Spring Numbers Sections

The majority of Spring Numbers sections are taught MWF 1:50-2:50pm. The few morning sections offered will be listed before the afternoon sections for each course.

4 sections taught outside the main class time, listed by class time

These sections are also offered at the main class time, please find the section descriptions and professor info further down, listed alphabetical by professor last name.

What do Numbers Sound Like? (MWF 10:20-11:20am) 

Albert Bae

Politics and Election Science (MWF 11:30am-12:30pm)

Ian McDonald

The Ancient City (MWF 11:30am – 12:30pm)

Joel Sweek

Networks and Trees (MWF 3-4pm)

Duncan Parks


MWF - 1:50-2:50pm

Space, Time, Spacetime

Paul Allen, Assoc Prof of Mathematics

  • Core 121-04 – MWF 1:50 - 2:50pm

The goal of this course is to understand the concepts of space and time present in Einstein’s relativity theories. To accomplish this, we explore the intellectual tradition that formed Einstein’s thinking. We start with the physics of Aristotle and Ptolemy’s model of the universe. These set the stage for the scientific revolution of the 1600s when the structure, methods, and limits of science were developed, leading to the physics of Newton. Simultaneously, we explore the mathematical tradition leading to the geometry of Riemann. We then proceed to explore how scientists and mathematicians (Einstein, Minkowski, Poincare) came to conclude that space and time can most effectively be considered as aspects of a single entity: spacetime.

What do numbers sound like? An exploration of digital sound and music

Albert Bae, Visiting Assist Prof of Physics

  • Core 121-14 – MWF 10:20-11:20am
  • Core 121-08 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

One of the primary ways that we receive information about the world around us is through our ears. Since the late 1800s we have been able to measure, record, and play back sound information using mechanical devices. In the last 50 years we have dramatically shifted the way that we measure, record, transmit, and consume sound. The vast majority of the information that currently barrages us is now digital.

This course will present the physical basis of sound (pressure waves in air) and will discuss how we can measure sound waves, with a strong focus on the modern approach of digitizing sound; in other words, turning sounds into numbers. We will learn how to use digital sound recorders along with powerful computer software to measure, store, transmit, and mathematically process this sound information into more meaningful forms.

By learning how to quantitatively assess the sounds that surround us, we can address a wide range of interesting and important questions. For example, how has the shift to digital music affected how music is recorded, distributed, and consumed? What is high-fidelity and how is this affected by compression algorithms? Does vinyl sound better? What is a sound spectrum and how is it useful? How are sounds used to investigate nature (e.g. seismology, echolocation, ultrasonic imaging, animal communication)?

Order, Chaos & Randomness

Yung-Pin Chen, Prof of Statistics

  • Core 121-05 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Chances are all around us every day of our lives. Chaotic and unpredictable phenomena appear in nature. Despite the disorderly occurrences, we can find observable patterns or visible regularities of form in very diverse contexts in the natural world. In this course we will explore both chaotic and random phenomena in nature and in our daily lives. The course is centered around a collection of class discussions and activities that develop effective thinking and build analytic reasoning skills as habits of mind. The exploring topics include: numbers as a language, number system (including complex numbers), numerical patterns in nature, infinity, fractals, randomness, random walks, sampling, data, and distribution models.

Fire: Energy and Civilization

Julio de Paula, Prof of Chemistry

  • Core 121-02 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The ancient Greeks described the composition of all matter and nature in terms of the “elements” earth, air, fire, and water. This course dives deep into “Fire,” more commonly referred to today as “Energy.” Early energy sources such as the burning of wood, followed by coal, and then oil, have led to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The prospect of climate change has motivated the development of a dizzying array of alternative energy technologies that use sources as diverse as tides, kelp, and the deep earth. This course will discuss fundamental concepts such as heat, work, the laws of thermodynamics, and the generation of electricity. Then we will center our inquiry on this guiding question: “What must be done to reach the goal of net-zero global carbon emissions?”

To address this question, we will investigate energy usage in agriculture, manufacturing, buildings, and transportation. We will explore the influence of energy on community health, poverty, and security. Our inquiry will be rooted in mining publicly available datasets that we will analyze with online tools, spreadsheets, and basic computer coding. We will interpret and construct graphical representations of data and work in teams to tackle the pressing challenge of an equitable transition to global net-zero carbon emissions.

Political Math

Ben Gaskins, Assoc Prof of Political Science

  • Core 121-06 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This section will engage quantitative reasoning via the use of American elections, public opinion, and survey data. When trying to understand problems of social choice and democratic outcomes, scholars employ a wide variety of quantitative approaches. We will examine common problems associated with figuring out what citizens want, how they express their preferences, and how elections ultimately turn those preferences into policies.

Virtual Identities

Diana Leonard, Assoc Prof of Psychology

  • Core 121-07 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

What is the self? How do we come to know the self? What is consciousness and where does it reside? These questions have fascinated philosophers and scientists for centuries. In the age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, they have become more relevant than ever. Legal scholars, neuroscientists, and ethicists are embroiled in inquiry about the rights and responsibilities of artificial intelligence and downloaded consciousness (also known as “whole brain emulations”). But how do experts determine the answers to these questions, and what assumptions are best left behind? This course will draw on scientific journals, the popular press, and internet resources to examine identity in the virtual age. In the course of our quest, we will expand our ability to locate, think about, and make arguments with data.

While the heart of this Numbers section is in Psychological Science, we will use a broad and interdisciplinary approach. We will use numbers and data visualization to explore virtual identities blended with scholarship grounded in the social sciences regarding inequalities in our digital lives, particularly as they impact racial and sexual minorities. Alongside these content questions, we will evaluate the role quantitative reasoning can play in shaping the future of human-tech interaction.

Politics and Election Science: The Paradox of Choice

Ian McDonald, Visiting Prof of Political Science

  • Core 121-13 – MWF 11:30am – 12:30pm
  • Core 121-09 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

We expect democracies to translate public desire into coherent political choice. And we expect elections to deliver these results. But aggregating preferences with popular elections is harder than it looks. The simplest elections based on innocent design choices will produce paradoxical and confounding results.

In this course, we’ll introduce mathematical and logical tools that can help us understand the paradoxes of elections. You will use these tools to develop and refine your quantitative reasoning skills and apply them to a fundamental problem: how does adding together individual preferences make democracy possible? Topics will include redistricting, voting procedures, and election prediction models. We will look at contemporary examples such as the 2021 New York City mayoral election, and the effect of using districts in choosing the Seattle City Council. You will develop arguments, apply data visualization tools and consider the relevance of statistical reasoning and causal inference.

Networks and Trees

Duncan Parks, Visiting Prof in Biology

  • Core 121-12 — MWF 1:50-2:50pm
  • Core 121-15 – MWF 3-4pm

The branching network known as a tree is a fundamental geometry in both natural and human systems, from circulatory systems in animals and plants to transportation and utility networks. We will apply our understanding of tree networks to a variety of real-world examples. We will use mathematical tools to build optimal networks in utility or telecommunications contexts. We will then use those tools to build evolutionary trees and evaluate cross-species comparisons in a tree-based context. Finally, we will examine the branching patterns of vascular systems in actual plants, evaluating both the performance of those systems and the fractal geometries that govern their development. Students need not have advanced mathematical skills to use these tools, and students of all backgrounds will encounter new methods and approaches in this course.

Collecting Sound Data, Making Strong Inferences: An Introduction to Inductive Method and Logic

Colin Patrick, Visiting Assist Prof of Philosophy

  • Core 121-11 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course introduces students to inductive logic, or reasoning seeking to establish the likelihood or probability of its conclusion on the basis of sound observational evidence and data. We will explore common forms of inductive reasoning such as enumerative and analogical induction, causal arguments, inference to the best explanation, scientific method, confirmation and falsification; common impediments to cogent inductive reasoning such as innumeracy, ignoring base rates, confirmation bias, flawed estimation of probability, flawed data, and projection; and the reliability of perception and memory in cogent inductive reasoning. We will also explore Indigenous epistemology (sometimes called Native Science) and its similarities and differences from western scientific method, and critically apply what we learn to common but inductively questionable and arguably harmful ideologies such as populationism (the idea that global problems such as world hunger and climate change are a function of population numbers), biological determinism, the fixity of gender and race, and IQ testing as a measure of “innate” intelligence.

Politicians Lie, Numbers Can Mislead: The Politics of Numbers

Matt Scroggs, Visiting Asst Prof of International Affairs

  • Core 121-10 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

People have complex, nuanced political beliefs, so how can we figure them out? People aren’t always truthful about what they believe in or why they vote the way they do. As countries become more democratic, are they less likely to fight wars or more likely to win them? There are serious disagreements about how to measure concepts like “democracy” and “war.” How does partisanship influence the way that people interpret information? During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen that Democrats and Republicans respond very differently to pronouncements from places like the World Health Organization or Center for Disease Control, presumed experts in their field. In studying the political behavior of humans, we are dealing with subjects that can respond and change their actions based on the very research that we conduct! But deciphering the political behavior of individuals, parties, and countries, among other actors, allows us to understand patterns from past events, predict future outcomes, and learn how to improve those outcomes. This course will explore various quantitative approaches to understanding the actions and decisions of political actors from individuals at the micro-level all the way to how countries interact at the macro-level. Students will not only become capable consumers of quantitative analysis, but also learn how to conduct research of their own and present their results in a clear and refined manner.

The Ancient City

Joel Sweek, Assist Prof w/Term in First Year Seminar

  • Core 121-01 – MWF 11:30am – 12:30pm
  • Core 121-03 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

There is a deep history to when, how, and why people began to gather in extra-nuclear groups and, eventually, live among strangers in what we call a city. Was it inevitable, this move from strictly familial foraging to living among strangers? How long did it take? What are the biological, material, and demographic details of that move from hominin gathering to share meat to “the high walls of Rome”? In this course, we will experiment with familiarizing ourselves with the quantitative archaeological record of the origins, emergence, and flourishing of the ancient city.