Functional Problem Solving

CSC 151-02
Grinnell College
Spring 2011
MTuWF 10-10:50, SCI 3813
Instructor: Janet Davis (office hours posted outside my door or by appointment; contact me)
Mentor: April O'Neill (office hours: 8-9 p.m. Thursday)
Grader: Kate Ingersoll
Tutors will be available in SCI 3813/3814 Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 8 to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 9 to 10 p.m.


About this course

Welcome to CSC 151! The official course description:

A lab-based introduction to basic ideas of computer science, including recursion, abstraction, scope and binding, modularity, the design and analysis of algorithms, and the fundamentals of programming in a high-level, functional language. Includes formal laboratory work. Prerequisite: none. STAFF.

A course very much like this one is the reason that I became a computer scientist.  I'm very excited to be teaching this course, and I hope to share some of that excitement with you.  My goal for this class is that you will begin to learn how computer scientists solve problems. We will be using Scheme as our first programming language; if you have already programmed before, chances are excellent you will still find new ideas in Scheme.

This course focuses on the application domain of media computation: using computers to manipulate digital media, particularly images. In my experience, this has been a lot of fun! I encourage you to go beyond what you learn in class to explore your own ideas.


Our major objectives for this course include:

How to be successful in this class

Experience shows that CSC 151 exercises different parts of your brain than other courses (even math and science courses). Expect some difficult times, but have confidence that you can work through them and that you'll come out of the course with new skills and knowledge.

Like learning a foreign language, learning in this course is cumulative: New ideas often build on ideas from earlier in the course. You should complete the labs after class and review the exercises to make sure you understand them. The weekly quizzes are also intended to check that everyone is on the same page. If you feel like you've missed something important, please come talk with me ASAP.

Computers have no common sense or compassion. They are complex, and sometimes they do things we don't expect. When things go horribly wrong, don't blame yourself. Ask me or a tutor for help.

Janet Davis (

Created January 19, 2007
Last revised April 28, 2011
With thanks to previous instructors for this course