Math 54-001 - Linear Algebra and Differential Equations


We have a very simple yet strict ''no (need for) excuses'' policy: Everyone has a 20% ''no fault'' allowance for missing assignments - with no questions asked. Specific rules for each assignment type are given below.


Reading references are listed in the syllabus with the lecture in which the topic is covered. Giving the book at least a diagonal read before lecture is highly recommended and will greatly contribute to your understanding. Attending lectures is also highly recommended but not mandatory. Webcasts of lectures will be made available if-and-as-long-as the tablet-lecturing works out. (Blackboard lectures cannot be captured in our room. For any concerns about the webcasts please contact ETS directly.)
Slides and scribbles from the lectures will be posted on the Piazza forum but should not be viewed as full lecture notes. (However, topics that are not mentioned on the slides are rather unlikely to appear on exams.)


Suggested practice problems are listed in the syllabus with the lecture in which this material will get discussed and should be worked on shortly before/after that lecture.

Section work and check-in-sheets are designed to assist with your active learning. Between each lecture and the following section (usually on Wednesday or Friday) you should start engaging with the material and document this by filling out a check-in-sheet. You should also attempt at least two of the posted practice problems and submit that work together with your check-in sheet. These submissions will be graded for effort: Any work that evidently contributes to your learning (e.g. trying a problem, getting stuck, and ending with a concrete question to your GSI) will earn the full score for that part - namely 2 points for the check-in sheet and 1 point for each practice problem (max.2). (You can submit any number of practice problems, but we count only two for this score.)

Due most Mondays in section, there will be a 20min take-home quiz with two standard problems from the material of the previous lectures, as listed in the syllabus. These quizzes primarily serve as feedback on your level of understanding and thus will be graded for each problem on a scale of
2 - problem is essentially solved (up to e.g. small algebra error) / you have the skill
1 - good start towards a solution / you need to refine this skill by ((insert crucial feedback))
0 - little or no progress towards a solution / you need to look at this topic from scratch
(An exception is the first Jan.23 quiz on prerequisites, which will be graded as 4 points for any reasonable submission. Reasonable is any work that is suitable to help you determine what prerequisites you need to review.) To make this feedback timely, graded quizzes will usually be returned on the following Wednesday, or Friday the latest.

When calculating the discussion grade, we will drop the 2 lowest quiz scores and the 5 lowest check-in-and-problems scores. This means that you can miss 2 quizzes and 5 check-in submissions with no need for an excuse and no deduction to your grade.

Note that this eliminates homework deadlines, grading, and the resulting delays between material being covered, problems being worked, and discussion of solutions. Instead, you will have direct benefits from and support for staying current by attempting the practice problems right before/after the corresponding lecture, and clarifying your understanding right in the following section. Don't worry if you weren't able to solve much before the section - getting you unstuck is exactly what the discussion in sections is there for. However, the sections are not meant to be used as starting point for exposure to material, so make sure that you have reached some understanding (of the material and your confusions) before coming to section - this is what the check-in-sheets are all about.
The practice problems are then meant to be solved properly before the corresponding quiz, since most quiz problems will be very similar. Since all solutions are available in the book or online, this also elminiates mindless grading for your GSI. Instead they can concentrate on giving you detailed feedback on your chosen problems and quiz solutions. Also, feel free to ask them to look over your writeup of other practice problems if you are unsure of your methods or writing style.


There will be two midterms and a final. Due to scheduling constraints it is not possible to give makeup exams. However, you can miss one midterm, for whatever reason, without need to communicate an excuse. Missed midterms are recorded with score 0, but then everyone's lower midterm score is replaced by the final score - if that is higher. So there is no penalty but also no benefit to missing one midterm. On the other hand, missing both midterms or the final will seriously harm your grade and make it very difficult to pass the course. This can usually only be resolved by an incomplete grade (see below).

All exams and quizzes are ''closed book'' and do not allow for (or require) course related materials other than pen and paper. In particular, these may not be brought into the room for midterms or final. If you learn the material properly, then you should not have to memorize a lot of rules or formulas, and there will be no use for calculators.

Unlike the quizzes, full credit for an exam question requires the correct answer (not just up to a sign or factor), in a box, and with a correct and readable derivation or justification of the answer. Unjustified correct answers will be regarded very suspiciously and will receive little or no credit. The graders are looking for demonstration that you understand the material, and the world is looking for professionals who do not make ''silly errors'' such as unit conversions that can have catastropic results. To further maximize credit, cross out any work that does not justify your answer. However, if you determine that your solution is wrong but cannot fix it, you can get partial credit for explaining what you were trying to do, and how you know that your result is wrong.

Exam or quiz grades cannot be changed except for egregious errors such as overlooking an entire page of your work. For exams, the correction of such egregious grading errors needs to be discussed with and initiated by your GSI. (The gradescope regrade request option will not be offered due to frequent misuse.) For quizzes, you should check the grading as soon as you get your quiz back. Due to previous cheating attempts, your GSI is only allowed to correct errors that are reported within the same section meeting. If you don't understand what you did wrong in a problem, please ask for clarification - because this is crucial for learning, not because it might change the score. All exams are graded by a fixed scheme, thus (with the exception of egregious errors) regrading individual exams would be unfair to everyone else.


Your GSI will determine discussion scores from ''50% check-in-sheets and 50% quizzes''. Your course grade will then be determined from the weighted average of 30% discussion (i.e. 15% effort and 15% quizzes), 20% for each midterm, 30% final. Here the lower midterm score (in particular if you missed it) will be replaced by the final score if that is higher. If you miss both midterms, then one counts with score 0. If you miss the final, it counts with score 0, unless you provide sufficient evidence for an incomplete grade (see below).
Letter grades will be determined on an absolute scale of 100-85% A, 84-70% B, 69-55% C, 54-0% D/F unless comparisons with previous/parallel exams and grade distributions warrant an adjustment in your favour.

Note that you can earn 15% by pure effort of handing in check-in-sheets. Quizzes and midterms contribute relatively little and thus should mainly be viewed as giving you feedback on your skill level, and also as training in dealing with stress and time pressure, and writing well structured solutions. As such, we highly recommend taking all of them and not planning to use the final as make up for midterms. The final is likely to be very hard - due to an emphasis on the more advanced and conceptual material - and also since even those 3 hours should contribute to your learning. So be prepared to bring your full thinking capacity, but rest assured that the graders will be aware of the level of difficulty.


We expect that the 20% no fault allowance (detailed above) will cover all but the most extreme circumstances. Differently put: Reliably meeting 80% of a given set of expectations, despite unforeseen circumstances, is a professional skill that your instructors will demonstrate (hopefully very close to 100%) and that - if you don't already have it - is a core goal for this course. If you can foresee possibly having to miss more than 20%, consider the question whether you might not benefit from learning the material at another time.

If you do want/need to pursue the course despite missing over 20% of assignments, you will need to contact your GSI with detailed written evidence of your exceptional circumstances (e.g. a doctor's note that explicitly excuses missed assignments listed with dates). In such cases, assignments would usually be made up for by oral exams or using the score of the final exam.

Incomplete grades will, according to university policy, only be given if you have "completed and passed a majority of the work required" (i.e. based on at least one midterm and five quizzes are scoring at least a C) before unanticipated events beyond your control make it impossible for you to complete the course. In such cases, contact your GSI as soon as posible after the events, and arrange for detailed written evidence. To make up an incomplete, one ordinarily takes the missed assignments in another Math 54 class, taught by a different instructor, in the subsequent summer or regular semester.


Students requiring accommodations for exams must arrange for the Disabled Students Program (DSP) to send a "letter of accommodation" to the instructor (not GSI) at least one week before the deadline by the DSP, i.e. three weeks before an exam. Due to delays in processing, we recommend contacting the DSP office before the start of the semester.


The student community at UC Berkeley has adopted the following Honor Code: “As a member of the UC Berkeley community, I act with honesty, integrity, and respect for others.” The hope and expectation is that you will adhere to this code, in paticular:

Cheating: A good lifetime strategy is always to act in such a way that no one could even get the remote impression that you might have considered cheating. Your motivation to follow this strategy should not just be the fact that anyone caught cheating on any assignment in this course will receive a failing grade and will also be reported to the University Center for Student Conduct. In order to guarantee that you are not suspected of cheating in exams, please bring no course materials into the room, keep your eyes on your own exam, and do not converse with others.

Academic Integrity and Ethics: Cheating on exams is one common example of dishonest, unethical behavior. Honesty and integrity in general are of great importance in all facets of life. They help to build a sense of self-confidence, and are key to building trust within relationships, whether personal or professional. There is no tolerance for dishonesty in the academic world, for it undermines what we are dedicated to doing – furthering knowledge for the benefit of humanity. Your experience as a student at UC Berkeley is hopefully fueled by passion for learning and replete with fulfilling activities. And we also appreciate that being a student can be stressful. There may be times when there is temptation to engage in some kind of cheating in order to improve a grade or otherwise advance your career. This could be as blatant as having someone else sit for you in an exam, or submitting a written assignment that has been copied from another source. And it could be as subtle as glancing at a fellow student’s exam when you are unsure of an answer to a question and are looking for some confirmation. One might do any of these things and potentially not get caught. However, if you cheat, no matter how much you may have learned in this class, you have failed to learn perhaps the most important lesson of all.