MA 215: Math reasoning/discrete structures

Instructor:Shawn Baland
Office: Harder 223
Email: sbaland at skidmore dot edu
Office hours: M 15:00–16:00
F 12:00–13:00


Course information

This course is the gateway to more advanced topics in mathematics where, as the questions of interest become more subtle or complex, one is forced to adopt a rigorous framework in which to study them. We will first learn the rules of the propositional calculus, which will help us decompose or rephrase mathematical statements for the porpose of proving/disproving them. We will then learn about the fundamental objects of study in mathematics, namely sets and functions.

The second part of the course will delve into problem solving, making use of the framework described above. The problems we will solve are called discrete because they involve finite collections of objects, or collections of objects that can be arranged in such a way as to be “countable”. Time permitting, our journey will touch on such topics as number theory, probability and graph theory.

Times and locations: M 11:15–12:10, Palamountain 303
WF 10:10–11:30, Palamountain 303
Textbook: Smith, Eggen and St. Andre, A transition to advanced mathematics, seventh edition


If you are a student with a disability and believe you will need academic accommodation, you must formally request accommodation from Meg Hegener, Coordinator of Student Access Services. You will also need to provide documentation which verifies the existence of a disability and supports your request. For further information, please call 580-8150 or stop by the office of Student Academic Services in Starbuck Center.

A word on Title IX

Skidmore College considers sexual and gender-based misconduct to be one of the most serious violations of the values and standards of the College. Unwelcome sexual contact of any form is a violation of a student’s personal integrity and their right to a safe environment and therefore violates Skidmore’s values. Sexual and gender-based misconduct is also prohibited by federal regulations. Skidmore College faculty are committed to supporting our students and upholding gender equity laws as outlined by Title IX. If a student chooses to confide in a member of Skidmore’s faculty or staff regarding an issue of sexual or gender-based misconduct, that faculty or staff member is obligated to tell Skidmore’s Title IX Coordinator or Title IX Deputy Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator will assist the student in connecting with all possible resources for support and reporting both on and off campus. Identities and details will be shared only with those who need to know to support the student and to address the situation through the college’s processes. If the student wishes to confide in a confidential resource, The Counseling Center Staff, Health Services, and Victim Advocates are all options available.


Homework will make up 30% of the overall course grade. The lowest homework score will not count towards your final grade.

Assignments are due by 17:00 on the specified days. You may hand in homework before or after class, but please do not interrupt lecture to do so. Work may also be turned in to my mailbox in the math office any time prior to the deadline. Late work will not be accepted for grading.

To make life easier on the grader, you must ensure that your name is written clearly on the front of your homework and that your pages are stapled securely together.

Assignment 1, due Wednesday 31 January pdf
Assignment 2, due Wednesday 7 February pdf
Assignment 3, due Wednesday 14 February pdf
Assignment 4, due Wednesday 21 February pdf


There will be one midterm exam which will make up 30% of the overall course grade. It will take place on Wednesday 21 March during class.

The final exam will be cumulative and make up 40% of the overall course grade. It will take place on Monday 7 May from 9:00 until 11:00 in Palamountain 303.

Specific examination guidelines will follow via email.

Supplementary materials