The approach to assignments, exams, and relative weighting is intended to assess multiple
aspects of your developing expertise in design and analysis of algorithms. In summary,
the components and their default weights (percentage of the overall grade) include:
- Daily Quizzes: 10%
- Class Participation & Peer Evaluation: 5%
- Homework Problems: 30%
- Midterm Exams: 30% (two at 15% each)
- Final Exam: 25%
We reserve the right to adjust the total number of points depending on circumstances.
Points, Percents and Letter Grades
To determine letter grades, we use a 4-percent spread per grade increment, i.e., 100-97=A+,
96-93=A, 92-89=A-, 88-85=B+, 84-81=B, 80-77=B-, 76-73=C+, 72-69=C, 68-65=C-, 64-61=D+, 60-57=D,
56-53=D-, 52-0=F. To adjust for variability in the exam difficulty between the semesters, the exams will be graded on a curve with a B average. If upon inspection of the distribution of grades we feel that too many students
who understand the material are not getting the grades they deserve, we may then make adjustments in
favor of students (especially for those who did well on exams).
- Quizzes (10%):
- At the begining of every class there will a quiz based on the readings and screencasts. These quizzes will test basic understanding of the chapter on which the day's topic is based,
such as whether you can simulate the operation of the data structure or algorithms or get the main
point of the analyses of their relative merits. Most quizzes will not involve mathematical
analysis or proofs: problems requiring deeper thought will be left for the classwork and homework
Solutions will be given in class immediately after the quizzes and will be graded in class. Therefore, it is important that you show up to every class on-time, as quizzes cannot be made up.
- Class (Group) Problems, Class Participation and Peer Evaluation (5%):
- All regular classes will include signicant time working in small groups on problems that help
expose conceptual issues in the material and prepare you to work on the take-home portion on your
own. Class problems will require much more thought than the problems given on the quizzes. You
turn your work in as a group (a single shared document in Google Docs per group). We will discuss the solutions as you make progress. Although your solutions to the in-class exercises are not graded, active participation in the group discussion is an important part of your learning. You will be graded on your class participation through Instructor's observation as well as through the evaluation from your peers as follows:
Each week in which there is a problem set, each individual in the group will assign points
distributed across the other individuals in the group to assess how effectively they collaborated
in the group. You should allocate the points according to how well the others worked as team
members, including their role in team functioning (e.g., keeping the group focused and organized,
or playing another important role), and how much they helped others understand the material (e.g.,
by explaining what they understood), as well as their contributions to the actual problem
solution. Even asking good questions can be a contribution.
Each week you will have 6 points to distribute across all of your peers. You can distribute the points
equally, give them all to one person, or do something in between. For example, if everyone
participated equally, you would give the same number of points to each person; while if there was
one person who did more work and the other who did less you might move a point from the latter to
This is fair under changing group sizes. Suppose everyone allocates points equally. Then:
- If there are 4 students, each gets points from 3 other students, but each is dividing 6
points across 3 students, so each student gets 3*(6/3)=6 points.
- If there are 3 students, each gets points from 2 other students, but each is dividing 6
points across 2 students, so each student gets 2*(6/2)=6 points.
- If there are 2 students, each gets points from 1 other student, so each student gets 1*(6/1)=6 points
Some additional rules:
- You need not allocate all the points available to you (for example, if you feel that
other group members were not helpful).
- You cannot allocate any points to yourself! Points allocated to yourself will not be
- You will allocate these points when you turn in your homework assignment. To encourage
you to do this, you will be given one extra credit point for each assignment in which
you assess your peers.
- Homework Problems (30%):
- On 13 of the weeks you will have homework problems in which you do more extensive work following
up on the class work. The homework problems will combine the topics of both days of the week. We encourage you to work on the homework problems in groups (can be different from the group during in-class exercises). However, the final write up must be performed individually, in own words, that means copying solution from each other is NOT permitted. Using internet to find solutions to homework is also NOT permitted and will be treated as plagiarism (see Class Policies for more details).
Exam questions often are similar to homework problems, so this is your chance to
make sure that you understand concepts and can work out problems on your own, not just in a group
- Homework submission: Homeworks will be due in person at the beginning of Tuesday class period (with the exception of Homework 11, which is due at the beginning of Monday class period). No Homeworks will be accepted after the instructor starts the class, as the answers to the homework will be discussed during that class period.
- Midterm Exams (30%, two at 15% each):
- There will be two midterm exams taking one class period each. Problems will be harder than those
on the quizzes, and some may be as hard as those on class and homework problems. Problems will
cover both understanding of the algorithms and how to analyze them. They will cover the most
recent set of lecture topics, but cumulative "review" questions may also be included. Exams will
be closed-book, however, you will be allowed a single double-sided letter-sized sheet of notes. No electronic devices will be allowed. The instructor and TAs will grade all midterm exams.
- Final (25%):
- The final exam will take place at the time scheduled by the university and will be longer than a
midterm exam. It will cover the final set of lecture topics, but will also include review of the entire
semester. Since the final is longer and is cumulative as well as covering recent
material, it is weighted more (25%). The exams will be graded by the instructor and the TAs.
We no longer offer extra credit options other than the extra points discussed above. These
complicate the grading too much.
We each have our own strengths. If a student performs significantly better on one area
than others, we may elect to put greater weight on the area that gives the student a better grade. We
are more willing to do this with strong exam performance, as exams are not easy and are proctored so
we know it's the student's own work.
Nodari Sitchinava (based on material by Dan Suthers)