CMSC210 (Fall 2003) On-line Course Handbook

Table of Contents

Questions, Sections, Background, Topics, Textbooks, Course grades, Lectures/Exercises, Evaluation workshops, SOCS

Questions

If you have a question (especially, administrative one), please check the following pages first. If none of these answer your question, see the "how to contact" section of the instructor's student information page.

Sections

All sections of CMSC210 cover the core materials as described in the course description.  The course syllabus and the way each section is run may differ from one section to another.  Normally, multiple sections are taught by the same instructor at the same pace and share most of the course materials.

Background

According to the current recommended sequence for a Computer Science major, CMSC210 is to be taken during the fall semester of the sophomore year.  At the same time, MAT127 (Calculus A) is now made prerequisite for this course.  As a result, we will assume some mathematical sophistication at a college level.  Students are expected to be familiar with the notion of function and the basics of mathematical arguments. Furthermore, CS majors must have taken CMSC220 (CS1) and CMSC230 (CS2) [or CMSC250 (accelerated CS1+2)], where many concepts relevant to this course are introduced either explicitly or implicitly.  However, if there are students who have not taken these CS courses (esp. non-CS majors), we will not automatically assume the materials covered in these courses.

There are two non-CS courses that have significant overlap with CMSC210.  One is MAT200 (Discrete Math) and the other is PHL120 (Logic).  If you have taken MAT200, you will see substantial overlap with CMSC210.  If you have taken PHL120, you will feel the logic part of CMSC210 redundant.   These students must consult the instructor before or early in the semester so that they can focus on the topics/approaches that are not covered in these courses.  Special arrangements can be (and should be) made.

Topics

To find out more about the concepts, definitions, and notations that are covered in this course, see Topics.pdf linked from the course page.  Where the text does not provide definition/description for certain concepts, this document gives a concise definition/description.  More details and examples will be discussed in class and appear on lecture slides.  This document may be revised.

Textbooks/References

This course (this section) is organized around the instructor's plan to integrate the topics listed in the course description.  It is not based on the textbook.  Therefore, you should primarily focus on the materials discussed in class.  You should not expect that we read/cover the text page by page.  Although the relevant sections/pages from the text are indicated on the syllabus, they may contain topics not covered in lectures, which you can skip.  In this course, students are not expected to prepare for lectures.  On the other hand, if you need to review the material covered in a lecture, the text must be helpful.

Just for your information, here is a list of discrete math (and related) textbooks that have been/could be used for this course:

Here is a list of other (some advanced) books from which some parts of the course materials (or some inspiration) are derived:

Course Grade

The course grade will be determined as described in the syllabus.  There will be no extra-credit components.  You may be able to get some idea about the relation between the performance on each component and the course grade.
 
Hypothetical case Take-home exercises (35%) Comprehensive exercises (60%) Project (5%) Total Expected grade
1100% (of 35%) 90% 100% 94% A
2 90% 80% 80% 84% B
3 80% 70% 60% 73% C
4 70% 60% 40% 63% D

In order to perform well in this course, you will need to complete nearly all take-home exercises as this component will help you to master the material in a timely manner.

Lectures/Exercises

The goals of lectures are described as follows (there may be variations among lectures): In this course, students are not required to prepare for each lecture.  The pace of a lecture is set so that most students can follow most of the points without preparation.  I will check the progress regularly through in-class/take-home exercises.  However, if the majority of the students can follow lectures and a small number of students have difficulty, I will contact the students who have difficulty, and discuss with them a customized study plan.

In general, by the evening before each lecture, I will post a preliminary version of lecture notes.  Although students are not required to use this information, it might be helpful to bring a printout so that you can take note on it.  After each lecture, exercises will be posted as well as a revised version of lecture notes, if necessary.

Students are encouraged to do exercises in groups.  However, it would be best if you work on your own and have some answer before discussion.

If necessary, you might also consider Tutoring Center in Forcina Hall Room 145.  Their web site is here.

In this class, please bring extra sheets of paper for in-class exercises.

Evaluation Workshops

The reason I will try evaluation workshops in place of traditional exams is partly due to the transformative change, which is taking place at The College.  I agree with the general ideas of goal-oriented, learning-centered education.  One of the points discussed by the proponents of this approach is that students must be evaluated in a manner they can use the skills learned in a course.  It seems that timed, closed-book exams are inappropriate for this purpose.  This semester, I will be trying a non-traditional format of evaluation involving self-evaluation, which hopefully fits within the exam slots I used in the previous semester.  I hope that this format works better for students' learning.

One point raised in the education research literature is that weak students tend to overestimate their achievements and strong students tend to underestimate theirs.  It is important that all the students understand their levels as accurately as possible so that they all achieve the course performance goals, through improvements following accurate evaluations.  For this reason, I will need to be straightforward about my review of your self-evaluation.  Since there are three midterm evaluation workshops, you should be able to compare the evaluations by yourself and me and to reflect it in later self-evaluations.

SOCS

We will not make an extensive use of SOCS in this course.  The only functions that are currently enabled are discussion board and e-mail list.  You can use discussion board for communication among students in your section of this course.  However, if you have a question for me, please send it to me by e-mail so that I can post your question (anonymously) and my answer on the Q&A page, which can be shared by students in multiple sections.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the CS faculty/staff and the students who provided me with constructive feedback.  I would also like to thank Max Mintz at the University of Pennsylvania, who taught me discrete math many years ago with great enthusiasm and also supported my lecturership there.