**The Official Course Description**

Course
Number: Math 103

Course
Title: Quadrivium: Mathematics and Metaphysics in the Premodern World

Instructor:
Daniel Newsome

Time:
Tuesday/Thursday, 8:30-9:50

Room:
Hegeman 102

Class
size: 22

What
does the Music of the Spheres sound like? What influence did astrology
have on mathematics? Why does Newton's rainbow (ROYGBIV) have 7
colors? Does mathematics exist if there is nobody to think about it? These
questions are addressed by the quadrivium, a term coined by the 6th
century philosopher Boethius for the mathematical program of the medieval
university. The quadrivial disciplines make up 4 of the 7 Liberal Arts: arithmetic,
music, geometry and astronomy. Taken as a whole the quadrivium is
the metaphysics of Pythagoras and Plato. Number is the structure of
the universe and One-ness is its source. This course will explore each of
the quadrivial disciplines using primary sources in English translation
and show how mathematics was seen as the structure of everything.
Primary authors will include Plato, Euclid, Ptolemy, Boethius,
Martianus Capella, al Khwarizmi, Sacrobosco, Fibonacci, Oresme, Alberti,
Cardano, and Kepler. Other than a working knowledge of basic
algebra, the class requires only a willingness to explore new ideas and
construct convincing arguments.

Prerequisite:
Passing score on Part I of the Mathematics Diagnostic. Class size: 22

**Class by Class Operations**

The general goal of this course
is to introduce you to premodern mathematics. If you were at the University of Padua
in 1350, what would you have learned?
This is a mathematics course, but a lot of the mathematics will be
somewhat unfamiliar. Much of this
premodern material was written in prose and not in the familiar algebraic
language that many of you have come to know and love. Numbers were a different animal, x-y
graphs were basically unheard of, and the equal sign (if used at all) was
Gemini or a Taurus on its side.
This was a period when astrology and astronomy were interchangeable,
numbers had meaning, music had powers, and geometry remembered that it started
with "geo."

Because this course fulfills a
mathematics requirement, there will be regular mathematical assignments. These assignments will often
anachronistically use modern notation.
If this course were a history course I might attempt to only use period
notation, but I fear that such a restriction would slow us down too much. Historically accurate notation varies
from place to place, author to author, and year to year. Nevertheless, you will
be reading a lot of primary documents (in translation) which will use
historically accurate notation. You
will be reading it a lot, but not necessarily producing it yourself.

Every week will have required
readings. These readings will be
more lengthy than the typical math course, but probably less than your typical
history course. Every week you will
also have some sort of mathematical homework. Throughout the term you will also be
required to write several short essays, as well as a variety of assignments in
other media (drawing, design, music, etc.)

Your grade will be determined as
follows:

1/3: Attendance, Punctuality,
Attention, Preparedness, and Participation

1/3: Homework – Completeness,
Correctness, and Timeliness

1/3: Exams and Quizzes

**Idiosyncrasies**

As I get older I am using
technology less and less in the classroom.
For a class on premodern mathematics this makes a lot of sense. I have found that my classes go better
and are more engaging for everyone when I am not letting a PowerPoint slide
show determine the flow. Twenty
years ago, when PowerPoint was a novelty, it may have held everyone's
attention, like a TV at a diner, but the novelty is gone and now it is just a
way to avoid thinking on your feet.
As a result of my increasingly Luddite tendencies, I do not want homework
submitted electronically unless specifically requested. I want paper. I'll provide most mathematical homework
assignments on paper in class. You
will do the homework on paper and turn it in on paper. It is simply too much work grading
electronic assignments and filing them away and sending them back and figuring
out how to comment on them. Some teachers
are good at this. I'm not.

This is the first time I have
taught this course. It's the
learning curve, Beta-version. I
would very much appreciate your input on everything we do. Feel free to tell me
what you are thinking. If a reading
or homework assignment is totally terrible, let me know. If you really liked a particular
assignment. Let me know. If you
want to dig into a particular topic that I'm not covering, let me know. Maybe it can be mixed in or you can work
on it independently.

About homework: To liberally
paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, *Homework,
like fish, begins to smell after 3 days*. If you are late with a homework
assignment, it very quickly begins to rot.
I don't want to read it if it is more than one class session late. If it
__is__ one class session late, it will be graded as if it were a rotten
fish. I probably won't even read
it. You might get some credit, but
it stinks, I might just throw it out.

There is an unfortunate law in
the world of teaching: *Good students require little work on the
teacher's part and lazy students require lots.* This is exactly the opposite
of what we want. As teachers we
want to spend more time with students who give a shit and less time with
students who can't seem to get to class on time. But this is never the reality. This is what makes college professors
bitter. The lazy student always
needs an extension, is late, is absent, is sleeping or is tired, is overworked,
has too much homework from other classes, etc. All of this crap inevitably entails
requests for extensions, alternate test times, and innumerable emails going
over things already covered in class.
This eats up a lot of time that I don't have. Legitimate issues are legitimate issues,
I'm totally fine with a legitimate issue, but some students redefine
"legitimate" in order to rationalize their own laziness. If you can't
wake up when your alarm clock goes off, you need to take a semester off and
figure that one out. A student who
takes five classes in a semester had better be good at time management. It's not my problem a student took too
many classes. I've got my own
problems with my own time management. The point is, I have a very busy teaching
schedule this term. Don't infringe
on my time because you are lazy or undisciplined. I will not be all that sympathetic when
I hear about a series of unfortunate events that always seem to crop up when
assignments are due. Legitimate
reasons need to be legitimate. If
they are, I'm perfectly happy to accommodate. If they are not, once again, you may
want to take a semester off so that you can paint some houses or hang some
sheet rock or dig some ditches. Many
people go to college AND work a job.

Summary: Be a good student or drop
the class. I don't have time for
slackers.

That being said, if you are
having any problems what-so-ever, come and talk to me. Come to my office hours or email me to make an appointment. I'm not quite as
mean as the above paragraph sounds like.

This course is graded and is not
offered as pass/fail.

**ADA Statement**

The Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive
civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this
legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a
learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their
disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation,
please contact Amy Shein (ashein@bard.edu)
to determine if you may be eligible.
Definitely talk to me and let me know how I can be of assistance.