Welcome to MATH 231 online

Hello and welcome to Dr. Taalman’s online class sections of MATH 231-01, MATH 231-03, MATH 231-07, and MATH 231-12 at James Madison University in Fall 2020. This course is primarily for STEM majors who are required to take a rigorous calculus course and want to level up their precalculus and algebra background along the way. 

Don’t worry if you’ve never taken an online course before; this website will walk you step-by-step through every day of the semester and give you all the resources you need.

What online tools will we use?

We’ll use Canvas, WebAssign, Piazza, and Calendly for most of our communication and online work. Once you get started in the course I’ll tell you how to get registered and set up for each of these tools, and help you learn how to use them. 

JMU Course Dashboard

Submit Weekly Reflections, take live Canvas Quizzes, and see your Gradebook

Online Homework

Complete weekly homework assignments and access the electronic textbook

Class Discussion Board

Ask questions, get help from Dr. Taalman, and collaborate to create answers

Appointment Scheduler

Schedule Friday Help sessions and other Zoom appointments with Dr. Taalman

We’ll also use Zoom for synchronous online video meetings and group “breakout rooms” during class, and incorporate Poll Everywhere and Explain Everything into those calls so we can interact and share written work more easily. We’ll also use the free online graphing software Desmos and the free online computer algebra system Wolfram Alpha.

Don’t worry if you don’t know about any of those things yet; we’ll go over all of them in class. 

What will be expected of me in this course?

We’ll follow the same plan every week, with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous meetings:  


Kickoff lecture

An all-section live kickoff lecture that you can either participate in as it happens or watch later on a recording


Live Group Work

Required synchronous online class meetings by class section, for group activities and class discussions


Help Sessions and Quiz

Scheduled individual and group help sessions with Dr. Taalman, and an end-of-the-week Canvas Quiz

Over the course of the week you’ll complete various participation activities and an online WebAssign homework assignment. When you’re ready, you’ll take a quiz to demonstrate what you’ve learned. All of your assignments will be due at the end of each week at the same time, on Sunday night at 11:59pm.

You can find more detailed information in the course Syllabus, which we will go over in detail during the first week of class. 

How will I know what to do and when to do it?

Your most important resource in this class will be the Daily Guide, which includes step-by-step instruction and resources for navigating each day, both inside and outside of class. 

Daily Guide for MATH 231

Step-by-step instruction and resources

Use this every day to find the links you’ll need during class, supplmental resources for outside of class, and advice on what do do each step of the way.

What will I learn in this course?

MATH 231 covers the first half of a typical STEM Calculus I course, with precalculus and algebra material included along the way. We’ll cover the same material, at the same level, as MATH 235 — but we get to do it in two semesters, with MATH 231 and MATH 232. 

The content in MATH 231 covers the theory of differential calculus with basic algebraic functions. We’ll start with a review of notation, functions, and graphs. Then we’ll define limits and derivatives, and learn how to do both basic and advanced calculations with them. We’ll wrap up the semester with a focus on curve sketching and applications.

A personal note from Dr. Taalman

I developed the MATH 231-232 course sequence in 2001 to serve STEM majors that needed more algebra and precalculus preparation to succeed. Today over half of the STEM majors at JMU take calculus in the MATH 231-232 sequence. It’s not an easy course, and if you’re in MATH 231 then you most likely are a little nervous about algebra, precalculus, and mathematics in general, let alone calculus. But I also know that you can do this. Everyone is welcome in mathematics, everyone is welcome in my course, and everyone can be a “math person.” If you learn just one thing in this class, I hope that it will be the knowledge that you can be successful at mathematics.

I’ve taught this course for 20 years, and I literally wrote our textbook. But… this is my first year teaching this course — or any course — online. I’ve worked hard over the past three months to create an interactive, supportive online version of MATH 231, and I’m open to changing and adding things along the way to improve your experience. I welcome your ongoing feedback throughout the semester so that I can help you achieve your goals in this class and at JMU.