Math 140 Mathematical Modeling

Prof. Tanya Leise

Meets: M1pm in SMudd 207 and WThF 1pm in Merr 300B

Office hours:
MWF 11-11:50am
MW 2-4pm
TTh 10am-12:50pm
Other times by appointment or simply try stopping by my office.

Texts: (all available at Amherst Books and on reserve in the Science Library)
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
Growing Artificial Societies by Joshua Epstein

Materials: NetLogo modeling software (free download, works on all computers)

Assignments will be posted on the course Moodle site.

There are no requisites for this course--everyone is welcome!

Mathematical modeling plays an important role in our society. In this course, we will explore a variety of models using an agent-based approach. The course will revolve around individual and group modeling projects, using NetLogo, software that is easy to learn to use and is a great modeling tool. We'll start with some simple examples to discover the amazingly complex dynamics that can arise from a few simple rules. Through a model of fish schooling, we will also discover how order can emerge from individuals behaving according to basic rules, with no leader or other form of group control. We will also build "artificial societies" to explore consequences of social, economic, and cultural interactions

In general, we will learn basic principles of how to develop and analyze models, and have a lot of fun exploring the models along the way. Class meetings will involves lots of creative activity: brainstorming ideas for important features of models, development and exploration of new models, and discussion of what the models can tell us. Lectures will be minimal. There will be no exams; the grade will be based on project reports and presentations, as well as active participation in discussions of readings.

Attendance: You are to be in class and to be there on time. Cooperative learning is more effective and more fun than struggling through material on your own. We will spend a lot of class time actively discussing readings and working on models, so it's important that everyone be in class and participating.

Grading:  Your course grade will be based on in-class participation and contributing to discussions (10%), weekly assignments like forum posts on the readings and occasional short assignments (10%), and project reports and presentations (80%, split over 4 projects). There will be no exams.


Intellectual Responsibility: Please follow the guidelines of the honor code. Getting help from me and discussing ideas with other students is perfectly fine for individual projects, but you must do the actual work of implementing the model and writing the report. If you use some code from an existing model or ideas found in a paper or on the web or in a book, always cite the source. For group projects, be sure to do your fair share of work. If you are unsure what agrees or does not agree with the precepts of intellectual responsibility in this course, feel free to talk to me about it. In particular, I would caution you against emailing to other students (except those in your group for group projects) any code or things you have written, as that unfortunately often leads to plagiarism.