Mathematical Models, Spring 2016
Letters to students of Modeling
This page is for a past course. Find your current course here.

I thought it was strange, and impossible, on the first day of class, when Professor Chris told us that we would learn to see basically any life situation in a mathematical way. Well, he was right.

This course has been very challenging for me. The homeworks are very long; it usually took me many hours to complete them. I had to learn a new language, Mathematica, on the computer. I remember thinking that I would not survive the course.

Well, I did survive it, and I'm very glad that I did. Professor Chris's course has opened up my eyes to a whole world of math. Math really is everywhere, though I wouldn't have known that if it weren't for Math 245 (math modeling). I worked in a study group throughout the semester with my two friends, and that helped a lot. I didn't realize it at the time, but as the semester went on I became more used to the course, and it became a little easier. Now, I see how the course really helps in every day life. As a math student, we are encouraged to see math and its applications in our everyday lives. I now cannot leave math alone--I sit in the waiting room at the doctor's office and write out Mathematica loops in my head, which can model the situation in the waiting room. It sounds insane, but it really is awesome.

My advice to you, a future student: realize all that this course has to offer and do not give up. Work hard because it is worth it. Pick a project topic you are sincerely interested in. Complete the Mathematica tutorials. Go to Prof. Chris early on if you need help. Do not give up. You can do it, and you should!

Good luck!

At the beginning of the semester, you might be confused about how one topic relates to the next, and this is understandable. This is because you are learning topics which are the tools for mathematical modeling.

The goal of this class is to teach you how to build a model on your own, so you will be assigned a group project to complete. In completing the group project is when you will use all the modeling knowledge you learned during the semester. It is as if you have wood, nails, a hammer, and paint without knowing that you will be building a table. The only thing you need to do is to learn how to use them. The materials in this example are the different topics in the lessons, and the wooden table is your mathematical model. Before you start to build your table, you need to learn how to use the tools. The same is true in mathematical modeling.

I hope that you will learn a lot in professor Hanusa's class. Have a great semester.

This class is not a hard class but requires a lot of thinking. Most math classes you can jump right in and start doing a problem, while this class is different. Before you start doing any problem you will first need to think about what the question is asking you and how you are going to answer the question. Then you can start actually doing the question and once you are done and have completed the question Professor Hanusa asks you to write out in words what you have done. That the reason why the homework can sometimes take so long.

While doing the homework make sure you are thorough. At the time writing out everything in words can be very annoying but once it comes on the test, it will be very helpful. Sometimes in other classes you look back at your notes and homework assignments and you do not remember why you did something. But when you have the words written out it makes it a lot easier to study from.

When it comes the notes in class, Professor Hanusa will give you power point slides. But the slides are not necessarily sufficient; you should also be paying attention in class and taking notes onto the slides. There are things that Professor Hanusa will say but aren’t on the slides. You should also write down the examples that he does in class because they will be helpful when are trying to study.

This class was different from any other math class you have ever taken because it teaches you the math you already know and REALLY connects them to the real world. It breaks the mold of the typical real world connection (such as "hair grows at an exponential rate.") It helps to explain the other factors that our teachers usually brushed of with the excuse "that is beyond the scope of this course." This gives you the power to include the things you really want to study and ignore the things you don't as long as it is backed by logical reasoning.

Though this class will require a lot of time devoted to homework, studying, and the main mathematical modeling project, looking back will reveal a picture that over the course of time the class has painted. As long as you do your homework, come prepared to class, study for tests and prepare the mathematical modeling project well, this class will pay off in the end. This class is like a blender, during the class your mind is constantly turning but when the blender is off, you realize that something else was created.

Dear Future Mathematical Modeling Student,

Hi. You’re probably sitting in your chair and wondering what to expect from this class. If you’re like me, you probably signed up for this class because you need math credits and it was one of the only courses with seats still open. In that case you just know you need to do well no matter what the course entails. Or maybe you picked the class because the two sentences describing it on the Queens College registration website piqued your interest. Maybe it just fit in well with the rest of your schedule. In any case, here’s what you need to know about succeeding in Professor Hanusa’s Mathematical Modeling course.

The first thing you need to know is that there is a lot of writing involved, much more so than you’ve probably ever had to do for another math class. And I’m not talking about writing numbers, equations, and formulas, though that is part of it. In addition to those, for your homework assignments you will be writing very detailed explanations about concepts learned in class and explanations about how you used them. You need to brush up on your sentence structuring and grammar to make sure you can accurately convey the points you’ll be trying to make. If a homework problem does involve numbers and formulas, in addition to actually solving the equation you’ll need to explain your methodology and why you set things up the way you did to solve the problem.

All of the notes will be posted online on the course website. Actually, pretty much everything you need to know about the course, from the general syllabus to homework assignments to due dates, will be on the site. It’s an extremely helpful resource. Use it well. Professor Hanusa posts the notes online before the class he uses them in but I recommend bringing a notebook and writing the notes every day, using the online notes as a backup only. From a personal standpoint, I find it easier to understand things and remember them later when I write them myself. Sometimes there are typos too, so it’s easier to just write things correctly instead of trying to remember what in the online notes needed correcting.

You will also use Mathematica, a very powerful mathematical software program. This will be essential to your studies, as the professor uses it A LOT in the notes and homework assignments. If you have ever taken a computer programming course you will know what to expect from Mathematica, as it’s very similar to Java and C++ in certain respects. If you’ve never taken a programming course I will tell you now, prepare to feel in over your head. When you’re asked to modify code or write your own it gets very complicated very quickly, especially if you have a full course load and don’t have time to devote to mastering the nuances of the programming language.

There’s also a very large project due towards the end of the year. The first time you see it, it will appear daunting, and it does not get talked about in class until after the first midterm. DO NOT PANIC! You will learn about the concepts that you will apply for the project during the semester, so talking about it any earlier will only confuse you. My advice would be that as the first half of the semester progresses, start giving some thought as to what experiments you could focus your project on that would use concepts that get introduced. Also, I wouldn’t recommend doing the project with more than one other person. You’re allowed to team up with up to four people, but I have always found that it’s easier to make sure everyone contributes evenly the fewer people you have. Do not go this one alone.

In summary, prepare to spend a lot more time on this class than you thought you would. It’s a very interesting class, but you need to make a significant investment to get the most out of it. Time management will be key, especially if you have other writing intensive courses and no freedom to shift your schedule around, like I did. If I can get through this class, then so can you. Good luck!

To future students,

Starting out in this class in the beginning of the year, I did not know what to expect. Based on the title of the class I thought it would all be about data collecting, and then plotting that said data. I soon found out how wrong I was. Mathematical modeling was a class where we learnt to question what we saw on paper. If we were presented with information or data we were taught methods to ascertain the certainty of the data. We learned how to look at raw data and fit it to specific functions thus seeing accurate trends in the data. Something that I wish I had known before I took the class is what the so called "project" actually entailed. I had heard of rumors flying around about it and I wish I knew what it was before I signed up. The project gave the students an opportunity to see the modeling process firsthand, and to delve into all its intricacies, and see how rewarding it can be in the end. All in all I would definitely recommend for anyone interested in quantitative data and analyzing information to take this course, because I got a lot out of it.