the evolution of problem solving...

Course description

ORC. Motivated by problems that arise in a variety of disciplines, this course examines concepts and develops skills in solving computational problems. Topics covered include abstraction (how to hide details), modularity (how to decompose problems), data structures (how to efficiently organize data), and algorithms (procedures for solving problems). Laboratory assignments are implemented using object-oriented programming techniques.

Prerequisite. CS 1, CS 5, or Engineering Sciences 20, or placement through AP or local placement exam.

Who, when, where

Chris Bailey-Kellogg | 250 Sudikoff
office hours: Mon 3-4:30 (008 Kemeny), Tue 9:30-11 (250 Sudikoff), Thu 1-2 (008 Kemeny) and by appointment
Graduate teaching assistant
Lixing Lian | 202 Sudikoff
office hours: Mon 10:30-12 and Tue 2-3:30 and by appointment
Section leaders
Edrei Chua, Emily Dann, Lynn Huang, Patrick Kang, Brendan Krimsky, Emily Lin, Emily Old, Lily Xu, and Nathan Yu
2-hour | MWF 1:45-2:50; Th 1:00-1:50 | 008 Kemeny

The x-hour will primarily be used as an optional, informal, interactive session of working through examples together. It may sometimes be used to make up for missed classes.

One of the primary benefits of lectures, as opposed to books and videos, is the opportunity to interact. We will all enjoy the experience more, and everyone will learn more, if you do ask questions. It can of course be intimidating, but chances are that if you have a question, then at least one other student — and possibly many more — has the same question. You're doing the other students a favor by asking!

Laptops and phones are distracting, not just to you, but to everyone around you (it's human nature to wonder what's up over there). There is recent research that attests to the negative impacts of learning and retention when multitasking. It has also been shown that writing notes by hand rather than on a laptop engages different cognitive processes and has direct (positive) consequences for learning. Since class notes are made available anyway, there's really no need to type. I recognize that there can be some value in following along with the examples right in front of you, so I won't ban laptops entirely, but I will strongly encourage you to try to abstain for those 3 hours a week.

Section meetings
These are required weekly small-group meetings with section leaders to review lecture material, discuss questions, go over homeworks, etc. They also provide an opportunity, "programming drills", to practice the concepts. Bring your laptop so you can do the drills. Groups and times will be posted on Canvas. If due to a hard conflict you have to miss a section meeting, find an alternate and arrange in advance with both section leaders to do that as a make-up.
Help will be available in Sudikoff 003: Sun 4-7, Mon 7-10, and Tue 7-10
Students enrolled in CS 10 should have automatic access via ID card to Sudikoff and the instructional labs; for assistance see Holly Stearne in the Sudikoff Office, and email or see me if there are problems.
In addition to lab and office hours, help is available via Piazza (accessed through Canvas). See postings on Piazza for more info. I strongly encourage you to ask and answer questions there. See comments below about commonality of questions. See also the extra credit potential.
Monitor Canvas for periodic course-wide announcements.
Data Structures and Algorithms in Java, 6th edition, by Michael T. Goodrich, Roberto Tamassia, and Michael H. Goldwasser. Available in paperback or as an e-book (the e-book is much cheaper).


All homeworks (short assignments and problem sets) for this class are to be submitted electronically via Canvas before class (1:45pm). Even when an assignment has some written exercises, you are required to either type in a file or scan your written work and submit it electronically. To submit output from your program, submit a copy-pasted file in plain text format and/or a screenshot, as appropriate. For plain text, you can use a program like TextEdit, NotePad, or Emacs, or even Word, but be sure to save as plain text. For a screen shot, you can use Preview on Mac (under the "File" menu) or the PrntScrn button on Windows.

Sample solutions will be made available on Canvas.

Short assignments (10%)
One or two short programming or written exercises to practice the concepts from one class before the next class.
Late policy
Due via Canvas by the start of class. No credit for late submissions.
2 (correct and good), 1 (needs work), or 0 (nothing of substance).
A solution receiving a 1 may be revised and resubmitted once, before the next regular class period after it is returned, for a possible upgrade to 2.
Programming drills (5%)
Practice and feedback to aid your understanding of the basic course material.
Late policy
Only available at the section meeting; bring your laptop.
2 (correct and good), 1 (needs work), or 0 (nothing of substance).
Lowest grade will be dropped.
Problem sets (35%)
A mixture of written and in-depth programming exercises, challenging you to use the ideas we study in class to solve new problems.
Late policy
Due via Canvas by the start of class. Penalties: < 8 hours: 10%; < 24 hours: 20%; < 48 hours: 40%; more: no credit.
You are allowed at most one late submission (up to 48 hours) with no penalty; no excuse required. Indicate in your submission that you are electing to use your free pass; no undoing the choice. This cannot be combined with a penalty (e.g., you can't take an 8-hour penalty on top of the 48-hour free pass). If you are working with a partner, this counts as the free pass for both of you.
Specific grading rubrics will be provided for each problem set, covering correctness (solving the assigned problem), structure (organization, use of techniques covered, efficiency), style (readability of code, clarity of documentation), and testing (your demonstration of correctness).
Exams (50%)
A midterm and a final exam, equally weighted.
Extra credit
Some homeworks have specific extra-credit problems; you may suggest other extensions for possible extra credit; any exceptionally clever, creative, or insightful work may likewise be awarded extra credit points. As its name suggests, extra credit is always optional, and you should never feel that you have to do extra credit problems. Extra credit points are recorded separately from other grades, and may be used to help make borderline letter grade assignments at the end of the term (those with substantial extra credit would get the higher grade if their grade is on the borderline). Extra credit points can only help, never hurt, your final grade, regardless how much or how little extra credit you or your classmates choose to do. However, you should not view extra credit as a substitute for doing good and thorough work on your assignments, and should not attempt it until you have completed the main assignment, as it will only be used in rounding borderline letter grades.

Extra credit will also be given to frequent good contributors to Piazza (both asking and answering questions).


Much of the learning in this course comes from doing the programming exercises. Since learning can happen better when you can hash things out with someone else, working with a partner will be allowed on some problem sets, when so stated. In such cases, you may work jointly with one other person. No more than two people may work together on a given problem set. If you choose to work with someone else, you and your partner must submit a single joint assignment with both names on it, and you must work with the same person for the entire assignment (you cannot work with one person for some parts of an assignment and a different person for other parts).

If you work with a partner, you are still responsible for understanding the entire assignment. That means that splitting the coding into two halves, doing your half, and never looking at your partner's half is not a good idea. You can learn a lot by reading your partner's code and figuring out how it works, whether it is correct, and how it might be improved. You can also catch things like poor or missing comments that could cost you style points when the assignment is graded.

When working with a partner, I suggest that you borrow a practice from Extreme Programming, a method of writing code that many businesses find quite effective. It is called Pair Programming. One person (the driver) sits at the keyboard. The other person (the navigator) looks at the screen as the driver types, asking questions, making suggestions, and catching errors. Both of you will understand the code better if you discuss it as it is written than if you just write it (or read it) by yourself. Regularly trade off who is driver and who is navigator.

The usual reaction to this idea is, "that will take twice as long!" In practice it is usually faster than each person programming alone. The reason is that errors are caught earlier, and the amount of time are saved when debugging more than makes up for the lack of parallelism in code writing. Also, the code tends to be better written. These are the reasons that this idea has been adopted in industry.

Honor code

Dartmouth's honor code applies to this course, and academic misconduct policies will be strictly enforced. I will report suspected cases of cheating to the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Officer. I also reserve the right to assign a failing grade for an assignment or an exam if I conclude that the honor principle has been violated, regardless of the finding from the Committee on Standards. If you have questions, ask!

  1. On exams, all work must be your own.
  2. You may work on short assignments individually or in groups. Programs that you turn in, however, should be created, typed, and documented, and the output generated, by you yourself.
  3. For the problem sets, you may work with a partner as discussed above. You may also consult freely with other classmates during the phase of designing solutions, but you should then work individually (or with your partner) when creating your programs—typing, documenting, and generating output. During the debugging stage you may discuss your problems with others in the class, but you should not copy code to "fix" bugs. To do otherwise is a violation of the Academic Honor Principle.
  4. We will use Piazza as a shared help system. Your public posts (questions and replies) must not reveal solutions (or even partial solutions) to the problems. As illustrated below, asking and answering questions in English is generally acceptable, while using Java as your language of communication is not. This might seem to make it harder to debug, but the act of phrasing a good question without just dumping your code can actually be very helpful to you.
  5. If you are working on a computer that is not yours—especially a Mac in Sudikoff—or that someone else in the course might use, you should be very careful to remove your code from the computer when you are all done. You should probably email your code to yourself before you remove the code. Why do we tell you to do this? Because if you leave your code on a computer, and someone else can see it, then they can copy it and hand it in. If that happens, then we have a bad situation involving you (the copy-ee) and the other person (the copy-er), and it's difficult, if not impossible, to tell who was the copy-ee and who was the copy-er. By removing your code from the computer when you're done, you can avoid getting yourself into that situation.
  6. You should attribute the proper source in any code that you submit that you did not write yourself. This includes code that you take from outside references, for example a book other than the course text. It even includes code that you take from the class examples, textbook, or assignments, other than the code given for that particular assignment. (I agree that may be tedious to attribute the source in code that we have given you, but we want you to be in the habit of attributing your sources.) Note also that proper respect for copyright laws as it applies to printed and software products is part of the Computing Code of Ethics.
  7. Whenever we ask you to turn in sample runs of your program, the runs you turn in must be the result of actually running your program. It is a violation of the Academic Honor Principle to falsely represent output as coming from your program if it did not. If you change your program, make sure to generate output from the version of the program that you hand in. It's amazing how a seemingly minor change to the code can cause a big change to the output of a program. Also, make sure that when you are running a program, that it is your program; it is easier than you might think on a public Mac to run a program that someone else had left on the machine.
  8. In the past, we have had a few incidents in which students turned in output that did not come from the program handed in. In each case, it turned out that the student had made a foolish mistake (in not rerunning the program or handing in an old version of the program or the output) and had not intended to misrepresent the work. Yet it caused many an uncomfortable moment for the student and also for the student's section leader and for the instructor as well. So please endeavor to verify that you're handing in output that comes from the very program you're handing in.
  9. It is not easy to come up with good homework problems that help you learn a concept, are interesting, and require an appropriate amount of work. Over the years we have developed and refined a number of homework problems, and I plan to reuse, with modification, some of them for this class. You should not look at any solutions to homeworks assigned in previous terms, including sample solutions, or solutions written by other students.
  10. We will be running powerful software tools that detect suspicious similarities in software. These tools are quite sensitive, even to the obvious tricks that are often used such as changing variable names, spacing, comments, orders of code fragments, etc. It could take much more work to fool the software than it would just to do the assignment.
  11. We have had some uncomfortable situations occur in the past, and I want to make it clear what the policy is. Two students, Alice and Ralph, who are not working as formal partners, discuss an assignment and design their code together. That is fine. But then they decide that since their programs would be so similar, they might as well have Alice type in the code, have Ralph make his own copy of the file containing the code, and then have Ralph make his own minor changes. This is a violation of the Academic Honor Principle. Although you may discuss and design with others, the code you hand in must be entirely your own.
  12. Here's another situation that occurred. Trixie and Ed start working independently on a program. Trixie finishes and has a working version. Ed has trouble with his. Trixie helps Ed debug. That is fine. But then Trixie realizes that Ed has a section of code that is all wrong and the program she wrote has just the right code for that section. She shows Ed her program. Or worse, she gives Ed an electronic copy of her program so that he can just paste in the correct code. Either action is a violation of the Academic Honor Principle.
  13. I realize that it can be hard to decide when you might be violating the Academic Honor Principle, so here is a good rule of thumb. If you are talking in normal English (or Chinese or German or some other natural language) you are probably OK. If you find yourself talking in Java code, you have crossed the line. So saying, "Your program runs forever because you have the wrong condition in the while loop" is OK. But saying, "Change while (x == 0) to while (x > 0)" is not.
  14. If you have any questions about whether what you're doing is within the Academic Honor Principle, do not hesitate to check with me. If it's late and you can't get hold of me, you're better off erring on the side of caution.
  15. Most violations of the Academic Honor Principle come down to failure to cite work that is not yours. If you copy any portion of your program from your friend Elvira and represent it as your work, then you either intended to deceive or were careless about citing. Either case is a violation of the Academic Honor Principle. If you copy your entire program from Elvira but include the comment, "This code was copied in its entirety from Elvira," then you cited properly, though you didn't actually do the work. In this latter case, I would not report a violation of the Academic Honor Principle, though your grade on the assignment would be 0. But that would be far preferable to a COS hearing.
  16. The same goes for code that you find in some other book or on the Internet. You are in violation of the Academic Honor Principle if you fail to attribute your sources.


Students with disabilities enrolled in this course and who may need disability-related classroom accommodations are encouraged to make an appointment to see the instructor before the end of the second week of the term. All discussions will remain confidential, although the Student Accessibility Services office may be consulted to discuss appropriate implementation of any accommodation requested.

Religious Observances

Some students may wish to take part in religious observances that occur during this academic term. If you have a religious observance that conflicts with your participation in the course, please meet with me before the end of the second week of the term to discuss appropriate accommodations.