Course Info

Title: MAT 511: Abstract Algebra I
Semester: Fall 2015
Credits: 3
Section: 1
Time: MWF at 9:10-10:00AM
Location: AMB 163

Instructor Info

  Dana C. Ernst, PhD
  AMB 176
  11:15-12:15 MWThF and 10-11 T (or by appointment)


MAT 411 with a grade of C or better.

Catalog Description

Groups through the Sylow theorems, rings, and fields. Assumes familiarity with definitions and elementary properties of basic algebraic structures.


There is no required textbook. All necessary material (including homework) will be made available via handouts and postings on the course webpage. However, I will be loosely following “Abstract Algebra” by Dummit and Foote. So, if you want to purchase a textbook to use as a resource, this is the book I recommend getting. I’ve also listed a few free abstract algebra books on the Course Materials page. Regardless of what resource you decide to use, the only way to achieve a sufficient understanding of the material is to be digesting it in a meaningful way. You should be seeking clarification about the material whenever necessary by asking questions in class, working with our students, stopping by office hours, or emailing me.

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?

Learning Management System

We will make limited use of Bb Learn this semester, which is Northern Arizona University’s default learning management system (LMS). Most course content (e.g., syllabus, course notes, homework, etc.) will be housed here on our course webpage that lives outside of Bb Learn. I suggest you bookmark this page. The only thing I will use Bb Learn for is to communicate grades.


You are allowed and encouraged to work together on homework. Yet, each student is expected to turn in their own work. In general, late homework will not be accepted. However, you are allowed to turn in one late homework assignment with no questions asked. Unless you have made arrangements in advance with me, homework turned in after class will be considered late.

Generally, the written homework assignments will be due on Wednesdays, but I will always tell you when a given homework assignment is due–so there should never be any confusion. Your homework will always be graded for completion and some subset of the problems will be graded for correctness. Problems that are graded for completeness will be worth 1 point. Problems that are graded for correctness will either be worth 2 points or 4 points depending on the level of difficulty. Generally, computation problems will be worth 2 points while problems requiring a formal proof will be worth 4 points. Each 4-point problem is subject to the following rubric:

Grade Criteria
4 This is correct and well-written mathematics!
3 This is a good piece of work, yet there are some mathematical errors or some writing errors that need addressing.
2 There is some good intuition here, but there is at least one serious flaw.
1 I don't understand this, but I see that you have worked on it; come see me!
0 I believe that you have not worked on this problem enough or you didn't submit any work.

To compute your score on a given homework assignment, I will divide your total points by the total possible points to obtain a percent score. Each homework assignment has the same weight. Your overall homework grade will be worth 20% of your final grade.


There will be 3 midterm exams and a cumulative final exam. Exam 1 and Exam 2 will be written exams and may include a take-home portion. These exams are tentatively scheduled for Monday, October 12 and Friday, November 20, respectively, and each is worth 20% of your overall grade. Exam 3 will be an oral exam taken individually in my office. The questions for the oral exam will predominately come from homework problems. Exam 3 will last roughly 30 minutes and will be worth 10% of your overall grade. Students will schedule Exam 3 during Monday, November 30-Thursday, December 17. The final exam will be on Wednesday, December 16 at 7:30-9:30AM and is worth 20% of your overall grade. Make-up exams will only be given under extreme circumstances, as judged by me. In general, it will be best to communicate conflicts ahead of time.

Presentations, Participation, and In-class Work

On the day that homework is due (usually Wednesday), at least a portion of the class meeting will be devoted to students presenting their proposed solutions to a subset of the homework. Presenters will be chosen at random, but students are allowed/encouraged to volunteer to present problems. Students are allowed (in fact, encouraged!) to modify their written solutions in light of presentations made in class; however, you are required to use the colored marker pens provided in class. Despite being allowed to annotate your work, the grade you receive on the homework will be determined by the work you produced before class. I will provide more guidance with respect to this during the first couple weeks of the semester.

In addition, we will occasionally have in-class activities aimed at solidifying our understanding of the material. You are expected to be actively engaged in these activities. Lastly, separate from the written homework, I will ask individuals to prepare the proof of a theorem, or possibly a detailed description of an example, that will be presented to the class. You are allowed to consult outside resources when preparing for these presentations (but you should cite your sources). For example, on Monday, I may ask Student X to prepare a proof of Theorem Y to be presented on Friday. The goal is for each student to do this at least once during the semester, but with the number of students we have enrolled, this may be difficult. If a student happens to get passed over, it will get made up for by doing presentations of homework problems.

All presentations will be graded using the rubric below.

Grade Criteria
4 Completely correct and clear proof or solution. Yay!
3 Proof has minor technical flaws, some unclear language, or lacking some details. Essentially correct.
2 A partial explanation or proof is provided but a significant gap still exists to reach a full solution or proof.
1 Minimal progress has been made that includes relevant information & could lead to a proof or solution.
0 You were completely unprepared.

Your overall performance during presentations, as well as your level of interaction/participation during class, will be worth 10% of your overall grade.

Basis for Evaluation

In summary, your final grade will be determined by your scores in the following categories.

Category Weight
Homework 20%
Exam 1 (written) 20%
Exam 2 (written) 20%
Exam 3 (oral) 10%
Presentations, Participation, & In-class Work 10%
Final Exam 20%

Grade Determination

In general, you should expect the grades to adhere to the standard letter-grade cutoffs:

A 100-90%, B 80-89%, C 70-79%, D 60-69%, F 0-59%.

Department and University Policies

You are responsible for knowing and following the Department of Mathematics and Statistics Policies (PDF) and other University policies listed here (PDF). More policies can be found in other university documents, especially the NAU Student Handbook (see appendices) and the website of the Office of Student Life.

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.

Class Etiquette

Students are expected to treat each other with respect. Students are also expected to promote a healthy learning environment, as well as minimize distracting behaviors. In particular, you should be supportive of other students while they are making presentations. Moreover, 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.

Important Dates

Here are some important dates:

  • Monday, September 7: Labor Day, no classes
  • Thursday, September 10: Last day to drop/add (no W appears on transcript)
  • Monday, October 12: Exam 1
  • Friday, November 6: Last day to withdraw from a course (W appears on transcript)
  • Wednesday, November 11: Veterans Day, no classes
  • Friday, November 20: Exam 2
  • Thursday, November 26 and Friday, November 27: Thanksgiving Holiday, no classes
  • Monday, November 30-Thursday, December 17: Exam 3
  • Wednesday, December 16 at 7:30-9:30AM: Final Exam

Changes to the Syllabus

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

Dana C. Ernst

Mathematics & Teaching

  Northern Arizona University
  Flagstaff, AZ
  Google Scholar
  Impact Story

Current Courses

  MAT 411: Abstract Algebra
  MAT 690: Genome Combinatorics

About This Site

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  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.

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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 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.