Syllabus and general information for MCS-177: Introduction to Computer Science I (Spring 2001)


The central theme of this course is the activity of abstraction, which is ignoring irrelevant specifics. The quest for generality will motivate our study of programming: you will learn how to express general procedural ideas and how to use general categories of data in terms of their operational properties.

We will also use abstraction to make computational processes easier to think about. You will learn the relationship between the form of a procedure and that of the computational process it generates, including the resource consumption of that process. Also, you will learn how to prove that a procedure has the desired effect, and why such proofs are not always possible.


Although there are no formal prerequisites, you should understand the material that is typically covered in high school algebra.

Office hours

I will be available in my office (OHS 303) on Tuesdays from 10:30 to 11:20, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9:00 to 9:50, and by appointment. You may send me electronic mail at or call me at extension 7466. I'll try to put any updates to my office hours on my web page, so check there if in doubt.

World Wide Web

All course materials will be available through my World Wide Web page. The URL for this course is After this syllabus I will give hardcopy handouts only to those students who want them.


The textbook for the course will be Hailperin, Kaiser, and Knight's Concrete Abstractions: An Introduction to Computer Science Using Scheme, Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1999.


There will be two intra-term tests and a final exam, as shown on the syllabus below. (Note that the final exam will be as scheduled by the registrar. The date and time shown in the syllabus are the tentative projection from the registrar's office, but are subject to change by that office.)

Exams will be closed-book and mostly closed-notes. You may, however, use a single 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper with hand-written notes for reference. (Both sides of the sheet are OK.)


Students are encouraged to discuss the course, including issues raised by the assignments. However, the solutions to assignments should be individual original work unless otherwise specified. If an assignment makes you realize you don't understand the material, ask a fellow student a question designed to improve your understanding, not one designed to get the assignment done. To do otherwise is to cheat yourself out of understanding, as well as to be intolerably dishonorable.

Any substantive contribution to your solution by another person or taken from a publication should be properly acknowledged in writing. Failure to do so is plagiarism and will necessitate disciplinary action.

The same standards regarding plagiarism apply to team projects as to the work of individuals, except that the author is now the entire team rather than an individual. Anything taken from a source outside the team should be be properly cited.

One additional issue that arises from the team authorship of project reports is that all team members must stand behind all reports bearing their names. All team members have quality assurance responsibility for the entire project. If there is irreconcilable disagreement within the team it is necessary to indicate as much in the reports; this can be in the form of a ``minority opinion'' or ``dissenting opinion'' section where appropriate.

Late assignments

All homework and project assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day indicated. Late assignments will be penalized by one ``grade notch'' (such as A to A- or A- to B+) for each weekday late or fraction thereof. However, no late assignments will be accepted after graded assignments are handed back.

If you are too sick to complete an assignment on time, you will not be penalized. Simply write ``late due to illness'' at the top of the assignment, sign your name and hand it in. Other circumstances will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Grade changes

Please point out any arithmetic or clerical error I make in grading (or one made by a lab instructor), and I will gladly fix it. You may also request reconsideration if one of us has been especially unjust.


I will provide you with a grade on each homework and project assignment, and on each test, in addition to the mid-term and final grades, so that you may keep track of your performance. As a guideline, the course components will contribute to your final grade in the proportions indicated below:

Style guidelines

All homework and project reports should be readily readable, and should not presuppose that we already know what you are trying to say. Use full English sentences where appropriate (namely almost everywhere) and clear graphs, tables, programs, etc. Remember that your goal is to communicate clearly, and that the appearance of these technical items plays a role in this communication process. Be sure your assignments are always stapled together and that your name is always on them.

For a more detailed set of guidelines, refer to Suggestions for Clear Lab Reports in Computer Science Courses. I recommend that you look at this document and, if you have questions about project write-ups, ask!


Please contact me immediately if you have a learning or physical disability requiring accommodation.


This is my best guess as to the rate at which we will cover material. However, don't be shocked if I have to pass out one or more revised syllabi.
2/51.1-1.2Introduction; simple expressions
2/6Project 0: Getting started (ungraded)
2/71.2-1.3Compound procedures; conditionals
2/8Project 1: Quilting

2/122.2InductionHomework #1
2/13Project 1 (continued)
2/142.3-2.4Further examples & custom-sized quilts
2/15Project 1 (continued)

2/193.2Using invariantsHomework #2
2/20Project 1 (continued)
2/213.3Perfect numbers, internal definitions, & let
2/22Project 1 (concludes)
2/233.4Iterative improvementProject #1

2/263.5The Josephus Problem
2/27Project 1.5: Card sorting (ungraded)
3/1Test 1, 7:00-8:30 PM, OHS 103 (no lab)
3/24.1Orders of growth

3/5More on orders of growth
3/6Project 2: Sum of divisors
3/74.2Tree recursion and digital signaturesHomework #3
3/8Project 2 (continued)
3/9More on tree recursion and digital signatures

3/125.1Procedural parameters
3/13Project 2 (continued)
3/145.2UncomputabilityHomework #4
3/15Project 2 (concludes)
3/165.3Procedures that return procedures

3/195.4Application of higher-order programmingProject #2
3/20Project 3: Fractal curves
3/216.1-6.2Data abstraction
3/22Project 3 (continued)
3/236.3Representations and implementationsHomework #5

4/26.5Strategy procedures; Overview of other CS courses
4/3Project 3 (concludes)
4/46.4Three-pile NimProject #3
4/5Project 4: Nim with strategies

4/10Test 2, 7:00-8:30 PM, OHS 103 (no lab)
4/117.3Basic list processing
4/12Project 4 (continued)

4/17Project 4 (continued)
4/187.4Iterative list processingHomework #6
4/19Project 4 (continued)
4/207.5Tree recursion and lists

4/237.6Movie query system
4/24Project 4 (concludes)
4/258.1Binary search treesProject #4
4/26Project 5: Movie queries
4/278.2Efficiency issues with binary search trees

4/308.3Expression trees
5/1Project 5 (continued)
5/29.1-9.2Generic operations: multiple representationsHomework #7
5/3Project 5 (concludes)
5/49.2 & 9.4More on multiple representations; computer graphics

5/7More on computer graphicsProject #5
5/8Project 6: Implementing graphics
5/99.3Exploiting commonality
5/10Project 6 (continued)
5/11More on exploiting commonality

5/14Special topic (or catch-up)Homework #8
5/15Project 6 (concludes)
5/16Review/evaluationProject #6

5/21Final exam, 10:30-12:30, NHS 121

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>