Math 204: Linear Algebra

           Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
           Hobart and William Smith Colleges

           Spring 2020.

           Instructor:  David J. Eck  (
           Textbook PDF:  Linear Algebra, 3rd edition, by Jim Hefferon
                    Supporting materials at
           Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 11:00–12:00 AM
                Room Coxe 8.
           Office Hours:
                MWF 9:45–10:45 AM
                Tuesday 11:00–12:00
                (I am available at other times.  See my complete schedule.)

Homework 1
Due Jan. 29
Homework 2
Due Feb. 5
Homework 3
Due Feb. 14
Homework 4
Due Feb. 19

Fifth Week: February 17, 19, and 21

There is test this week on Friday, February 21. A study guide was handed out in class on Monday.

We started Chapter II, Section II last week, which covers linear independence. We will continue looking at linear independence and spanning sets on Monday, and that material will be coverd on the test. On Wednesday, I will answer any questions about the test. If there is extra time, we will begin Chapter 2, Section III, by looking at the idea of a basis for a vector space.

Fourth Week: February 10, 12, and 14

At end of last week, we just started work on abstract vector spaces. and we will get into that topic more seriously this week. The reading is Chapter 2, Sections I.1, I.2, and II.1.

Third Week: February 3, 5, and 7

We will cover sections III.1 and III.2 from Chapter 1 this week. The topic is reduced row echelon form. We will show that a given matrix has exactly one reduced row echelon form. (The proofs that we will do this week will require us to talk about equivalence relations and mathematical induction.) We will also take a look at some of the things that computer algebra systems can do for linear algebra.

Second Week: January 27, 29, and 31

The reading for the week is Sections I.3, II.1, and II.2. Section I.3 introduces homogeneous linear systems, which just means that all the constant terms on the right are zero, and it proves something important about the structure of the solution set of any system of linear equations. Sections II.1 and II.2 are about the geometry of vectors in Rn, especially in R2 and R3. These sections cover things representing vectors as arrows, the dot product of vectors, length of vectors, and orthogonality. This material is marked as optional in the textbook, and it is not used all that much in the rest of the course, but when working with vector spaces, it's a good idea to understand how they work geometrically.

First Week: January 22 and 24

Welcome to the course!

You should download the PDF of the textbook and start reading Chapter One. We will cover Sections I.1 and I.2 from that chapter this week. The main topic is Gauss's method for solving systems of linear equations. You are probably already familiar with the general idea, but this is a good starting point for a course in linear algebra.

You should also carefully read the syllabus for the course!

The PDF version of the textbook is free. You will not need a printed copy, but if you would like to have one, the bookstore will have a few copies, or you can order a copy from through this link. A copy will also be on reserve in the library.