CSCI-C 102
Great Ideas in Computing
Spring 2016

Esfandiar Haghverdi
Informatics East 216
Office Hours: By appointment only.


Monday, Wednesday
11:15 am - 12:30 pm, IE 130



Weekly schedule

Description: In this course we will explore information technology and discuss the role it plays in our society, from health to finance to city planning. We will also study some important algorithms that have become an integral and crucial part of our daily lives, such as PageRank and Public Key Cryptography. Systematic approaches to problem solving will be thoroughly covered using examples from mathematics, and computer science. The course also covers essential college survival skills required to make a smooth and successful transition from high school to college. You will learn strategies: 1) to define and achieve your academic, personal, and professional goals, and 2) to attain academic excellence throughout your college career.

Curiosity and diligence.

Learning Outcomes:

  • (Gen Ed Learning Outcome) The ability to model and understand the physical and natural world;
  • (Gen Ed Learning Outcome) the ability to solve problems;
  • (Gen Ed Learning Outcome) analytical and/or quantitative skills;
  • the ability to apply Polya's method to solve problems;
  • the ability to provide a suitable model to solve a problem;
  • the ability to clearly identify what a given problem is asking for and what data are provided that might lead towards a solution;
  • the ability to plan and execute a solution strategy based on a chosen model;
  • the ability to reason using propositional logic;
  • the ability to use mathematical induction;
  • the ability to read and understand mathematical text.

Topics covered:

  • Four phases of problem solving
  • Heuristics
  • Logic
  • Induction and Mathematical Induction
  • Search engine indexing
  • PageRank algorithm
  • Public Key Cryptography
  • Error-Correcting codes
  • Pattern recognition
  • Data Compression
  • Databases
  • Digital signatures
  • Computability and its limits
  • Understanding how to use the degree maps, AAR, Planner, etc.
  • Health and well-being; adjusting to the college environment
  • Identifying and using campus resources
  • Communicating with faculty

Required Textbooks:

  1. 9 algorithms that changed the future, John MacCormick, Princeton University Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-691-14714-7.
  2. How to solve it, second edition, George Polya, Ishi Press International, 2009.

Recommended Textbooks:

  1. Social Physics, Alex Pentland, Penguin Press, 2014.
  2. Unlocking the Clubhouse, Women in Computing, Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher, MIT Press, 2003.

Handouts and Homework: All handouts and homework assignments will be posted on Oncourse.

Associate Instructor:

Mark Jenne
Office: Lindley Hall 406.
Office hours: Tuesday 9 am - 10 am by appointment on Thursday.


  • Attendance: 5%
  • Homework assignments: 15%
    • There will be weekly homework.
    • Each homework will consist of the following parts:
      1. Regular problems: A set of problems chosen from several sources including the textbooks above.
      2. Reading assignment from the textbook or other handouts.
    • Each homework will be assigned on a Wednesday and will be due the Wednesday after, in class.
    • Solutions must be written LEGIBLY.
    • It is encouraged to discuss the problem sets with others, but everyone needs to turn in a unique personal write-up.
  • Group projects (I and II): 35%
    • A list of projects will be posted on Oncourse site for the course.
  • Midterm: 15%
    • Midterm is scheduled on Wednesday March 2, 2016 in class.
  • Final project: 30%.
    • Final project will be due on Monday May 2, 2016.

Ground rules:

  • I strongly advise you to attend all the classes and take good notes.
  • Late homework will NOT be accepted. However, the lowest homework grade will be dropped.
  • There will be NO make-up midterm exams.
  • The final grade will be calculated according to the evaluation scheme given above and these grades will then be curved to determine your letter grades. However if you get less that 25/100 on the final project or your total grade is less than 45/100 your final grade will automatically be an F.
  • NO Incomplete grades will be given under any condition.
  • NO extra work, extra credit or anything outside the regular homeworks and projects will be assigned. Please plan your study strategy during the term accordingly.
  • Grading mistakes:
    If during the semester you feel there has been a mistake made in your grading by the AIs, please contact them first. If after meeting with the AIs you still feel there is a problem with the marking, please contact me.
  • Collaborative work:
    One of the best ways to learn new material is to collaborate in groups. You may discuss the homework problems with your classmates, and in this way make the learning process more enjoyable. However, the homework you hand in must be your own work, in your own words and your own explanation.
  • Here is the link to The Code of Student Conduct.