Syllabus

Course Goals

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

• Convert ideas between logical syntax and natural language.
• Write a proof (that is, a rigorous argument) of simple statements (for example, that your code is correct or efficient).
• Write proofs by induction, contrapositive, and contradiction.
• Identify common mistakes in proofs.
• Understand and analyze mathematical models of computation (including regular expressions and context free grammars).

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.

Assessments

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!

Instead, we will assign course grades using a bucket system: 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. Do note, we do not make any guarantees of the course grades within these buckets, beyond the guarantee for the lower end of the bucket.

Percentage of PointsMinimum corresponding grade out of 4.0
903.5
803.0
702.5
602.0
50.5

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:

• If you are in the live lecture, we will have a poll. Answering the poll question and participating in the breakout rooms give credit for the activity.
• If you watch the recording later, we will have a Canvas quiz containing the same activities and a reflection question to replace the group discussion.

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.

Homeworks

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.

Exams

We will not have traditional exams this quarter. Instead, we will have two take-home exams to replace an in-person midterm and final. These will be similar in style to a homework assignment, but cumulative and with different collaboration rules.

More details and practice materials will be announced closer to the exams.

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.

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.

Collaboration

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

• Do not take away any notes or screenshots during your discussion.
• Take a 30 minute break1 before writing up your solution individually.
• Cite the names of all of your collaborators somewhere in your writeup.

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:

• Definitions and terminology can differ significantly depending on the author. Be careful that other resources are saying what you think they are saying.
• You may not search with the intent of finding a solution to the exact homework problem being asked.

Scenarios

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

Homeworks

You will have four 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.

Exams

Because of the timing of the midterm and final in the course, we will not allow late days to be used on the exams.

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

Course Tools

Zoom

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

• Lectures and sections: You should go to the meetings you are officially enrolled in. If you attend another section, please give that TA a heads up.
• Office Hours: You can attend any Office Hours, not just the ones held by the TA who teaches your section. They do get busier closer to deadlines, so it is better to attend them early and throughout the week.

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

Ed

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.

Canvas

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

Accommodations

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! ↩︎