Course Policies

Policy Goals

The main goal of these policies is two-fold:

  1. Help you understand and use the material of this course in your further life.
  2. Ensure that people and especially further employers believe you have mastered the skills presented in the class.


There will be one in class midterm and a final during the finals period. There will also be a collection of in class quizzes. We also plan to have works some will require oral presentation and other that are strictly written.
Homework 30%
Quizzes 10%
2 Midterm exams 30%
Final exam 30%
Here is the approximate grading standard (subject to change). Historically the average grade in this class is a B. Given the quality of the classes work will may increase or decrease this average.


  • All homeworks are due at the beginning of lecture or recitation. See due dates.
  • We will not accept late submission. However, each individual student has a single 48 hours pass. This pass can be used to extend the deadline for one homework by 48 hours.
  • You are encouraged to work in groups of 2 or (preferably) 3. The group should be as diverse as possible.
  • On all assignments each person should hand-in their own writeup. That is, collaboration should be limited to talking about the problems, so that your writeup is written entirely by you and not copied from your partner. In addition, list all members of your group.
  • You are required to type your solutions (preferably using LaTeX).
  • If you use any reference or webpage, you must cite it.

Homework's Purpose

Algorithms is a pivotal course in computer science undergrad studies. The course's goal is to give you the basic principles in analyzing and designing of algorithms. It is not an easy course (not that other courses taught in CMU are easy!). It will require a significant amount of work on your part to follow what is taught in class. This is why we give weekly homework assignments. They are designed to give you a better understanding of the material taught in class. We stress that the homework is meant for you. We devote a fairly large amount of time for designing, writing, grading and explaining the homework, so that you can test yourselves and see how well you understand and implement the course's material.

Types of Homework

Each week you'll get a new assignment, alternating between mini-homeworks (one week assignment) and regular assignments (two weeks assignment). Minis are fairly straight-forward. They should not pose much of a problem if you listen in class. Regular HW are somewhat more tricky. We want you to sit and thoroughly think the problems and the principles shown in class. As mentioned, we expect you to show us understanding of the material by implementing it. Note: even though the regular HW aren't trivial, that is not say they are particularly hard.

Solving the Homework

Ideally, this is how you should approach the homework.
  1. Read the material taught in class, and make sure you understand all the definitions, algorithms, theorems and proofs.
  2. Read the homework. Carefully.
  3. Spend at least one hour thinking about each problem by yourselves. This is the vital part of understanding the course's material. You will get stuck, that's ok. When you do, here are some suggestions to help you get past it.
    • Come up with a dummy example, over a small number of item, and try to solve it. This is particularly helpful when you're trying to follow an algorithm, or when devising a counter example.
    • Which algorithms / techniques / heuristics taught in class are applicable to the problem at hand? When do they fail and for what reason?
    • Reduce the problem to a problem taught in class. Can the problem be represented as a graph? a network? maybe to a less general instance of the problem itself (a graph with negative weight to a graph with unique, non-negative weights)?
    • The notion of sub-problem (divide-and-conquer, dynamic programming, induction) is a recurring theme in this class. Try to identify and solve the sub-problems of the problem at hand.
  4. Only after you gave the problem a serious amount of thinking, try to collaborate, find outside sources or come to the TAs for guidance.
  5. Write down the solution, by yourselves. Re-read what you've wrote. Make sure the solution is exact, and answers specifically what you've been asked about. It should be clear, but it need not necessarily be long.


Lateness and Absence

Make-ups for the 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

We will assume that you understand the issues and do not need an explanation here.
Finally, feel free to contact any member of the course staff to clarify these policies.