University of WisconsinMadison

Math 541 
Fall 2007

About the course: Math 541 is the first course in abstract algebra. The core topics are groups, rings, and fields. Math 541 is particularly useful for future K12 math teachers since one of the main points of this course is to explain where addition, subtraction, multiplication and division come from, why they do what they do, and how they can be sensibly modified. If you are going to be teaching math, then you will need to explain these things to your students. Along with Math 521 and Math 551 this course is a necessity for students considering going on to graduate school in mathematics.
In order to do well in this course it will help to have (1) a good study ethic and (2) some experience with matrix algebra, such as that obtained in Math 340 or Math 320 (or any one of several other math, engineering or economics or statistics courses).
Special goal: One of the goals of this course is to teach everybody how to construct and write proofs.
Lectures:
TTh 11:0012:15 in B235 Van Vleck
Text: The textbook for the course is
I also recommend the following books:
I strongly recommend you get one or all of these books (read them, study them, do problems from them, look things up in them, absorb them, osmose them, sleep with them under your pillow, and carry them with you everywhere you go).
Course Notes:
Vocabulary quizzes: One of the challenges when one is first starting to learn proof oriented mathematics, is to remember the rules of the game (the definitions). This EXTREMELY IMPORTANT part of doing proofs is easy since it is just regurgitation. We will negotiate some form of vocabulary assessment on the first day of class.
Learning examples: Besides vocabulary, the other BIG part of learning proof oriented mathematics is the examples. I have arranged for a Wiki to help us learn definitions and discuss examples. This Wiki is housed at https://chatter.lss.wisc.edu/moodle/ They've turned on the TeX editing capability. Try it out.
Vocabulary lists:
Office hours: TTh 12:151:15pm in B235 Van Vleck and MWF 9:4510:45 in Van Vleck 711. If you are having any problems, questions or concerns please come talk about it. If you do not keep me informed I cannot help.
Grading: The term grade will be based on homework and the exams as follows: Homework: 15% Each midterm: 20% Final Exam: 25%. Final grades are computed by totalling the points from the homework, the midterms and the final. Grade letters will be assigned with the following curve as a guideline: 20% A's, 30% B's, 30% C's, 20% D's and F's.
Homework: Homework will be weekly, due by 9am on Wednesdays. Turn in your homework to my mailbox, on floor 2 of Van Vleck Hall. All claims that you make in your homework MUST BE PROVED in order to receive credit.
Homework assignments:
Exams: There will be three 65 minute inclass midterms: October 4, November 1 and November 29. There will be a 2 hour final exam at 10:05am Thursday December 20 in Ingraham 120. The final exam will be cumulative. Please note the following change: The exams will not be a random selection of homework problems from the homework assignments. The exams will be made according to the schematic discussed in class.
Syllabus: The following is my general plan for the topics to be covered and the ordering which I have in my mind at the moment.