Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
MTH 61
Course Title:
Introductory Algebra - Part I
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Introduces algebraic concepts and processes with a focus on linear equations and inequalities in one variable. Emphasizes applications, formulas, and proper mathematical notation. A scientific calculator is required. The TI-30X II is recommended. Completion of MTH 61 and MTH 62 is equivalent to MTH 60. The PCC math department recommends that students take MTH courses in consecutive terms. Prerequisites: MTH 20 AND (RD 80 or ESOL 250). Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

  • Students will be evaluated not only on their ability to get correct answers and perform correct steps, but also on the accuracy of the presentation itself. 
  • Application problems must be answered in complete sentences.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon successful completion, students shoould be able to:

  1. Use a variable to represent an unknown in a simple linear problem at home or in an academic or work environment, create a linear equation that represents the situation, and find the solution to the problem using algebra.
  2. Be prepared for future coursework that requires an understanding of the basic algebraic concepts covered in the course.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

  1.  The following must be assessed in a proctored, closed-book, no-note, and no-calculator setting: arithmetic with signed rational numbers, simplifying expressions (including exponential expressions), and solving linear equations and inequalities in one variable.
  2. At least two proctored, closed-book, no-note examinations (one of which is the comprehensive final) must be given. These exams must consist primarily of free response questions although a limited number of multiple choice and/or fill in the blank questions may be used where appropriate.
  3. Assessment must include evaluation of the student€™s ability to arrive at correct and appropriate conclusions using proper mathematical procedures and proper mathematical notation. Additionally, each student must be assessed on their ability to use appropriate organizational strategies and their ability to write conclusions appropriate to the problem.
  4. At least one of the following additional measures must also be used
    1. Take-home examinations
    2. Graded homework
    3. Quizzes
    4. Projects
    5. In-class activities
    6. Portfolios

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)


  1. Algebra skills
  2. Number sense
  3. Problem solving
  4. Effective communication
  5. Critical thinking
  6. Applications", formulas, and modeling


    1. Review prerequisite skills €“ signed number and fraction arithmetic
    2. Simplify arithmetic expressions using the order of operations
    3. Evaluate powers with whole number exponents; emphasize order of operations with negative bases
    4. Simplify arithmetic expressions involving absolute values
    5. Order real numbers along a real number line
    6. Identify numbers as elements of the subsets of the real number
    1. Simplify algebraic expressions
    2. Evaluate algebraic expressions
    3. Recognize equivalent expressions and non-equivalent expressions
    4. Distinguish between evaluating expressions, simplifying expressions and solving equations
    5. Translate from words into algebraic expressions and vice versa
    6. Apply the distributive, commutative, and associative properties
    7. Recognize additive and multiplicative identities and inverses
    8. Distinguish between factors and terms
    9. Apply the product rule, product to a power rule, and power-to-a-power rule to expressions with positive integer exponents emphasizing the logic behind these rules of exponents
    1. Evaluate formulas and apply basic dimensional analysis
    2. Know and apply appropriate units for various situations; e.g. perimeter units", area units, volume units, rate units, etc
    3. Memorize and apply the perimeter and area formulas for rectangles, circles, and triangles
    4. Memorize and apply the volume formula for a rectangular solid and a right circular cylinder
    5. Find the perimeter of any polygon
    6. Evaluate other geometric formulas
    7. Use estimation to determine reasonableness of solution
    1. Identify linear equations and inequalities in one variable
    2. Understand the definition of a solution; e.g. 2 is a solution to x<5 ; 3 is the solution to x+1=4
    3. Distinguish between solutions and solution sets
    4. Recognize equivalent equations and non-equivalent equations
    5. Solve linear equations and non-compound linear inequalities symbolically
    6. Express inequality solution sets graphically", with interval notation, and with set-builder notation
    7. Distinguish between solutions to equations and equivalent equations (e.g. €œThe solution is 2.€ vs. €œ x=2 €)
    1. Create and solve linear equations and inequalities in one variable that model real life situations (e.g. fixed cost + variable cost equals total cost)
      1. Properly define variables; include units in variable definitions
      2. Apply dimensional analysis while solving problems
      3. State contextual conclusions using complete sentences
      4. Use estimation to determine reasonableness of solution
    2. Apply general percent equations ( A=PB )
    3. Create and solve percent increase/decrease equations
    4. Create and solve ratio/proportion equations
    5. Solve applications in which two values are unknown but their total is known; for example", a 50 foot board cut into two pieces of unknown length
    1. Solve an equation for a specified variable in terms of other variables
    2. Input values into a formula and solve for the remaining variable


MTH 61 is the first term of a three-term sequence in beginning algebra. One major problem experienced by beginning algebra students is difficulty conducting operations with fractions and negative numbers. Students coming into MTH 61 should know these prerequisite skills, but often are very weak in them.  Therefore the instructor may have to spend additional time at the beginning of the term covering these topics and should emphasize examples with negatives and fractions throughout the term to ensure that the students have these topics down before continuing into the next course.

Vocabulary is an important part of algebra. Instructors should make a point of using proper vocabulary throughout the course. Some of this vocabulary should include, but not be limited to, inverses, identities, the commutative property, the associative property, the distributive property, equations, expressions and equivalent equations.

The difference between expressions, equations, and inequalities needs to be emphasized throughout the course. A focus must be placed on helping students understand that evaluating an expression, simplifying an expression, and solving an equation or inequality are distinct mathematical processes and that each has its own set of rules, procedures, and outcomes.

Proper usage of equal signs must be stressed at all times. Students need to be taught that equal signs are used to communicate multiple ideas and they need to be taught the manner in which equal signs are used to communicate these ideas.

Equivalence of expressions is always communicated using equal signs. Students need to be taught that when they simplify or evaluate an expression they are not solving an equation despite the presence of equal signs. Instructors should also stress that it is not acceptable to write equal signs between nonequivalent expressions.

Instructors should demonstrate that both sides of an equation need to be written on each line when solving an equation. An emphasis should be placed on the fact that two equations are not equal to one another but they can be equivalent to one another.

The distinction between an equal sign and an approximately equal sign should be noted and students should be taught when it is appropriate to use one sign or the other.

The manner in which one presents the steps to a problem is very important. We want all of our students to recognize this fact; thus the instructor needs to emphasize the importance of writing mathematics properly and students need to be held accountable to the standard. When presenting their work", all students in a Math 60 course should consistently show appropriate steps using correct mathematical notation and appropriate forms of organization. A portion of the grade for any free response problem should be based on mathematical syntax.