office hours: 4:00pm - 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (minus some Thursdays), and by appointment.
  • Check the course website regularly.
  • All content on the above website will also be posted on Desire2Learn, where additionally grades will be recorded and news items posted.


At least 60% in NB Pre-Calculus A 120 and B 120 (or equivalents, e.g. NB Trigonometry and 3-space and Advanced Math with Calculus ). You may want to occasionally use mathematical software, such as Matlab. If you have not yet done so, find out how to log on to your university account, where all sorts of free software resides.


Linear Algebra - Pure and Applied, by E. Goodaire, World Scientific, 2014. Available in the Campus Bookstore, Amazon, and at AbeBooks. We may also refer to your calculus text. It will be available in the library for those not currently taking calculus.

Course Policies


When emailing, please include the course number, MATH 1503, in the subject line. I generally answer all emails within 24 hours except on weekends. If you have a question about mathematics, please consider asking on the Discussion Forum on D2L, so as to benefit other students.

Assignments and Tests

Please be sure to hand in your assignment before class starts. That way, you won’t be tempted to work on it during class, possibly distracting students around you.

While I reserve the right not to accept late assignments or to reduce the marks by 50%, I can accommodate exceptional circumstances provided you let me know as soon as possible. If you have a valid reason for missing a test, let me know as soon as possible. Generally, the weight of the missed test will be re-distributed onto the final exam; make-up tests will not be given.

No calculators, cellphones, or notes are allowed during the tests or the final exam. You should study accordingly.

Academic Integrity

In a nutshell, academic integrity means not taking credit for the work of others. While I encourage you to work with one another on assignments and to ask me for help, all submitted material must be in your own words.

All students are required to read warnings against academic offenses in the current UNB calendar.

Use of laptops and mobile devices in class

Recent research has shown that using phones and laptops in class is distracting not just for the user but also for neighbours, and there is evidence that it lowers grades. Please refrain from using your phone during class. If you require a laptop for note-taking during lecture, please notify me at the beginning of term, and kindly sit along the sides or at the back of the lecture hall in order to minimize the distraction to neighbouring students.

How can I do well in this course?

  • To learn something means establishing and reinforcing neural connections in our brain. This requires sustained effort on our part.
  • Certain learning techniques are known to be much more effective than others: for example, self-testing is much more efficient and effective than re-reading and highlighting. The catch is that it requires more discipline and effort.
  • For every hour of lecture, spend 2-3 hours outside of class studying and doing homework. This means a total of 9 - 12 hours per week (including lectures). This will minimize stress during exams and result in thorough learning and improved grades. If your life’s circumstances (e.g. part-time job) prevent you from regularly spending 10 hours per week on this course, it will be especially challenging, and extra care will be needed. Note: 2 hours a day for six days is more effective than 6 hours a day for 2 days.
  • Read the text with paper and pencil in hand. Do not get discouraged if reading the text does not immediately result in understanding; be patient and persistent. Reading math is not like reading other texts.
  • Do the WebWork assignments on paper, neatly, before entering your answer.
  • Prepare for class. I will endeavour to provide a good idea of what will be covered in advance of class, to give you the opportunity to read some material so that your learning in class is more efficient.
  • Self-assess. Some may struggle with basic algebra skills that were first taught to them years ago. This is a barrier to success which can only be overcome by effortful practice, not negative judgements about one’s innate ability.
  • Practice time-management and stress-reduction. This is always a work in progress for everyone. Explore approaches that work for you.
  • Here is another useful list of suggestions.

Math Help, and Student Services

In addition to my office hours: 4:00pm - 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (minus some Thursdays), the Math Learning Centre, located in Tilley 422, is an excellent resource.

Please take advantage of the various services that UNB offers, in particular the Student Success Workshops.

If you are a student with a disability of any type (physical, mental, learning, medical, chronic health, sensory; visible or invisible) you are strongly encouraged to register with the UNBF Student Accessibility Centre (SAC) so that you may receive appropriate services and accommodations. Once you are registered with SAC, I will be notified via the UNBF SAC Accommodation Letter of your specific accommodations.

Course Content

We will attempt to cover the following sections of the text, though possibly not in exactly this order:

  • Ch.1: Euclidean \(n\)-space — §1.1–1.5, with supplementary material on spatial geometry from a calculus text.
  • Ch.2: Matrices and Linear Equations — §2.1, 2.3, 2.4, 2.6, 2.7, 2.9, with applications as time permits. This is the heart of the course.
  • Ch.3: Determinants and Eigenvectors — §3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.5; Appendix A on complex numbers.
  • Only if time permits, topics from §4.1, 4.2, 4.3.

Most weeks you will submit both a short paper assignment as well as a web assignment on WebWork.

There will be two tests: in class on Friday, October 10 (caution: just before Thanksgiving), and in class on Wednesday, November 12 (caution: just after the Remembrance Day study break).


Grading Scheme

  1. Common Final Examination - 50% (between Dec. 6 - Dec. 17). Calculators are not allowed on the final or on midterm tests. You must bring your student Id.
  2. Class Work:
    1. Assignments — 15% Most weeks you will submit both a short paper assignment as well as a web assignment on WebWork. (These will each count half of the 15%.)
    2. Common Midterm Test 1— 15% – in class on Friday, October 10. (caution: just before Thanksgiving). Look for review sessions run by the Math Learning Centre.
    3. Common Midterm Test 2— 20% – in class on Wednesday, November 12 (caution: just after the Remembrance Day study break). Look for review sessions run by the Math Learning Centre.


There will be frequent online assignments on WebWork.

To login: Your username is your UNB login ID in lowercase letters, and your initial password is your student number. Once you have sucessfully logged in for the first time, you may change your password by clicking on the "Password/Email" link in the leftmost column.

Some WeBWorK pointers:

  • For some problems you have a finite number of attempts, so guessing is a bad idea.
  • Make sure you hit "Preview Answers" before submitting your answers, this allows you to catch simple errors without wasting an official attempt at a problem.
  • Read the questions carefully, especially information about how to enter in your answers. For example, different problems might ask you to enter "yes", "Yes", "y", or "Y" for an affirmative answer to a question; and they will mark any other response as wrong. Not reading the question carefully is not an excuse for a wrong answer.
  • Tablet and smartphone users beware: WeBWorK is case sensitive. So, if your device automatically capitalizes the first letter of a sentance, you might inadvertently send a wrong answer.
  • If you’re having trouble with any WeBWorK problem, hit the "Email instructor" button. This will send a message to one of the course instructors along with a link to the specific page you’re having difficulty with. This is a much more efficient way of dealing with issues than if you were to email your instructor directly.
  • There is a WeBWorK guide for students that may be helpful.

A sample rubric

A sample rubric that gives a rough sense of how mathematics is marked.