On this page:
2018 Spring - 304 - Foundations of Computer Science - Syllabus
1 Important Course Details
2 Lectures, Assignments, and Exercises
3 Work in this Course
3.1 Exercises
3.2 Paper
3.3 Presentation
3.4 Exams
3.5 Class Numeric Grade
3.6 Course Letter Grade
3.7 Graduate Student Option
4 Help
5 Fine Print

2018 Spring - 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 109 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 computer programming.
Readings. (ITC) We’ll be using the book Introduction to the Theory of Computation (3rd Edition), by Michael Sipser (Amazon link). (If you need to use a different edition, there will be minor differences, but the main content will be the same. You are responsible for the differences.)
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













No class










Links: 1.pdf







Regular Languages: Finite Automata


ITC 1.1

Links: 2.pdf









Exercise: dfa

Links: 3.pdf







Regular Languages: Nondeterminism


ITC 1.2

Links: 4.pdf






No class







Regular Languages: Regular Expressions


ITC 1.3

Exercise: nfa

Links: 5.pdf







Regular Languages: Nonregular Languages


Jay will be away.

ITC 1.4

Links: 6.pdf






No class









Exercise: re

Links: 7.pdf







Context-Free Languages: Context-Free Grammars


ITC 2.1

Links: 8.pdf







Context-Free Languages: Pushdown Automata


ITC 2.2

Exercise: cfl

Links: 9.pdf







Midterm Review


Due: Project 1: Presentation

Links: 10.pdf






No class






No class






No class















Context-Free Languages: Non-Context-Free Languages


ITC 2.3

Links: 12.pdf









Links: 13.pdf







Church-Turing Thesis: Turing Machines


ITC 3.1

Exercise: tms

Links: 14.pdf









Links: 15.pdf







Church-Turing Thesis: Variants of Turing Machines


ITC 3.2

Links: 16.pdf









Exercise: vtms

Links: 17.pdf







Church-Turing Thesis: Algorithm Definition


ITC 3.3

Links: 18.pdf







Decidability: Decidable Languages


ITC 4.1

Links: 19.pdf









Exercise: dec

Links: 20.pdf







Decidability: Halting Problems


Jay will be away.

ITC 4.2

Links: 21.pdf









Jay will be away.

Links: 22.pdf







Reducibility: Undecidable Problems from Language Theory & Mapping Reducibility


ITC 5.1 & 5.3

Exercise: undec

Links: 23.pdf







Final Review


Due: Project 2: Presentation









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 this article about grading. I also recommend you read this article 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.

3.1 Exercises

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.

3.2 Paper

Consult the paper details for details about the content of the paper. This class may not actually have a paper project.
I will not pre-grade your paper through email, but I can try to discuss it with you, although it is most effective 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 LaTeX. 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 alpha style.
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.

3.3 Presentation

Consult the presentation details for details about the content of the presentation. This class may not actually have a presentation project.
I will not pre-grade your presentation through email, but I can try to discuss it with you, although it is most effective to discuss it with you in my office.
You must record yourself for fifteen minutes and email me a link to the video. I highly recommend that you upload it as an unlisted 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 reason. In extenuating circumstances, we can arrange an in-person presentation.
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 is extra-credit-worthy.
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.

3.4 Exams

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 the exam.
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 correctly.

3.5 Class Numeric Grade

This function takes your turn-ins and combines them into a numeric grade:
> (define (combine proj1 midterm proj2 final)
    (+ (* 0.2 proj1) (* 0.2 midterm)
       (* 0.3 proj2) (* 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 two projects between the midterm and final—a presentation and a paper. In addition, your work will be graded to a higher standard than the other students.

4 Help

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 Google Group. 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 you.

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 student.
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.