If you are attending or teaching math courses, you will be looking at a syllabus at the start of the semester. Although one syllabus can vary from the next, there are some common elements that all should include.
So, what is a math syllabus? A math syllabus gives you a general overview of the important information for a math course. It contains information about the college, instructor, and course, along with required materials, learning outcomes, course format, instructional methods, various policies, and course content and due dates.
If you are an instructor, your goal is to provide a good overview of the course without giving an overwhelming amount of information.
In this article, we’ll talk about what a math syllabus is and what the essential parts are. We’ll also have a sample syllabus at the end in case you need to build one from scratch.
Let’s get started.
What Is A Math Syllabus?
A math syllabus gives students a summary of the important information for a math course. The syllabus provides everything students will need to know to be prepared for the start of class.
Here are 10 key parts of a math syllabus that you should include:
- Administrative (College, Semester, Course, Location, Instructor, Contact Information)
- Course Description
- Required Materials
- Learning Outcomes
- Course Format
- Instructional Methods
- Grading Policy (includes make–up exams)
- Attendance Policy
- Class Cancellation Policy
- Course Content & Dates
Let’s take a closer look at each one, starting with administrative.
The administrative part of a syllabus is sort of like the introduction. It tells you several important things about the course, including:
- College – believe it or not, it is important to include this! Some students may be taking courses at multiple colleges (via course audits, college consortiums, dual enrollment, etc.) So, it helps to know where the class is located in case a student is having one of those days.
- Semester – students who are planning ahead need to know when the course runs. Many colleges have multiple summer sessions, winter sessions, and shorter course sequences in a given semester.
- Course – always provide the course name, not just the number. Some students might know what course is associated with what number, but others will not. This can also help students who are trying to get transfer credits to compare courses across institutions.
- Location – include the building and room number (or online if remote). This is especially important if the location was moved due to construction on campus after the course schedule was printed.
- Instructor – provide your name and credentials so that students know who you are. You might also like to include how you would like to be addressed (Dr., or Professor, or Jon, etc.)
- Contact Information – make sure that students know how to get in touch with you! This might include your office on campus, your email address, your phone number (campus or cell), and any other methods (Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.)
Some parts of this section are easy to overlook, but they are the foundation of solid communication between instructor and students during the semester.
Here is what the administrative section of my college algebra syllabus looks like:
QUINCY COLLEGE COURSE SYLLABUS Fall 2022 COLLEGE ALGEBRA – MAT 103 Instructor name: Jonathon Madore Office Telephone Number: Office Hours: please email me for an appointment QC Email Address: Mailbox Location: Division Office number:
The course description tells students what the course is about (at a high level). It mentions some of the topics that you will cover in the course, along with any prerequisites or corequisites for the course (lower-level courses, placement test scores, lab sections, etc.)
The course description is a good way to get students interested in the course by posing questions that they will be able to answer by the end of the semester.
Here is the course description section from my college algebra syllabus:
COURSE DESCRIPTION: This college level algebra course expands upon a student’s knowledge by further developing algebraic concepts. Topics include graphing equations with an introduction to functions, factoring polynomials, operations on rational functions, simplifying rational exponents, and solving quadratic equations. Students will be required to complete homework assignments using a web- based computer program. Prerequisite: Appropriate score on the placement test or successful completion of MAT 097.
The required materials section informs students about what they will need for the course. For example, you could list out things like:
- Textbooks (list the author, edition/version, and year of publication
- Software (such as computer algebra systems)
- Licenses (such as MyMathLab)
- Tools (such as a scientific or graphing calculator)
Learning outcomes tell students what they should expect to know and learn by the end of the semester. It may include information and equations/formulas/identities to be memorized, procedures to be comfortable with, and concepts/theorems to understand.
Here is the learning outcomes section from my college algebra syllabus:
LEARNING OUTCOMES: At the completion of this course, the student will be able to: •Graph equations by plotting ordered pairs. •Graph lines using the slope-intercept form. •Determine the slope of a line given any two points on the line. •Determine if two lines are parallel, perpendicular, or neither. •Write the equation of a line given various pieces of information. •Evaluate a function using function notation. •Solve a system of linear equations using the substitution or addition method. •Add, subtract, multiply, divide, and simplify polynomials. •Factor quadratic expressions including special cases. •Add, subtract, multiply, divide, and simplify rational expressions. •Solve rational equations. •Simplify expressions with rational exponents. •Evaluate radical expressions and functions. •Add, subtract, multiply, divide, and simplify radical expressions. •Solve radical equations. •Add, subtract, multiply, divide, and simplify complex numbers. •Solve quadratic equations by completing the square, or using the quadratic formula.
The course format tells students how the course will be delivered. For example, an online, fully remote course might be delivered via real-time Zoom lectures, or the course may be entirely asynchronous (except for 1 on 1 meetings as needed).
Here is the course format section for my online college algebra course:
COURSE FORMAT: This is an online course. All aspects of the class will take place in the Canvas Learning Management System rather than in a classroom each week. Instructional features include discussion questions, assignments, assessments, other activities, and opportunities for questions and answers. There are no on-campus meetings scheduled for this course.
This section helps students to understand how they will learn in the class and what work is required.
Some common instructional methods include:
- Lectures – these could be live (in person or online) or prerecorded audio/video. There could also be lecture slides or videos.
- Readings – this includes readings from the textbook and online resources (math journals, articles, etc.)
- Discussion Questions – these are more often seen for online courses, but they can work for any format. They give students a chance to explain concepts in their own words and learn from other students.
- Quizzes – these are generally shorter assessments to let students know where they stand in terms of learning course material. Some are graded, and some are just a “reality check” to let students know when they are behind.
- Tests/Exams – these are longer assessments that are usually a significant part of the course grade. There are usually 2 to 4 of these per semester. The final exam often counts as one, and there can be 1 to 3 midterms during the semester.
- Papers – explaining a concept in writing is often more difficult that just going through calculations or even memorizing and rewriting a proof. You could also ask for a paper on a famous mathematician (perhaps that could be an extra credit assignment).
- Projects (Individual or Group) – this another way to give students a chance to explore topics at a deeper level (and to work together if you wish).
Here is the instructional methodologies section of my college algebra syllabus:
INSTRUCTIONAL METHODOLOGIES Lectures: a weekly lecture will be posted for students to view. Readings: various readings from the textbook, videos, and other sources will be posted each week. Discussion Questions: at least one discussion question will be posted each week. Students are expected to post a substantive response (250 words or more) by Sunday. One or more substantive responses to fellow classmates (150 words or more) should be posted by Tuesday. I will use Unicheck to detect plagiarism. Quizzes, Tests, Exams, Papers, or Projects: various formative and summative assessments will be used in this course. See the Assignments list for specific items. We will be using LockDown Browser to ensure academic honesty. The web-based homework system called MyMathLab is required for this course. An access code is needed for the web-based system and may be purchased with the textbook bundle at the College Bookstore. MyMathLab is accessed through Canvas.
Grading Policy (includes make–up exams)
The grading policy tells students how you will calculate grades. For this section, you need to figure out the weights for the various parts of the course.
You might also need to include the percentage to letter grade scale (your institution might set this).
Sometimes students will miss homework or exams, so you will need to figure out how to deal with this in a consistent and fair way.
Here is the grading policy section of my college algebra course:
GRADING POLICY: Final grades will be based on the percentages in the following areas: Discussion Question responses----15% Homework-------------------------30% Quizzes--------------------------20% Final Exam-----------------------35% Grade % GPA Grade % GPA Grade % GPA A > 93 4.0 A- 90-92 3.7 B+ 87-89 3.3 B 83-86 3.0 B- 80-82 2.7 C+ 77-79 2.3 C 73-76 2.0 C- 70-72 1.7 D 60-69 1.0 F < 60 0.0 I Incomplete 0.0 W Withdrawal 0.0 AUD Audit 0.0
This tells students how often they must attend class and whether attendance factors into the final course grade. It also outlines penalties for missing classes (or too many classes).
Class Cancellation Policy
This section tells students how you will communicate about canceled class dates (when you are ill or when there is severe weather).
Course Content & Dates
This gives students an overview, at a glance, of which assignments are due on a given date in the course.
Here is an example of course content and dates from my college algebra class:
|Sun Mar 27, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 1||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Quiz Chapter 1||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 1 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Wed Mar 30, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 2||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 2 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Sun Apr 3, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 3||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Quiz Chapter 2||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 3 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Wed Apr 6, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 4||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 4 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Sun Apr 10, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 5||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Quiz Chapter 3||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 5 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Wed Apr 13, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 6||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 6 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Sun Apr 17, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 7||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Quiz Chapter 4||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 7 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Wed Apr 20, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 8||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 8 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Sat Apr 23, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 9||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 9 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Wed Apr 27, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 10||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Quiz Chapter 5||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 10 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Sun May 1, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 11||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Quiz Chapter 6||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 11 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Wed May 4, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 12||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 12 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Sun May 8, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 13||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Quiz Chapter 7||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 13 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Thu May 12, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 14||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Quiz Chapter 8||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Week 14 Homework||due by 11:59pm|
|Sun May 15, 2022||Assignment DQ – Week 15||due by 11:59pm|
|Assignment Final Exam||due by 11:59pm|
Now you know what a math syllabus is and what to include. You also have a starting point if you need to make one from scratch.