15-451 Algorithms: Course Policies


The course grade will be apportioned as follows:
homework    40%
midterm exams (2) 30%
final exam 30%
Some of the homework assignments are quite substantial; always start early.

In the final grading, there will be a slight curve, meaning that the cut-offs will be lowered slightly in response to the performance of the class. Nonetheless, as a guiding principle think of A:90, B:80, C:70, and D:60.


There will be 7 homework assignments: 4 written-only and 3 oral-and-written, in alternating fashion. Written homework is due at the beginning of class on the due date. You are expected to do the written-only homeworks by yourself. Oral-and-written assignments will be done in groups of 3: these assignments will consist of 3 problems and will be presented to the TA or instructor as a group, with each member presenting one of the problems (about 15 min per problem). All members of a group will be given the same score, so it is to your advantage to work together on solving the problems. More information about how to sign up for oral homework presentations will be given later. Each group is also required to hand in at the time of the presentation a written solution to each of the problems assigned. These solutions should be done in collaboration. Each member of the group should be prepared to present anyone of the three problems. We may flip a coin to pick the presenter.

Written homeworks will be handed back in recitation (so please put your recitation letter/time on your hand-in).


Lateness and Absence

Since the course is rather fast paced, it is important for the students to get access to correct homework solutions as soon as possible. Hence, we will post solutions soon after the due date. As a consequence, we have adopted the following lateness policy:
later in the same day: 10% off
1-2 days late: 25% off
more than 2 days late: 75% off
Makeups for the two exams and the final must be arranged at least one week in advance, barring extreme situations. Make sure to document any health problems you might have.

Academic Integrity

Before we begin with the technicalities, a general comment. We appreciate that most students have no intention whatsoever to cheat in this or any other course. Unfortunately, experience shows that there is a small group of students who will cheat when the opportunity or a perceived need arises, and it is that small group that this section is addressed to. No matter what, make sure to read this carefully, so that you fully know what the rules of the game are.

You are expected to do the written assignments by yourself. You may certainly talk with other students about course material, but what you hand in should be your own work - the product of your own effort. If you get stuck, contact one of the course staff: we may be able to help guide you in the right direction. This also gives us feedback on where unanticipated difficulties might be. If you find a data base of solutions somewhere on the net, ignore it. Do not talk to students who have previously taken the course, not even to get hints on how to tackle a problem. When you hand something in, you affirm that it has been produced by you alone. A false affirmation is a serious breach of academic integrity, and will have rather severe consequences.

Obviously, no cooperation whatsoever is permissible on exams.

Data Mining

To elaborate on the issue of data mining: most of the topics addressed in this course are fairly standard, and there are countless books that contain a wealth of information about them, including solutions to problems. Moreover, with the increased use of the web for teaching, a fairly large number of problems, complete with solutions, can be found somewhere on the web. It is perfectly acceptable and even encouraged to look at books and web-sites for more information on a topic, but if you stumble across a problem solution, move on, quickly.


Any infringement will result at the very least in loss of credit for the assignment or test in question. In severe cases, it may lead to failure in the course and referral to the Dean of Student Affairs, as provided for in the university's policy on academic disciplinary actions. Especially severe violations of academic integrity may be forwarded to a hearing for further sanction. Students who make their work available to others to copy will also be liable for these penalties; hence you should be careful to keep your homework files protected. Publicly readable solutions, or pieces thereof, constitute a major offense. For more information, please see the university's policy on cheating and plagiarism.


Feel free to contact any member of the course staff to clarify these policies.

Last modified: Thu Jan 29 10:14:19 EST 2004