Overview: This is a first course in computer science, designed for students who have no prior computer science or programming experience. The goal of the course is to provide a foundation in the ideas and techniques that are used in computer science. Much of the course focuses on learning to program in Java, but a programming language is really just a tool to tell the computer what to do. The greater (and more interesting) challenge is figuring out an algorithm---a sequence of clearly defined steps---that enables you to solve the problem at hand. In this course we will see the basics of how to break a problem down into smaller tasks, how to put the pieces together to design an algorithm, and how to write a program that tells the computer how to solve a problem using your algorithm.
TA evening help sessions: Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 7-9pm, Seeley Mudd 014
Java Programming, by Lyle McGeoch. Available online on Prof. McGeoch's web site
2. Midterm (20%). There will be an in-class midterm, likely in mid-October.
3. Final exam (30%). There will be a cumulative final exam, scheduled during exam week.
4. Projects (35%). There will be one or two projects assigned during the semester, as well as a final project. The final project is a larger programming assignment that will incorporate all of the concepts we discuss this semester. It will be assigned after Thanksgiving and will be due on the last day of class.
I will not take attendance and you will not be explicitly graded on participation, but participating in class (or not) can help (or hurt) you should you end up on the border between two grades. I strongly encourage you to attend all class meetings. In particular, it is in your best interest not to skip lab, because this is when you will get a chance to practice the ideas we discuss in lecture with myself and the course TAs present to help if you get stuck.
Special Grading Policy: For many good reasons, your grades matter to you. This course may be a bit of a risk, as you probably do not have any prior experience in programming or in computer science. It might not even be clear to you, right now, exactly what computer science is. But much of this course focuses on practicing a logical, structured way of thinking that I believe is important no matter what you end up doing after completing this course. I do not want students to avoid this course out of fear of getting a low grade. Therefore, this course uses a special grading policy:
If you complete all of the course work, submit all work on time, and demonstrate a sincere effort in all assigned work (including exams), then your final grade will be no lower than a B.
Please note that this policy requires you to put forth a sincere effort. While this is a somewhat subjective standard, it should be apparent to me from your attendance in class and office hours and from the content of your work whether you are making such an effort. If you do not make a reasonable effort to learn the material, this policy will not apply and any final grade becomes possible. If you are unsure of how you are doing, please come see me.
If you have a documented disability that requires accommodations, you will need to contact Accessibility Services (firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-542-2337). After you have arranged your accommodations with Accessibility Services, please set up a time to meet with me to discuss how we can best implement your accommodations in this class.