2017 Fall - 304 - Foundations of Computer Science - Syllabus
This class is taught by Jay McCarthy
. Call him Jay. Email him at first-name DOT last-name AT gmail DOT com
We meet in Olsen 408 at 0930-1045.
Jay’s office hours are TR 1230-1330 in Olsen 221.
There is a mailing list hosted at Google Groups
Use it to ask non-revealing questions and receive answers, as well as
general course announcements. You are responsible for reading the
content of this mailing list.
1 Important Course Details
Description. A survey of the mathematical foundations of Computer
Science. Finite automata and regular languages. Stack Acceptors and
Context-Free Languages. Turing Machines, recursive and recursively
enumerable sets. Decidability. Complexity. This course involves no
Policy. We do not allow electronic devices, such as
laptops, phones, and tablets, to be used during class, without an
explicit accomodation exception. I will first ask you to put it away
and then I will ask you to leave.
2 Lectures, Assignments, and Exercises
Jay will be away.
Regular Languages: Finite Automata
Regular Languages: Nondeterminism
Regular Languages: Regular Expressions
Regular Languages: Nonregular Languages
Context-Free Languages: Context-Free Grammars
Context-Free Languages: Pushdown Automata
Context-Free Languages: Non-Context-Free Languages
Church-Turing Thesis: Turing Machines
Church-Turing Thesis: Variants of Turing Machines
Church-Turing Thesis: Algorithm Definition
Decidability: Decidable Languages
Decidability: Halting Problems
Reducibility: Undecidable Problems from Language Theory & Mapping Reducibility
ITC 5.1 & 5.3
We will meet at 0800-1100.
3 Work in this Course
If you do a little work for this course every day, including
reading the textbook and doing the exercises, you will find the exams
and papers easy to write. If you just search for answers in course
material as you try to complete work, you will not do well.
I highly recommend that you read
about grading. I also recommend you read
about the stress that you may experience in a computer
science program. Please try to make healthy productive choices in your
life. I would love the opportunity to help you in any ways I can.
In the Lectures, Assignments, and Exercises table above, a number of exercises
are referenced. You are not required to do each of them, but I highly
recommend that you complete some of them. It is extremely difficult to
do them all and I am intentionally vague on details, so you will
maximize your learning rather than just satisfy an assignment
spec. Required work (such as exams, papers, and presentations) may
reference material from class, from the reading, or from these
exercises. If you do not do the exercises, then, for example, there
will be exam questions which will be unintelligible and nigh
impossible for you to answer successfully. If you would like to
discuss your solution to them, please meet me in my office. I will not
review solutions via email, but I will answer clarifying questions.
Consult the paper details
for details about
the content of the paper.
I will not review or discuss your paper via email, but I am
happy to discuss it with you in my office.
You hand in your paper by putting them on the lectern at the
start of class on the day they are due. No papers will be accepted at
any other time, for any reason. No papers will be acceped
electronically. If you cannot turn in your work personally, you may
have a friend do it.
Your turn-in must clearly have your name on it and indicate
which option you chose.
Your turn-in must be prepared electronically. I recommend using
. You must use 0.5"
margins, the font Times New Roman at 11pt, and single-spacing. Each
page must be numbered in the footer. You must print with black
ink (color may be used in diagrams, but not in the text) on white
paper. If your printer is low on ink or toner, find another one rather
than giving me something that is faded. I recommend using only mild
formatting. You should not include long quotes, code samples, or large
diagrams. You should reference sources using the BibTeX
Your turn-in must be stapled together. It is your responsible to
ensure this is the case.
You may not turn in more than five pieces of paper. You probably
want to turn in exactly five pieces of paper. This means ten "pages"
of content, although since references count it may be more like nine.
Work that is incorrectly formatted will be returned ungraded and
I will consider it as though you never turned it in.
Your paper will receive a grade from the closed interval between
0 and 1. I will evaluate your paper based on the
veracity of its content, its logical structure, as well as its
grammar, style, and form.
I will not review or discuss your presentation via email, but I
am happy to discuss it with you in my office, although naturally it is
hard to separate the actual presentation from the planning of it, so
you are mostly on your own.
You must record yourself for fifteen minutes and email me a link
to the video. I highly recommend that you upload it as a private
YouTube video and send me that link. It is the most convenient for
everyone. You must send this link to me before 5pm on the listed due
date. No presentations will be accepted at any other time, for any
Your email must have the subject: [CS304] Presentation turn-in. If it does not have this
subject, it will not be graded and I will treat it as though you did
not turn it in.
Your email must include a written list of the exercises you did,
with an annotation for which ones you are presenting about. This list
should not just include the names on the syllabus, but the particular
options for each exercise you choose.
I highly recommend that you use your operating system’s
screen-recording capability and use a simple presentation mechanism,
like a digital whiteboard. If you are presenting code, it makes sense
to present from within your editor and show the code working. In any
case, remember: the most important part of your presentation is the
words you say.
Your presentation should be designed like you are teaching a
class or having a conversation about something you deeply understand
with a friend. You should not use a script or have any substantial
notes. If you need notes, then write down ten (10) words that will
help prompt you and keep you on track.
It is possible to get extra-credit if you go above and beyond
the expectations and impress me. When you turn it in, clearly state
that you think you have done this so I can evaluate what you believe
Your presentation will receive a grade from the closed interval
between 0 and 1.25. I will evaluate your
presentation based on the veracity of its content, its logical
structure, as well as its style and form.
Exams must be taken in person, at the scheduled time.
Exams must be completed without any notes, books, or resources
of any kind.
You must use 8.5" by 11" College Ruled paper without
frill and write using a black pen. You are responsible for my ability
to read and understand your writing and diagrams.
Your exams must clearly have your name on it.
You may not hand in more than five pieces of paper and
individual answers must not use more than a single piece of
paper (front and back.) These pages must be stapled together, which
you are responsible for. I recommend pre-stapling your paper before
Exams that are incorrectly formatted will be returned ungraded
and I will consider it as though you never turned it in.
Your exams will receive a grade from the closed interval between
0 and 1.25. I will evaluate your exam based on the
veracity of its content and the logical structure of your answers.
In your exam, you will be provided four groups of two
questions. You can answer one question from each group. After you
answer one question from each group, you may answer a single other
question (i.e. answering two questions for one group.) If you provide
answers for more than five questions or two for more than one group,
then I will return your exam ungraded as though you never turned it
in. Each question will be equally weighted at 0.25.
Nearly all exam questions are best answered using all of the
available space. If you can’t write more than a paragraph, then you
probably don’t really understand the question well enough to answer it
3.5 Class Numeric Grade
This function takes your turn-ins and combines them into a numeric grade:
|> (define (combine paper midterm pres final)|
| (+ (* 0.2 paper) (* 0.2 midterm)|
| (* 0.3 pres) (* 0.3 final)))|
|> (combine 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0)|
|> (combine 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5)|
|> (combine 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.0)|
|> (combine 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.25)|
|> (combine 0.0 1.25 0.0 1.25)|
|> (combine 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0)|
|> (combine 1.0 1.25 1.0 1.25)|
This function is designed to allow you to perform poorly at the
beginning of the course, but still recover and end with a good grade.
3.6 Course Letter Grade
The following function to converts your numeric grade into a letter grade:
|> (define (convert-to-letter ng)|
| [(> ng 0.93) "A"]|
| [(> ng 0.9) "A-"]|
| [(> ng 0.86) "B+"]|
| [(> ng 0.83) "B"]|
| [(> ng 0.8) "B-"]|
| [(> ng 0.76) "C+"]|
| [(> ng 0.73) "C"]|
| [(> ng 0.7) "C-"]|
| [(> ng 0.66) "D+"]|
| [(> ng 0.6) "D"]|
| [else "F"]))|
|> (convert-to-letter 1)|
|> (convert-to-letter 0.94)|
|> (convert-to-letter 0.899999)|
|> (convert-to-letter 0.81)|
|> (convert-to-letter 0.74)|
|> (convert-to-letter 0.6999999)|
|> (convert-to-letter 0.62)|
|> (convert-to-letter 0.57)|
3.7 Graduate Student Option
If you are taking the class as a graduate class, then you must
do either two paper options or two presentation options. The extra
assignment you do will be due by the date of the final. In addition,
your work will be graded to a higher standard than the other
My job is to help you.
One of the best ways for me to help you is to teach you how to
help yourself. The main way I will put this idea into practice is that
I will not answer your question until you have shown that you’ve read
the relevant part of the textbook and have a concrete question or
point of confusion about it.
If you need a "shallow" amount of help, then look at the
. First, see if I have already
answered your question. Then, send your own email.
Only send me personal email if you need to talk about something
private, such as your grades. Anything else is best discussed in
public, so others can benefit. If you do send personal email, put
[CS304] as a prefix in the subject.
If you need a "deep" amount of help, please come to my office or
call me (801-361-0732) and we’ll talk and try to resolve whatever ails
5 Fine Print
In this course, all work is to be each student’s own.
Students should therefore be familiar with the University’s rules on
academic dishonesty, which can be found in the Bulletin of
Undergraduate Studies and in the Schedule of Classes. In particular,
plagiarism will not be tolerated! Any student caught plagiarizing
another’s work will automatically receive a grade of F for the course.
If you are unsure as to what constitutes plagiarism, it is your
responsibility to check with the instructor. Other forms of dishonesty
will result in similar actions. You may collaborate with your
classmates on the design and results of the programs you will write in
this course, but each student must implement these programs alone.
Submission of shared student code is not permissible, and will result
in a grade of F for the course. Help files are typically provided for
each programming assignment, and students are encouraged to cut and
paste useful code from these help files into their assignment
submissions, but all other code must be the specific work of each
You are not allowed to post solution code to problem
sets assigned in this class in public places (e.g. Github). This
includes your own solutions as well as solutions that may be provided
by the instructors.
This policy is a courtesy to future students, who — to
the fullest extent possible — should have the opportunity to struggle
with the problems in the same way that you do.
Non-compliance will be pursued rigorously per UMass
Lowell’s academic integrity policy.