Syllabus and general information for MCS-177: Introduction to Computer Science I (Fall 2005)


The central theme of this course is the activity of abstraction, that is, finding powerful generalizations that transcend 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) 12:30-1:20 Mondays, 2:30-3:20 Tuesdays, and 1:30-2:20 on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as by appointment. Or try your luck: just stop by and see whether my door is open. 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 as shown on the syllabus, and a final exam as scheduled by the registrar. If you have a conflict with a testing time, please contact me as soon as possible to make an alternative arrangement.

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.)

Attendance policy

Attendance is mandatory for all lab sessions, unless you have already turned in your project report. I will excuse up to two absences per student, for any reason. Use yours wisely. If you exceed this allowance, I may reduce your course grade by up to one letter grade.

Regarding class days, the policy is that you will be responsible for all material, whether or not you are in attendance when it is covered or distributed.


You are expected to be familiar with the college academic honesty honor code policy, and to comply with that policy. If you have any questions about it, please ask. One specific requirement of that policy is that you write the following in full and sign it on every examination and graded paper:

On my honor, I pledge that I have not given, received, nor tolerated others' use of unauthorized aid in completing this work.

For the purposes of this policy, I am defining "graded papers" to be project reports but not homework problems. (I still expect you to comply with the honor code on homework problems, just not to write the explicit pledge on them.) When project reports are co-authored, each co-author should write and sign the pledge.

Mastery homework

The syllabus shows due dates for eight homework assignments; each will typically consist of a few problems. You must turn in all the problems in an assignment by that assignment's due date, but may turn in individual problems earlier if you wish. I will mark each problem as "mastered" or "not yet mastered," and return them to you as rapidly as I can. For those not yet mastered, I may write some brief indication of what area needs work, but you should really take these as an invitation to come talk. You may turn in a revised version of each problem (with the previous graded version attached) however many times it takes to reach the "mastered" point, even after the original due date. The only restrictions are these:

Note that if you turn in each homework problem as soon as you can do it, rather than saving them for the assignment due dates, you will have more opportunity for revision and resubmission before the cutoff dates listed above. Particularly for the last homeworks before each cutoff date (and test), I can't guarantee you'll have time for a revision cycle otherwise.

I may also announce an earlier cutoff date for any individual problem I consider important for us to discuss in class.

The homework portion of your course grade will simply be determined by the fraction of the homework problems you eventually mastered.


You will have eight programming projects throughout the semester; for six of these, you will need to write a report that presents your work. Much, but not all, of the work for these projects can be done during the lab time. During this time, you will be able to ask your lab instructor for help or guidance.

The lab instructors will also be the one who grade the reports. When they grade these reports, they will evaluate the code for accuracy, efficiency, clarity, and style. Additionally, they will consider how well your report achieves the goals they have established for that report as a piece of writing. For example, they will consider how well your report outlines the main problem of the project, describes how your code fits together to solve this problem, and explains why your solution is a good one. Be sure to follow the writing guidelines they provide.

Late project

All 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. Homework deadlines (for initial attempts and revisions) are absolute, with the one exception listed next.

If you are too sick to complete a project or homework 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 project assignment and 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.

Each project assignment will include specific expectations for that project's report, including the audience for which it should be written. You should pay careful attention to this information.


If you have a learning, psychological, or physical disability for which a reasonable accommodation can be made, I would be happy to refer you to the college's disability services coordinator, and to cooperate in the accommodation process. It is generally best if this can be done as soon as possible.


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.
9/71.1-1.2Introduction; simple expressions
9/8Project 0: Getting started (ungraded)
9/91.2-1.3Compound procedures; conditionals

9/13Project 1: Quilting
9/142.2InductionHomework #1
9/15Project 1 (continued)
9/162.3-2.4Further examples & custom-sized quilts

9/20Project 1 (continued)
9/213.2Using invariantsHomework #2
9/22Project 1 (concludes)
9/233.3Perfect numbers, internal definitions, & let

9/263.5The Josephus problemProject #1
9/27Nobel conference (no lab)
9/28Nobel conference (no class)
9/29Project 2: Sum of divisors

10/3Test 1, 7:00-8:30 PM, OHS 103 (no class)
10/4Special project: Card sorting (ungraded)
10/54.1Orders of growth
10/6Project 2 (continued)
10/7More on orders of growth

10/104.2Tree recursion and digital signatures
10/11Project 2 (continued)
10/12More on tree recursion and digital signaturesHomework #3
10/13Project 2 (last work day)
10/145.1Procedural parameters

10/17Project 2 peer reviewProject #2 first draft
10/18Project 3: Fractal curves
10/195.2UncomputabilityHomework #4
10/20Project 3 (continued)
10/215.3Procedures that return proceduresProject #2

10/265.4Application of higher-order programming
10/27Project 3 (concludes)
10/286.1-6.2Data abstraction

10/316.3Representations and implementationsProject #3
11/1Project 4: Nim with strategies
11/26.5Strategy procedures; Overview of other CS coursesHomework #5
11/3Project 4 (continued)
11/46.4Three-pile Nim

11/8Project 4 (continued)
11/9Test 2, 7:00-8:30 PM, OHS 103 (no class)
11/10Project 4 (concludes)

11/147.3Basic list processingProject #4
11/15Project 5: Movie queries
11/167.6Movie query system
11/17Project 5 (continued)
11/187.4Iterative list processing

11/217.5Tree recursion and listsHomework #6
11/22Project 5 (continued)
11/23No class

11/289.1-9.2Generic operations: multiple representationsHomework #7
11/29Project 5 (concludes)
11/309.4Computer graphics
12/1Project 6: Implementing graphicsProject #5
12/2More on graphics and multiple representations

12/59.3Exploiting commonality
12/6Project 6 (continued)
12/78.1Binary search trees
12/8Project 6 (continued)
12/98.2Efficiency issues with binary search treesHomework #8

12/128.3Expression trees
12/13Project 6 (concludes)
12/14Review/evaluationProject #6

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>
Lab instructors: Michael Hvidsten <>, Moira McDermott <>, and San Skulrattanakulchai <>