Course Mechanics

Summary: This page explains course activities, policies, and recommendations.


Grading policy

I will use the following scheme as a base for weighting grades for individual activities in the final grade:

Participation 15%
Homework 30%
Project reports 10%
Exams 45%

I do not believe in "grading on a curve"; I would be pleased if you all earned A's in this course.

Learning activities

This class meets four times per week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. 

Computer science 151 is taught in a collaborative workshop style. Some days we will spend the class period working through problems or concepts; even then, my teaching style tends to be more interactive than a typical lecture.Most days, you'll work on laboratory problems with other students in the class. We will start many days with a short lecture/discussion and end with a reflective discussion. Participation is key.

Because our time in class is limited, you should come prepared to each class. What does it mean to be prepared? First, check the schedule for today's class meeting to find out what we will be working on.  Second, if there is a reading listed for today's class meeting, read it before class. Third, come to class on time, with paper and a writing instrument, ready to be an active participant.

The evening after class, you should complete the lab exercise so you can gain its full benefit.  You will be expected to carefully write up your solutions to some lab exercises as part of your homework.

You will also have the opportunitiy to exercise your creativity in two projects and demonstrate your learning in three take-home midterm exams (plus an optional final exam).

I will also suggest activities for extra credit throughout the term. You may propose activities for extra credit as well.


There is no textbook for this course; however, there is a series of online readings that have been developed over the last several years.

The readings are short, but important. Do the reading before class. Better yet, read it three times: read through it through carefully to learn new concepts; then skim it to understand how the concepts fit together; finally, read it again to understand the details; make note of important ideas and any questions you want to ask in class. Although some murky details will make more sense as you try things out during the lab, I'm always glad to answer your questions.


Because much of our work in this course involves collaboration and discussion, you will be evaluated on your participation.

Participating in class involves

Students who regularly meet these criteria can expect to earn 90% (an A-) for their participation grade. I will reward students who regularly provide significant insights or guide discussion in productive ways with a higher participation score. Any students who fail to participate regularly or who participate in counterproductive ways (e.g., by dominating the conversation, making irrelevant comments, or belittling others) can expect to earn a lower score.

One unexcused absence (your "oops" day) will have no effect on your participation score. Missing 2-5 classes will reduce your participation score by 10%. Missing 6 or more classes will reduce your participation grade by 25%.

To have your absence count as excused, you must either (a) ensure that I receive documentation of the circumstances of your absence from Health Services or Student Affairs, or (b) contact me to make suitable arrangements at least a week in advance.  In particular, students on sports teams should provide me with their game schedules as soon as possible.

Because I care about you, if you do miss class unexpectedly, I would appreciate a quick call or email as soon as you are able.  Don't be surprised if I email to make sure you are OK.

When you do miss class, it is your responsibility to talk to a classmate about what you missed and then to see me to discuss any further questions or concerns.


The course schedule includes 18 homework assignments, 13 of which will be graded; I will drop your lowest grade.  

Homework assignments are typically due on Tuesdays and Fridays when there is not a project or exam assigned. They are intended to be small; if you find they are taking longer than an hour or so, please come talk to me so that I can help you approach the homeworks more efficiently.  (If I find the homework assignments are taking a long time for many students, I may also scale back the assignments.) 

I will give you instructions about what forms of collaboration are permitted on each homework assignment.

Homework will be graded on the following scale. I expect most assignments to receive checks.

PLUS (105%) - Exhibits exceptional insight and/or craftsmanship.
CHECK (90%) - Meets the requirements of the assignment.
MINUS (75%) - Does not meet the requirements of the assignment.
ZERO (0%) - Not turned in.


The course will also include two more substantial projects, which you will undertake in small groups.  We will spend three class meetings getting started on each project; you will complete the project and write a report during the following week.

I will inform you of my grading rubric when projects are assigned.


You will have opportunities to demonstrate what you have learned through three written take-home exams. You should find they challenge you to go beyond what we have done in class.

Take-home exams are open notes, open computer, and open instructor. However, because I intend the exams to assess your own individual understanding of the material, collaboration on exams is not permitted. You should not talk to anyone (except me) about take-home exams before they are due. You should not discuss the problems on the exam, nor your answers. You should not give any information about your progress on the exam (e.g., which problems you have completed or which you found difficult), and neither should you ask others about their progress.  If you have any doubt about what is and is not permissible, ask me.

In accordance with the schedule issued by the Committee on Academic Standing, the final examination for this course will take place at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 18. The final examination for this course is optional. It can be used as a makeup for one examination.

The final exam will be an in-class exam.  Talking with other students during the exam will not be permitted. You may ask me questions. The final exam will be closed-book and closed-computer, but you will be allowed to use one double-sided, 8.5"x11" sheet of hand-written notes. 

Academic Honesty

I expect you to follow the highest principles of academic honesty. Among other things, this means that any work you turn in should be your own or should have the work of others clearly documented. However, when you explicitly work as part of a group or team, you need not identify the work of each individual (unless I specify otherwise).

You should never give away answers to homework assignments or examinations. You may, however, work together in developing answers to most homework assignments. Except as specified on individual assignments, each student should develop his or her own final version of the assignment. On written assignments, each student should write up an individual version of the assignment and cite the discussion. On non-group programming assignments, each student should do his or her own programming, although students may help each other with design and debugging.

When working on examinations, you should not use other students as resources.


Work is due at the start of class on the date specified in the assignment.  A penalty of 33 1/3% per class meeting will be assessed on any work turned in late, even work turned in at the end of class. Thus, work turned in 4 class meetings late will be weighted -33 1/3%; since a negative score reduces the cumulative total, it is better not to turn in the work at all.

Similar to the attendance policy, to avoid the late penalty when circumstances prevent timely submission of your work, you must either (a) contact me to make suitable arrangements when the assignment is handed out, or (b) ensure that I receive documentation of the circumstances from Health Services or Student Affairs.

Deadlines for exercises involving programming will automatically be extended by at least one class period if MathLAN is down for an unscheduled period of 3 or more hours during the two days preceeding the assignment due date.  No such extension will be granted for exercises not involving programming.

Because I am concerned about your health and well being, I will also waive the late penalty if (1) you start the assignment at least three days in advance of the due date; (2) you get to sleep by midnight the night before the assignment is due; (3) you expend a reasonable amount of effort to complete the assignment by midnight; (4) you turn in a letter attesting to facts (1), (2), and (3) when the assignment is due; and (5) you talk to me ASAP about any problems you've had on the assignment.

Absolute deadline: All homework must be turned in by Friday, May 11 at 5 p.m.

Getting help

The Math Lab makes tutors for 151 available at regularly scheduled times. As soon as tutors have been scheduled, I'll let you know what those times are. You can also get help from me, either during office hours or by appointment. I really enjoy working with students one-on-one.


If you have specific physical, psychiatric, or learning disabilities and require accomodations, let me know early in the semester so that we can work together to meet your learning needs.  You will also need to provide documentation of your disability to the Academic Advising Office, located on the third floor of the Rosenfield Center (x3702).

Janet Davis (

Created January 19, 2007
Last revised January 24, 2007