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 may affect the modes of interaction for the course. We will closely follow UW policy and recommendations as we go throughout the quarter.

What if I become ill during the quarter?

The most important thing is to not come to (in-person) class if you're sick. We'll have a variety of accommodations available depending on how long and severe your illness is (whether it's COVID or something else).
  • Contingency plans:
  • It is our assumption that the course will be in a primarily in-person mode for the quarter. Nonetheless, we will be prepared to continue virtually if required/recommended by the university. We intend to stick to this syllabus as closely as possible. If we do make changes, we will do our best to make sure it is to your benefit. We may propose changes if there are significant changes to the local or global health situation, or UW significantly changes course.

    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.

    Nonetheless, one of the main methods of learning is talking to other students in the course! We strongly encourage you to find study groups you can meet with (remotely or otherwise).


    Grades will be based off homework assignments, a "mini-midterm" and a final.


    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 up solutions on your own. More details are included in the collaboration policy.


    We will have a take-home "mini-midterm." You will have access to course resources during the exam, but collaboration will be limited. We will release more details as we get closer to the exam. The exam will be available over the weekend of May 6-8.


    It is our intention to conduct an in-person final exam this quarter. We are working with the university on what rooms are available; we have not yet been able to determine whether we will have a combined exam (likely at a different time than the exam schedule) or separate exams. We will share this information as soon as it is available.

    We will offer at least the following pandemic accommodations:

    We will continue to follow the course of the pandemic, both locally and globally, and to follow UW guidance on whether in-person exams are safe and allowed. If we are unable to hold the exam in-person, we will instead have a take-home exam. A take-home exam would be spread over a longer time period than just the final-exam slot on the official schedule.

    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.

    Assigning course grades

    Your course average will be a combination of your scores on the homeworks and exams. We will weight those categories as follows:

    Pie chart showing homework at 70%, midterm at 7.5% and final at 22.5%

    In the event of very significant pandemic changes, we reserve the right to modify these weights, but will endeavor not to do so. Just switching the mode of the final exam from in-person to take-home will not cause us to change the weights shown.

    Extra credit is incorporated after we have set the grade breaks according to the weights above. Extra credit has a minimal effect on grades (changing GPAs by 0.1 or less).

    Students often wonder whether the class is "curved." For example, whether the median course grade must be some specified value, or if we have a maximum amount of "good" grades we can assign. We do not "curve" in either of these senses. We do, though, look at the performance of students this quarter relative to other quarters (especially where homework problems were similar) to try to keep grades consistent between different quarters (that is that similar levels of understanding of the content would lead to similar grades). This process means that before we have collected all the grades, we don't know exactly where gradebreaks will be.

    Grade guarantees

    In order to give you a sense of how you are doing during the quarter, we offer the following minimum guarantees. That is, if your course average (calculated as descrbed above) meets these thresholds, we guarantee that you will get a GPA of the grade shown or higher. These guarantees are intended to give you a simple way to interpret how you are doing throughout the quarter; we will still decide at the end of the quarter on exact grade breaks as described above. In the event that exams or homeworks (or both) turn out more difficult than intended, we may make grades higher than indicated here, but we will not make them less generous.

    Course Grade GPA guarantee

    Late Policy


    You will have six 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 72 hours after it is due without prior permission from course staff.

    For example, an assignment due at 11:59 PM on Wednesday could be turned in at 10 PM on Friday with no penalty by using two late days. However, you cannot submit at 12:01 AM Sunday as it would be more than 72 hours.

    If you run out of late days, you may still turn in an assignment late, at a penalty of 15% per day (but still may not turn in an assignment after the 72-hour-late-deadline without prior permission from the course staff).

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


    We will not allow late days to be used on take-home exams. If you have extenuating circumstances that interfere with completing these activities on-time, you should contact the course staff.

    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:

    Collaboration rules will be different on the exams. More details will be released as we get closer to the exams.

    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 any action to be a violation of the academic integrity policy 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: