Instructional policies

You should be aware of the deadlines and other important dates listed on the homepage of this site.
See also the page on Exam policies.

Writing a Syllabus

For multi-section courses, the course supervisor writes a course-wide syllabus. Section instructors write a syllabus supplement with their contact information and any section-specific information such as the dates of midterm exams. All syllabi are posted on the Mathematics Department website, largely eliminating the need for hardcopies. On the first day of classes instructors should go over the main points of the syllabus and direct the students to for details.

Refer to the section Syllabus materials for the required and recommended syllabus content.

Calculus Readiness Exam

For the nonengineering sections of MAT 194 and MAT 295 (section numbers <100) TAs handling the recitations should find a packet containing the Calculus Readiness Exam (CRE) in their office mailbox before the first class meeting. Please follow the instructions included in the packet. (For background information, see Placement of Students at the bottom of the page.)

Students Adding Your Class

Up to the Add deadline, students register for classes using MySlice. They can register for any section which has seats available to them, provided that they meet the prerequisites stated in the catalog. Occasionally, MySlice does not recognize the fact that the student met the prerequisites (e.g., when the prerequisite course was taken recently at another school). Such students will need to visit Ms. Sandra Ware in Carnegie 215, and most probably their home college, with a proof that the prerequisite was met.

The students who are unable to add their desired section on MySlice should be advised to register for another section. If they have time conflict with all open sections, they should come to 215 Carnegie to see Ms. Sandra Ware, and bring a proof of the time conflict (printout of the current class schedule, or a letter from athletic coach or employer). Ms. Ware or Professor Meyer will verify the conflict.

Do not say that it’s ok with you if they add. Students who have been given even the slightest encouragement by an instructor often cause the office difficulties at the drop/add period. Whenever a student needs a permission to add class, the permission comes from the department, not from individual instructors.

After the Add deadline students cannot add classes using MySlice. Their only option is to petition the department for a Late Add, and such a petition can be granted only under unusual extenuating circumstances such as financial hold or health services hold.

A student petitioning for a late add must first obtain approval from the department. Do not sign any Petition to Add or an Add/Drop form unless all of the following conditions are met:

  • the student has an approval letter on departmental letterhead.
  • the letter has your name as the instructor whose section the student has been given permission to attend.
  • the authorized initials (only GJL, JLM, SPW are acceptable) appear on the letter.

If the student has all the above, you may (but are not obliged to) accept the student by signing the letter and the add/drop form. You should sign only if you (you should also check the procedures with the course supervisor) and the student have agreed on a procedure for arriving at a final grade in the course (i.e., how you will deal with the missed coursework).

Once you have signed the petition and add/drop form, the student should come back to the main office and see Ms. Ware for the departmental signature and stamp. The forms will be then processed by the Registrar, who makes the final decision on the case. It may take several days until the add is processed and the student’s name appears on your class roster.

Students Dropping Your Class

This process is not as contentious as adding. The details depend on various deadlines, as described below.

Up to the Add deadline Students drop a class using MySlice.
After the Add deadline, up to the Academic Drop deadline Students drop a class using Add/Drop form. They bring the form to the primary instructor (not recitation leader), instructor signs it, and the student takes the form to their home college. The class disappears from the student’s academic record. (Tuition is refunded only if the class is dropped by the Financial deadline.)
After the Academic Drop deadline, up to the Withdrawal deadline. Students withdraw from a class using Petition to Withdraw. They bring it to the primary instructor (not recitation leader), instructor signs it, and the student takes the form to their home college. The mark of WD will appear on the student’s transcript, but will not affect the GPA.

The department office does not get involved in the drop process, with the following exception: if a student is unable to find the instructor on the day of a deadline (Financial, Academic, or Withdrawal), the office staff will sign for the instructor.

Class Roster

Class roster can be viewed and downloaded via MySlice or Blackboard. The rosters can and will change during the schedule adjustment period (the period up to and including the Add deadline). For more information, see our Technology page.

Meeting Your Students

Room changes

Please check the department bulletin board for the current schedule and any room change announcements.

Recitations during the first week

Course supervisors will decide whether to cancel any recitations during the first week of semester. If a recitation is cancelled, the supervisor informs the office staff, the TAs for the course, and the students (by email, and by leaving a note on the blackboard). It is important to keep the office staff aware of any cancellations, so they will not be looking for a TA who “has not shown up”.

Instructors and recitation leaders should state the Course Name and course number and your name, so students will know they are in the correct room. Remind the students to check that they are registered for the correct lecture and recitation.

Planning for Finals

Announce on the first day of classes and several times thereafter when the mathematics undergraduate final will take place. This date can be found on the home page of this site.

All math finals in courses 112-399 except 375 will last two hours and will take place between 8:00 am and 2:30 pm. The specific 2-hour time slots will be announced later in the semester. All TAs (instructors and graders) will assist with final exams. This is in addition to any grading assignments. Do not plan on leaving campus until all the grades have been submitted for the course you teach or assist in. All TAs, including graders, recitation leaders, and instructors are responsible for assisting with the proctoring of the final exams and helping with the grading. If you are not needed as a proctor at the course you are responsible for, you will proctor at another final, or assist with the Conflict Exams. See the Exams page for details.

Office Hours

Generally, instructors should hold 3 office hours per week as follows: Roughly:

  • An instructor doing recitations – 1/2 hr. per recitation up to 3 hours per week
  • An instructor doing one section – 2 hours per week
  • An instructor doing two sections – 3 hours per week

However, course supervisors will announce a policy regarding the amount of office hours TAs should hold, so that they can formulate them as soon as possible. TAs who have questions regarding office hours should see their course supervisor. Office hours will be posted on the Math website so be sure to get this information to Mr. Barwotoe by the deadline as requested.

Mathematics Clinic

Graduate students who are in their 3rd and 4th semester of graduate support (normally the second year of study) are required to work in the clinic both the 3rd and 4th semester, for one hour per week. This hour is in addition to office hours. Those not able to assist with clinic during their 3rd or 4th semester, because of language skills or any other restrictions, will be expected to do so the first semester they are eligible.

Clinic begins the second week of the semester through the last day of classes, and follows the same schedule as the academic calendar. No classes, no clinic.

All graduate students whose duties include clinic time are expected to be reasonably familiar with the material from the courses numbered below 499. If you are also able to help with some 500-level courses, please list them specifically.

The Math Clinic is not a tutoring service where students receive extra help with concepts and missed material. It is a homework problem help center.

That said, though, for classes below 499, you need to either

  • be able to help a student correctly without reference; or
  • obtain a solution manual from the office and help the student correctly by reading the solution; or
  • refer the student to someone who can help them correctly, another TA or the student’s instructor. At this point you should also educate yourself about this particular problem.

If you find a mistake in the answer key of the student’s text or in the solution manual, please notify the instructor so that the error can be corrected for everyone. Also if you believe that a problem is worded incorrectly or that there is insufficient information to solve a problem, notify the instructor.

You are responsible to be at the clinic when you are scheduled. If you cannot be there for your scheduled time, you must let the office staff know so that they will post a sign at the clinic.


Homework from your students should not be turned into the math office.

Homework should be collected in class or submitted to you during your office hours. In some special cases, students may turn their work into the main office, but do not tell your class to submit assignments in this way. Papers placed in the box at the front desk are distributed to the mailboxes. (Under no circumstances will students be given access to the Faculty/TA mailboxes.) This distribution will be subject to the following restrictions:

  • Only work, which is clearly labeled with the instructor’s name, will be distributed; the rest will be put in a dead letter box to which you (but not the students) will have access.
  • You will have to deal with any complaints about lost work. (In the past, there have been several complaints that “the office staff lost the work.”)

Many of our courses use online homework, such as WebAssign and MyMathLab. The homework policy is formulated by the course supervisor.

Mid-Semester Progress Reports

Courses numbered below 300 must make provision for adequate evaluation of the students’ work by the end of the 6th week so that mid-semester progress reports can be completed in a timely manner. Mid-Semester Progress Reports are now done online and you receive this information from the Registrar’s office.

Medical Excuses

Students who claim to have missed class because of illness or injury should not be sent to the Dean’s Office for a medical excuse. Medical excuses might be given by the Health Center and then only if an absence had been advised by a health-care provider at the Health Center, based upon clinical findings and prescribed treatment recommendation. In particular, such excuses will not be given in retrospect.

In most cases, therefore, it will be up to the instructor to decide whether a student’s claim is legitimate. You should formulate your own policy on medical absences in consultation with the course supervisor.

Academic Integrity

We have a separate page with comments about academic integrity and some suggestions on how to minimize violations. You will need your NetId to view this page.


Student evaluations of instructors will occur toward the end of each semester. The Math department uses online evaluations. The instructor (you) will receive an email alerting you that evaluations are ready to submit. You will announce to your class that they are required to submit an online instructor evaluation. At the same time, each student in your class will receive an email providing them with evaluation instructions. Since the department moved from written to online evaluations an announcement to your class is all that is required from you.

Record Keeping

It is important that you keep accurate, legible records of all student work. Do not rely on a locally stored spreadsheet: also back up your data online (e.g., on Blackboard) and keep printouts. Do not discard any papers submitted by a student, even if the student is not registered for your section. They may be attending the wrong section, or be late registrants, or finishing an incomplete. At the end of semester, double-check the correctness of computed grades before submitting them. As long as you are with the math department, you will handle any problems or questions that may arise concerning grades for any courses you are teaching or have taught. When you leave the department, it will be the responsibility of the department to solve any problems that arise.

Final Exams are kept for seven semesters after the end of the class.

Posting Grades

General grading policies can be found in Academic Rules and Regulations in the Course Catalog.

During the semester, you can post grades on Blackboard to efficiently inform the students of the grades they earned so far. The weighted columns in Blackboard Grade Center can implement your grading scheme automatically, eliminating the need for students to visit your office just to ask where they stand in the class.  If you are using a weighted grade scheme you should “hide” the Total column in Grade Center.

Final letter grades are submitted using MySlice. See Registrar’s FAQ on online grade reports. Only the person(s) designated as a primary instructor for a class can submit the grades. Teaching assistants may submit grades only if teaching a main section and not just a recitation. Please check with the course supervisor to be sure. Remember all TAs are required to turn in the “Grade Book” form which must attach and include records for any student who has attended your class all semester but this is not the official grade report.

The following grades can be entered online (except that D cannot be given to a graduate student). The typical numerical range is given in parentheses:

A (100-93) A- (92-90)
B+ (89-87) B (86-83) B- (82-80)
C+ (79-77) C (76-73) C- (72-70)
D (69-60)
F (59-0)

Deviations from the listed numerical ranges are possible, as determined by the course supervisor.

NA (never attended): If a student has never attended a class but has failed to withdraw, the appropriate grade is “NA”. This is also the appropriate grade for students who stopped attending or submitting work so early in the semester that no basis for evaluation exists. (If the student took at least one midterm exam, that exam can be a basis for evaluation, which means NA is not appropriate.)

The grade of I (incomplete) cannot be entered in the online grade report: leave a blank instead. See the following section.

In exceptionally rare cases a student may register for class too late to appear on the grade roster. In such case the grade should be reported on the Missing Grade form.

To be in compliance with Federal Educational Privacy Rights Act, do not communicate grades in any way other than Blackboard, MySlice, or in person during your office hours. In particular, do not give them over the phone or email.

The office staff does not give grades to any student, either in person or on the telephone. Students will see their grades on MySlice soon after they are submitted by instructor.


I (incomplete) means that the student is passing the course and has a special (well documented) emergency that makes it impossible for the student to complete the course on time. TAs, do not agree to give the student an incomplete before checking with either the course supervisor or Prof. McDermott. After you have spoken with the course supervisor or Prof. McDermott, you and the student must fill out a “Request for Incomplete” form. Instructor and student must sign the form. Mr. Barwotoe or Ms. Ware will sign for the Chair. A copy is made and given to the student. Originals will be submitted by Mr. Barwotoe to the student’s home college for signature and then forwarded to the Registrar’s office for posting.

The incomplete form is available online. Once again: before listing the conditions and signing an incomplete, TAs must discuss the student’s case with Prof. McDermott.

Caution: the final decision on whether the student receives the grade of I is up to the College. The College has denied incompletes for students that did not have a valid reason even in cases where the instructor is willing to give the incomplete.

Filling out the Incomplete form

List all conditions for removing the incomplete: for example, student must take Test 4 and the Final… no later than…) You should also list the absolute deadline for the removal of the incomplete (no more than one year), and you should be sure to list what the grade will be if the student does not do the work (usually F).

All incomplete forms must be submitted to Mr. Barwotoe before they can be processed for the Chair’s signature. Once all signatures have been obtained, the office staff will give a copy to the student, and we will process the form.

TAs must discuss any incomplete and the conditions for removal of that incomplete with the Course Supervisor or with Prof. McDermott before you can tell a student that you will allow them to take an incomplete in your course. If the course supervisor has agreed to an incomplete for a student in your section, the course supervisor should also sign the incomplete form, next to your signature. (If you lead a recitation, send the student to the lecturer. The lecturers are responsible for incompletes for students in their lectures.)

Non-returning faculty and TAs

If you do agree to give a student an incomplete, attach a separate sheet of paper to the incomplete form for that student. This separate sheet of paper should list the grade the student has earned until that point, and what each grade earned in the course was worth, i.e. percentages for quizzes, homework, tests etc. Again, remember, the lecturer is responsible for an incomplete in a course with recitations.

Removing an incomplete

A student removing an incomplete does not register for the course again, but they should inform the instructor teaching the class in which they will complete the remaining work.

When a student has been attending your class to remove an incomplete, the student should note on his/her work the name of the instructor in the original course and the semester in which it was given.
After the work has been graded, the instructor should give all of the work to the original instructor, who should then remove the incomplete. If the original instructor is not available, see Prof. McDermott. Whenever possible, the original instructor should stay in contact with the student and the new instructor until the incomplete is resolved.

Final Exams

A common reason for assigning an Incomplete is illness (with documentation) on the day of the final exam. The typical arrangement in this situation is that the student take the final exam for the same course in the following semester. Make sure that the student is aware that making up the final is their responsibility. They do not receive any reminders from the department or the college.

End of Semester Records

TAs and non-returning faculty are required to submit the following at the end of each semester:

  1. Grade Books Make a printout or clear photocopy of the grades in your grade book, attach it to the form you should already have received, and give it to Mr. Barwotoei. Include records for any student who has attended your class all semester, but who is not on the official grade report.
  2. Final Exams Please return to Ms. Kim Canino in a large envelope, clearly marked with the year, semester, course, section number, and your name unless the course supervisor for your course will collect and keep them.

Professors on leave next semester

Should submit the items listed above as well. At the very least, ensure that all your records are accessible to Ms. Ware and that she is aware of where they can be found. (So that either Prof. Leuschke or Ms. Ware can find the records if necessary, it would be helpful if you would put this information into a memo and put the memo in Ms. Ware’s mailbox).

Placement of Students

This section provides basic information about math placement, calculus readiness and advanced credit exams. Most of this does not fall under the purview of course instructors, who should feel free to refer students with questions to their academic advisor, or to the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies (see Administration).

Placement exam

This test is given to all freshman and transfer students at SU. The score on it is used in advising students regarding mathematics courses. Most of them take it online before arriving on campus. The placement exam confers no college credit: a student who scores well enough to be place in MAT 296 but has no college credit for MAT 295 will have to start in MAT 295. (Our placement exam is not really designed to differentiate between 295 and 296 anyway). Students unable to take the placement exam online can do it in writing during the opening weekend. Further information and answers to frequently asked questions are available here.

Calculus readiness test

Given to MAT 194 and MAT 295 students on the first day of class (Engineering students take it before the classes begin). Based on its result, students may be moved from 295 to 194 or the other way around.


Scholastic Aptitude Test. Its mathematical part is used for placement purposes in connection with the Placement Test.


Advanced placement exams. Students who earn sufficiently high score on these exams (taken in high school) may receive credit for certain freshman-level courses according to SU Academic Rules.


Project Advance, an SU initiative. It is similar to AP in purpose, but a PA course taken at a high school earns a grade as well as SU credit.