Table of Contents

Course Goals

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

Communication is a key aspect of this course. A proof is not simply correct or incorrect — it is an act of communication to an intended audience. For this reason, the production of clear, convincing, and unambiguous writing is a key aspect of this course.

Pandemic Changes

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic means that everything is virtual.

We intend to stick to this syllabus as closely as possible. If we do make changes, it will always be to your benefit. We may propose changes if there are significant changes to the local or global health situation.

We are doing our best to learn and teach during a pandemic. But… we are still in the middle of a pandemic! If unforeseen circumstances arise during the quarter, please do not hesitate to talk to the course staff. The sooner we are made aware, the more options we will have for designing accommodations. You can also send us anonymous feedback with ideas to improve the course.


Your grade will be calculated using these components:

74% Homework, 18.5% Comprehensive final problem set, 7.5% Lecture Activities

Course Grades

A very common question students ask is: “Is this class curved?” Curving is the process of assigning course grades so that there is a fixed, pre-determined mean or median. We do not curve in this course!

If you earn at least the percentage specified in the left column, your course grade will be at least the grade listed on the right. These are minimum guarantees: your course grade could be higher than what this table suggests.

Percentage of PointsMinimum corresponding grade out of 4.0

Lecture Activities

Lectures will include activities where students practice the material. They are always graded for completion, and not for accuracy. These activities are designed to give students a chance to learn by doing and from one another.

You can get credit for lecture activities whether you can make the lecture or not:

Your percentage for this category is \(\frac{\texttt{min}(\text{Days completed}, 25)}{25}\). This means that you cannot get extra credit by attending more than the required number of lectures, but there is some leeway to miss lectures.


There will be approximately eight week-long homeworks.

Since technical communication is one of the main focuses of the course, we will grade your homework both in accuracy and clarity. More details are included in our grading guidelines.

Homeworks are both a chance for you to improve your understanding and for us to evaluate how well you understand the material. For that reason, although you are encouraged to discuss the problems with one another, you must still write solutions up on your own. More details are included in the collaboration policy.

Extra Credit

We will have occasional extra credit problems on homework assignments. These problems are intended to allow students who want to dig deeper into the material and work on more challenging problems.

Extra credit will have minimal effect on your final grades. They are graded separately from the main homework and factored in only after grade cutoffs have already been determined.

Academic Integrity

We want to make sure that you fully understand and internalize the approach to the materials. So, we take academic integrity very seriously. We may refer violations of our policies to the Office of Academic Affairs.


You are allowed (and encouraged!) to discuss homework problems with other students, as long as you:

If you are confused as to whether or not some collaboration is allowed, ask us! No set of rules will be completely exhaustive.

If something weird happens, please tell us too! We will not consider taking any action if you tell us about it before turning in the assignment.

Resources Outside of CSE 311

You are strongly encouraged to seek out resources beyond official course resources, with the following caveats:


What happened?Is it a violation?
When searching for general information, you accidentally find the exact question we asked. You tell the staff, and provide a link to what you found.Not a violation!
We’ll say thanks for letting us know and make sure you didn’t plagiarize. There won’t be a penalty but only a warm, fuzzy feeling.
You and a friend separately write up solutions, then compare. Your friend suggests that your conclusion is a little unclear. You formulate a new conclusion on the Zoom call together.Violation!
That is no longer your individual writeup.
You and a friend separately write up solutions, then compare. Your friend suggests changing \(\exists\) to \(\forall\) and switching the name \(x\) to \(p\). You wait 30 minutes, then return to your writeup, decide the changes would be improvements, and incorporate them.Not a violation!
Minor rewordings done by you at another’s suggestion are fine. The writeup is still substantially yours.
You find a textbook with sample solutions to similar problems. You see that they like to introduce variables with “Consider” and use “hence” instead of “because.” You copy these words, because they seem cooler.Not a violation!
Single words or stock phrases are things you can learn from. It is not a violation to emulate style (but “hence” is a little archaic).

Late Policy


You will have five late days to use during the quarter for homework assignments. A late day allows you to turn in an assignment up to 24 hours later without penalty. Simply submit late and we will keep track of your usage internally.

Regardless of how many late days you have, you cannot submit an assignment more than 48 hours after it is due without prior permission from course staff.

For example, an assignment due at 11:59 PM on Friday could be turned in at 10 PM on Sunday with no penalty by using two late days. However, you cannot submit at 12:01 AM Monday as it would be more than 48 hours.

If you run out of late days, you may still turn in an assignment late, at a penalty of 15% per day.

Late days are designed to handle the “normal” difficulties in a quarter (e.g. prioritizing different courses, fundraising for an RSO, or attending a relative’s birthday Zoom call). If your situation goes beyond those “normal” circumstances, you should contact the course staff as early as you can.

Lecture Activities

The Canvas quizes for a given week will close at 11:59 PM the following Sunday. We can reopen the quiz in exchange for a late day at any point in the quarter.

Comprehensive final problem set

In lieu of exams, we will have a comprehensive final problem set. Due to the timing at the end of the quarter, we will not allow late days to be used.

If you have extenuating circumstances that interfere with completing this on-time, you should contact the course staff.

Course Tools


Zoom is how meetings will be delivered. You can find meeting IDs in Canvas and on the Ed discussion board:

Zoom meetings will be restricted to accounts logged in with email addresses. If you have trouble joining a meeting, make sure you choose the “Sign in with SSO” option.


Ed is our discussion board and the right place to ask any questions about the course.

We will happily answer questions from lecture or about general concepts. We also will answer clarifications about homework (e.g. correcting typos). Students are encouraged to answer each other’s questions on the message board as well.

If you have a question that might reveal your approach or the solution to a homework problem, you must ask the question privately. For accommodations and other private questions, you can ask privately on Ed or email the instructor. Only you and the course staff can see a private question on Ed.


Gradescope is the tool to turn in completed assignments. After grading, you can also find our feedback there and submit regrade requests if needed.

You will get an automatic email with account setup instructions before HW1 is due.


We will only use the Gradebook, Zoom and Quizzes features on Canvas.


If you have, or think you may have, a temporary health condition or permanent disability, contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS) to get started with accommodations.

Accommodations for faith or conscience reasons must be requested within the first two weeks using the Registrar’s request form. The UW’s religious accommodations policy is available here.

Your performance in this course should not be affected by circumstances beyond your control. We can still work with you for situations other than the university-wide accommodations. If anything does come up, you should contact the course staff as early as you can.

  1. Some CSE instructors have previously recommended watching an episode of Gilligan’s Island for that break, but Gilligan’s Island isn’t on Netflix. Robbie recommends The Office. Howard recommends Documentary Now! ↩︎