Course Info

Title: MAT 123: First Year Seminar
Semester: Fall 2022
Credits: 1
Section: Honors
Time: 3:00-3:50PM M
Location: AMB 220

Instructor Info

  Dana C. Ernst, PhD
  AMB 176
  11:15-12:15PM MWF, 10:15-12:15 Th


MAT 123: First Year Seminar introduces first year majors to the academic content, degree programs, faculty, resources, and opportunities available in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Pass–fail only.

Course Content

This course is intended to introduce you to:

  • academic programs in mathematics, mathematics education, and data science;
  • resources and employment opportunities available to department majors;
  • some of the research being done by faculty in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics; and
  • typesetting in mathematics.

Course Structure and Approach

This course meets weekly to discuss content of interest and value to first year students. Some sessions will be presented by a guest presenter such as a department faculty member or a working professional.  Some presentations may involve a topic of mathematics that is accessible to first-year students.  Students will be given assignments to investigate aspects of the content, such as career information; to prepare documents or plans related to their academic or career objectives; or to investigate mathematical topics presented in weekly sessions.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to: 

  1. Design a personal program of study leading to a B.S. degree in a program in the department.
  2. Describe careers available to individuals with a degree in mathematics, mathematics education, data science, or statistics, as well as academic preparation required for various careers.
  3. Use software (e.g. LaTeX) to typeset mathematics.
  4. Describe the faculty of the department and some of their interests.
  5. Make use of the resources and opportunities available to majors in the department.

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Course Materials

There is no textbook for this course. All course content will be covered via lectures and homework.

Don’t just read it; fight it! Ask your own questions, look for your own examples, discover your own proofs. Is the hypothesis necessary? Is the converse true? What happens in the classical special case? What about the degenerate cases? Where does the proof use the hypothesis?

Rights of the Learner

As a student in this class, you have the right:

  1. to be confused,
  2. to make a mistake and to revise your thinking,
  3. to speak, listen, and be heard, and
  4. to enjoy doing mathematics.

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.

Commitment to the Learning Community

In our classroom, diversity and individual differences are respected, appreciated, and recognized as a source of strength. Students in this class are encouraged and expected to speak up and participate during class and to carefully and respectfully listen to each other. Every member of this class must show respect for every other member of this class. Any attitudes or actions that are destructive to the sense of community that we strive to create are not welcome and will not be tolerated. In summary: Be good to each other. I would appreciate private responses to the following question: Are there aspects of your identity that you would like me to attend to when forming groups, and if so, how?

Students are also expected to minimize distracting behaviors. In particular, every attempt should be made to arrive to class on time. If you must arrive late or leave early, please do not disrupt class. Please turn off the ringer on your cell phone. I do not have a strict policy on the use of laptops, tablets, and cell phones. You are expected to be paying attention and engaging in class discussions. If your cell phone, etc. is interfering with your ability (or that of another student) to do this, then put it away, or I will ask you to put it away.


There are two types of graded assignments for this course.

Required Assignments: As the name implies, these assignments will be required to be completed by a particular due date. Some of these assignments may be completed in class, but most will be given as homework. In order to pass the course, you must complete each of the Required Assignments to a satisfactory level. If your work is deemed unsatisfactory, you will have one chance to resubmit your work. We will negotiate a due date for any resubmissions. In general, late Required Assignments will not be accepted. However, you are allowed to turn in up to two late Required Assignments with no questions asked.

Flexible Assignments: These assignments are a sort of “choose your own adventure”. Each Flexible Assignment has a designated point value. Over the course of the semester, you must complete enough Flexible Assignments to achieve at least 150 points by Friday, October 21 and a total of at least 300 points by the end of semester. See the Homework page for a list of the potential Flexible Assignments. Feel free to suggest more items for the list.


There are no exams for this class.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.


As per university policy, attendance is mandatory in all 100-level courses, and in particular, I am required to record attendance each class session. Moreover, in order to pass the class, you may have at most two unexcused absences. You are responsible for all material covered in class even if you are absent. You can find more information about NAU’s attendance policy on the Academic Policies page.

Basis for Evaluation

The grading basis for this course is Pass/Fail. You must complete all of the Required Assignments and complete enough Flexible Assignments to achieve a total of at least 300 points by the end of semester (and 150 points by Friday, October 21). Otherwise, a student will receive a grade of Fail for the course.

Department of Mathematics & Statistics Policies

You are responsible for knowing and following the Department of Mathematics and Statistics Policies (PDF). As per Department Policy, cell phones, MP3 players and portable electronic communication devices, including but not limited to smart phones, cameras and recording devices, must be turned off and inaccessible during in-class tests. Any violation of this policy will be treated as academic dishonesty. More policies can be found in other university documents, especially the NAU Student Handbook (see appendices).

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

Important Dates

Here are some important dates:

  • September 5: Labor Day (no classes)
  • September 8: Last day to drop a course (without a “W”)
  • September 10: Department Picnic
  • October 28: Last day to withdraw from a course (with a “W”)
  • November 11: Veteran’s Day (no classes)
  • November 24-25: Thanksgiving Holiday (no classes)

Changes to the Syllabus

Any changes to this syllabus made during the term will be properly communicated to the class.

If you want to sharpen a sword, you have to remove a little metal.

University Policies

Academic Integrity: NAU expects every student to firmly adhere to a strong ethical code of academic integrity in all their scholarly pursuits. The primary attributes of academic integrity are honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, and responsibility. As a student, you are expected to submit original work while giving proper credit to other people’s ideas or contributions. Acting with academic integrity means completing your assignments independently while truthfully acknowledging all sources of information, or collaboration with others when appropriate. When you submit your work, you are implicitly declaring that the work is your own. Academic integrity is expected not only during formal coursework, but in all your relationships or interactions that are connected to the educational enterprise. All forms of academic deceit such as plagiarism, cheating, collusion, falsification or fabrication of results or records, permitting your work to be submitted by another, or inappropriately recycling your own work from one class to another, constitute academic misconduct that may result in serious disciplinary consequences. All students and faculty members are responsible for reporting suspected instances of academic misconduct. All students are encouraged to complete NAU’s online academic integrity workshop available in the E-Learning Center and should review the full Academic Integrity policy available here.

Copyright Infringement: All lectures and course materials, including but not limited to exams, quizzes, study outlines, and similar materials are protected by copyright. These materials may not be shared, uploaded, distributed, reproduced, or publicly displayed without the express written permission of NAU. Sharing materials on websites such as Course Hero, Chegg, or related websites is considered copyright infringement subject to United States Copyright Law and a violation of NAU Student Code of Conduct. For additional information on ABOR policies relating to course materials, please refer to ABOR Policy 6-908 A(2)(5).

Course Time Commitment: Pursuant to Arizona Board of Regents guidance (ABOR Policy 2-224, Academic Credit), each unit of credit requires a minimum of 45 hours of work by students, including but not limited to, class time, preparation, homework, and studying. For example, for a 3-credit course a student should expect to work at least 8.5 hours each week in a 16-week session and a minimum of 33 hours per week for a 3-credit course in a 4-week session.

Disruptive Behavior: Membership in NAU’s academic community entails a special obligation to maintain class environments that are conductive to learning, whether instruction is taking place in the classroom, a laboratory or clinical setting, during course-related fieldwork, or online. Students have the obligation to engage in the educational process in a manner that does not interfere with normal class activities or violate the rights of others. Instructors have the authority and responsibility to address disruptive behavior that interferes with student learning, which can include the involuntary withdrawal of a student from a course with a grade of “W”. For additional information, see NAU’s Disruptive Behavior in an Instructional Setting policy located here.

Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment: NAU prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sex, gender, gender identity, race, color, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status and genetic information. Certain consensual amorous or sexual relationships between faculty and students are also prohibited as set forth in the Consensual Romantic and Sexual Relationships policy. The Equity and Access Office (EAO) responds to complaints regarding discrimination and harassment that fall under NAU’s Nondiscrimination and Anti- Harassment policy. EAO also assists with religious accommodations. For additional information about nondiscrimination or anti-harassment or to file a complaint, contact EAO located in Old Main (building 10), Room 113, PO Box 4083, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, or by phone at 928-523-3312 (TTY: 928-523-1006), fax at 928-523-9977, email at, or visit the EAO website located here.

Title IX: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as amended, protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in any educational program or activity operated by recipients of federal financial assistance. In accordance with Title IX, Northern Arizona University prohibits discrimination based on sex or gender in all its programs or activities. Sex discrimination includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. NAU does not discriminate on the basis of sex in the education programs or activities that it operates, including in admission and employment. NAU is committed to providing an environment free from discrimination based on sex or gender and provides a number of supportive measures that assist students, faculty, and staff.

One may direct inquiries concerning the application of Title IX to either or both the Title IX Coordinator or the U.S. Department of Education, Assistant Secretary, Office of Civil Rights. You may contact the Title IX Coordinator in the Office for the Resolution of Sexual Misconduct by phone at 928-523-5434, by fax at 928-523-0640, or by email at In furtherance of its Title IX obligations, NAU promptly will investigate or equitably resolve all reports of sex or gender-based discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct and will eliminate any hostile environment as defined by law. The Office for the Resolution of Sexual Misconduct (ORSM): Title IX Institutional Compliance, Prevention & Response addresses matters that fall under the university’s Sexual Misconduct policy. Additional important information and related resources, including how to request immediate help or confidential support following an act of sexual violence, is available here.

Accessibility: Professional disability specialists are available at Disability Resources to facilitate a range of academic support services and accommodations for students with disabilities. If you have a documented disability, you can request assistance by contacting Disability Resources at 928-523-8773 (voice), ,928-523-8747 (fax), or (e-mail). Once eligibility has been determined, students register with Disability Resources every semester to activate their approved accommodations. Although a student may request an accommodation at any time, it is best to initiate the application process at least four weeks before a student wishes to receive an accommodation. Students may begin the accommodation process by submitting a self-identification form online here or by contacting Disability Resources. The Director of Disability Resources, Jamie Axelrod, serves as NAU’s Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator and Section 504 Compliance Officer. He can be reached at

Responsible Conduct of Research: Students who engage in research at NAU must receive appropriate Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training. This instruction is designed to help ensure proper awareness and application of well-established professional norms and ethical principles related to the performance of all scientific research activities. More information regarding RCR training is available here.

Misconduct in Research: As noted, NAU expects every student to firmly adhere to a strong code of academic integrity in all their scholarly pursuits. This includes avoiding fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism when conducting research or reporting research results. Engaging in research misconduct may result in serious disciplinary consequences. Students must also report any suspected or actual instances of research misconduct of which they become aware. Allegations of research misconduct should be reported to your instructor or the University’s Research Integrity Officer, Dr. David Faguy, who can be reached at or 928-523-6117. More information about misconduct in research is available here.

Sensitive Course Materials: University education aims to expand student understanding and awareness. Thus, it necessarily involves engagement with a wide range of information, ideas, and creative representations. In their college studies, students can expect to encounter and to critically appraise materials that may differ from and perhaps challenge familiar understandings, ideas, and beliefs. Students are encouraged to discuss these matters with faculty.

Dana C. Ernst

Mathematics & Teaching

  Northern Arizona University
  Flagstaff, AZ
  Google Scholar
  Impact Story

Current Courses

  MAT 226: Discrete Math
  MAT 320: Foundations
  MAT 431: Analysis

About This Site

  This website was created using GitHub Pages and Jekyll together with Twitter Bootstrap.

  Unless stated otherwise, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

  The views expressed on this site are my own and are not necessarily shared by my employer Northern Arizona University.

  The source code is on GitHub.

Land Acknowledgement

  Flagstaff and NAU sit at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, on homelands sacred to Native Americans throughout the region. The Peaks, which includes Humphreys Peak (12,633 feet), the highest point in Arizona, have religious significance to several Native American tribes. In particular, the Peaks form the Diné (Navajo) sacred mountain of the west, called Dook'o'oosłííd, which means "the summit that never melts". The Hopi name for the Peaks is Nuva'tukya'ovi, which translates to "place-of-snow-on-the-very-top". The land in the area surrounding Flagstaff is the ancestral homeland of the Hopi, Ndee/Nnēē (Western Apache), Yavapai, A:shiwi (Zuni Pueblo), and Diné (Navajo). We honor their past, present, and future generations, who have lived here for millennia and will forever call this place home.