Course:  Math 3C

Title:  Precalculus

Lecture/Discussions:  MTWThF 9:00--10:50am in HSS 2154

Contact Information and Office Hours:

Instructor: James Dilts    Email: jdilts AT ucsd DOT edu
Office Hours: Tues 3-5 in APM 6218

Teaching Assistant: Premanand Kumar    Email: p8kumar AT ucsd DOT edu
Office Hours: Sat 3-5pm in Math tutoring location

Credit Hours: 4 units

Prerequisite: Math Placement Exam qualifying score.

Catalog Description: Functions and their graphs. Linear and polynomial functions, zeroes, inverse functions, exponential and logarithmic, trigonometric functions and their inverses. Emphasis on understanding algebraic, numerical and graphical approaches making use of graphing calculators. (No credit given if taken after Math 4C, 1A/10A, or 2A/20A.) Three or more years of high school mathematics or equivalent recommended.


  • Algebra and Trigonometry, 1st edition by Seldon Axler Reading is REQUIRED.
  • I-clicker: We will use these daily.

Course Outcomes: By the end of the course, you should be able to show understanding and mastery of the subject material

  • by performing calculations, including knowing which tools to use in which circumstances
  • by clearly explaining concepts, processes, definitions and theorems.
For this course, the main subject material is
  • Coordinate plane (lines, quadratics, circles)
  • Functions (graphs, inverses, polynomials)
  • Exponential/logarithmic functions (relationship between, e, applications)
  • Systems of equations
  • Trigonometry (definitions [unit circle, radians], trig identities, inverse trig functions, use in geometry)

In addition, students should improve their ability to learn mathematics from a textbook and to explain mathematics to others.

I will focus my teaching, homework and tests on these subjects and outcomes.

How this course will be run: Here is how a usual pre-lecture, lecture and post-lecture will proceed.

  • Pre-lecture: You will read the sections to be covered for the lecture. Some tips for reading are below, and you are responsible for material in the assigned reading whether or not it is discussed in the lecture. (Though, if we do not mention it in lecture, and don't have any homework or discussion questions on it, it is most likely not on the test.)

    By 9 am before lecture, you will complete a short reading quiz on TritonED. These quizzes will count as a small part of your grade and will have infinite tries. These questions are meant to be fairly easy, to check if you did the reading, and to find potential misunderstandings you have.

  • Lecture: Lecture will be fairly standard, except that it will include several questions about the covered material. You will discuss these questions and ideas with other students. iClickers will be used for these questions, and will count for a small portion of your grade. The grade is 3/4 participation, and I will drop a few lectures's worth.

  • Post-lecture: You will complete homework and discussion section problems on the material from class and the textbook.

Tips for reading:

  • Reading a math textbook is not like reading a history textbook. A quick read-through will do very little, if anything, for you. You need to understand each paragraph before continuing on. Your understanding will increase as you spend time thinking about what you read.
  • The language and terms used are important! An important part of learning the math is learning the terms used, their definitions, why those definitions were chosen, and the idea behind the terms. This is also incredibly important when trying to communicate and explain math. Language is a huge part of mathematical thinking.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time. When I read new math, I expect to spend an average of 15 minutes a page, though sometimes it can take much longer than that.
  • Remove distractions. Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your computer. Hide in the corner of the library. Even short distractions ruin your focus. Research shows that multitasking does not work, and, in fact, those who think they are better at it are actually worse at it.
  • If you continue to have difficulty understanding the material after spending time trying to read and understand it on your own, my office hours and the TAs' office hours are a good way to get additional help.

Discussion sections: Discussion sections will not be a time to ask questions about the homework, as they are in most classes. Instead, you will work in groups on assigned problems. They will be run as follows:

  • You will be split, more or less at random, into groups of 3-4.
  • You will be assigned the roles of manager, skeptic and recorder. These roles will be explained on the assignment sheets.
  • You will work as a group on assigned problem(s) from sections we have covered in class since the last discussion. Make sure you are prepared to contribute on that material.
  • Your group's answer for one of the questions will be written down and submitted to by the end of the section. (Bring your cellphone to submit, and make sure you add each person's name on Gradescope, not just the paper.)
  • The grade is half participation (so 5 points out of 10). Thus, an answer that gets 7/10 points is of a quality that would get 2/5 points on an exam.
  • These assignments will be a small portion of your grade.

Calculators: A calculator is not needed or expected for this class. If you use one, a TI-83 or TI-84 (or similar model) suffices for this course, as would any more powerful calculator (such as a TI-89). For most purposes, Wolfram Alpha will work just as well or better. The calculator should be used only as an aid in learning concepts, not just as a means of computation. Note: The use of calculators will not be permitted during exams.

iClicker: iClickers are required for this class. We will use them daily. Make sure to register your clicker on via tools => i>clicker Student Registration.

Homework: There will be two parts to the homework. More computational type questions will be done in the online system Wiley Plus. Additional, more conceptual, homework exercises will be assigned on the course homework page. Both of these will be due on Tuesdays and Thursdays by 11pm.

WileyPLUS: WileyPLUS is an online system for homework assignments, created by the textbook publisher. It is good for computational type questions, and so we will use it for that. The link for our course is

Gradescope: The non-Wiley-Plus homework assignments will be turned in via

  • Your login is your university email, and your password can be changed here. The same link can be used if you need to originally set your password.
  • Assignments should be in a single pdf file before being uploaded, or as a picture for each question.
  • Hand written files can be scanned to be uploaded. High resolution is not required. However, make sure your files are legible before submitting.
  • Most word processors can save files as a pdf.
  • There are many tools to combine pdfs, such as here.
  • All grading, including the midterms and final, will be done on Gradescope. Regrade requests must be sent via Gradescope.
  • If you have not yet been added to the course, the Gradescope entry code is 95Y7Y9.

Midterm Exams: There will be two midterm exams, one given on Wednesday, August 16th and the other on Friday, August 25th during class (see the course calendar). No calculators will be allowed during the midterm exams. You may bring one 3x5 notecard with as many notes as you can write onto it. Students will not be allowed to take makeup midterm exams. If you will miss an exam for an excellent reason, please contact me as soon as possible so that we can make arangements. After the tests, 1 hour of lecture will be held.

Final Exam: The final exam will be held at the following time:

  • 12:00pm--3:00pm Friday, September 8th (See the course calendar.)
No calculators will be allowed during the midterms or during the final exam. You again get ONE 3x5 card.

Grading: Assignment grades will be posted on Gradescope and/or TritonED. Your term grade will be based on the scores of the homework, iClicker questions, discussion sections, two midterms and one final exam. Your term grade will be the highest of the following:

  • (5% iClicker) + (5% reading quizzes) + (5% discussions) + (20% HW) + (17.5% Midterm 1) + (17.5% Midterm 2) + (30% Final)
  • (5% iClicker) + (5% reading quizzes) + (5% discussions) + (20% HW) + (20% best Midterm) + (5% worst Midterm) + (40% Final)
I will not determine a curve until after the final exams have been graded.

Academic Dishonesty: Students are encouraged to share intellectual views and discuss freely the principles and applications of course materials. However, graded work/exercises must be the product of independent effort unless otherwise instructed. Students are expected to adhere to the UC San Diego Code of Academic Integrity as described. See this.

Accomodations: Students with special needs or disabilities must provide an Authorization for Accommodation (AFA) letter issued by the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) as soon as possible. Please call OSD at 858-534-4382 or visit for more information

Absence and Class Participation Policy: The UC San Diego's policy concerning Class Attendance, Participation, and Administrative Drops is available here. The UC San Diego policy regarding absences for any sincerely held religious belief, observance or practice will be accommodated where reasonable. Absences pre-approved by the UC San Diego College Dean of Advising (or Dean Designee) will be honored, as per here.

Absence and Class Participation Policy: The UA Threatening Behavior by Students Policy prohibits threats of physical harm to any member of the University community, including to oneself, as per here.

UA Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment Policy: The University is committed to creating and maintaining an environment free of discrimination; see this.

Subject to Change: Information contained in the course syllabus, other than the grade and absence policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.