CMPSCI 250: Introduction to Computation
David Mix Barrington and Marius Minea
Course Requirements and Grading
Your grade in CMPSCI 250 will be based on the following:
- Midterm Exams (30%):
There will be two midterm exams each counting 15% of your grade, on
Wednesday 10 October and Wednesday 7 November,
each 7-9 p.m. in rooms yet to be chosen
by the University.
We will write an exam intended
to be finished in an hour, and give you two hours to finish it.
(Over the years
students have accused Dave. at least, of overestimating what they
ought to be able to finish in an hour.)
The exams from Spring 2018 and from other
semesters may be used as
- Final Exam (35%):This will be during the December
final exam period
as scheduled by the University, and will be cumulative, though with greater
emphasis on the last third of the course. You will have two
The Spring 2018 250 final (with solution
here) may be used as a practice
- Homework (20%): There will be six
homework assignments during the term.
Together they will count for 20% of your final grade, with only the best five
counting for 4% each. (The lowest grade will be dropped.)
Homework must be turned in as PDF files on the Moodle site for the course.
This will allow the TA's to grade it and give you feedback without the
necessity of moving large quantities of paper around. PDF files may be
generated in a variety of ways -- I would probably do it using Latex, but Word
and other word processing software has options to produce PDF's. (On a Mac,
any print command has a "save PDF" option.) You can also scan a handwritten
document to produce a PDF which you can then turn in. (But what you submit
must be readable -- you are responsible for reviewing your PDF yourself
to see that it is. Cel phone pictures of bad handwriting will in general not
Late homework will in general not be
accepted -- we'll deal with valid excuses by giving "excused" grades on
- Discussions (7%): Attendance at the Friday discussion sections
is required and this portion of the course grade will be based on your
attendance and participation. Participation will be measured
by group responses to
in-class writing assignments, usually based on "Excursion" sections of the
text. You will be divided randomly into groups of 2-4 people and each group
will hand in a response to the assignment. These will be graded "check" (B)
or "check-plus" (A), and the best nine of your eleven
will count for 7% of your
total grade. There will also be a "virtual discussion" at the end of
the term in which you answer (on Moodle) a set of "essay"
questions for course evaluation, and this will be another discussion
(every serious response gets an A).
- Moodle Quizzes (4%): These short true-false
exercises will occur once a week, normally due at 9:00 am on Tuesday.
They will cover the material of the previous
week's lectures. Some
small number of these will be dropped -- the remainder will count for 4% of the
total grade. A typical quiz will be 20 questions, with the grade being
F for not doing it, C for half right (the expected result of guessing),
and A for all right.
- Clicker Questions (4%): During most lectures there will be questions
to be answered on a clicker device to be purchased or rented by you. (This is
the only sense in which lecture attendance affects your grade.) The first
clicker questions that count will be on Wednesday 12 September, the fourth
lecture, so that you should have time to arrange to get a clicker. All answers
wrong will get a C-, all answers right will get an A, and some small number of
low results will be dropped.
Calculation of Grades
My system for computing grades is a bit unusual, so I will try to
explain it here. I take every graded component of the course and
assign it a number on a scale from F (0) through C (200) to A (400)
and sometimes higher. These are the numbers that are averaged
together by Moodle to get your "course total" at the end of the term,
and this is the basis for your letter grade. (For example, if your
total is 342, the closest letter grade to this is a B+ (333) so that's
what you get. There is some provision for rounding up in close cases,
since a 345 is within five points of the boundary (350) between A- and
B+, I would give that an A-.
For exams and homeworks, there is thus both a raw score, typically
ranging from 0 to around 100, and a normalized score on the 0-400
The mapping from raw score to normalized score does not always
0 to 0. A typical scale for a homework assignment takes 30 (and
lower) to 0, 45 to 100, 60 to 200, 75 to 300, 90 to 400, and higher
grades above 400 by the same linear function. On each assignment, I
after grading what raw score constitutes a 200, and what score
a 400, then find the linear function that meets those two points.
Academic Honesty Policy
All work submitted must be your own in presentation. How much
outside help is allowed depends on the course component.
Last modified 1 October 2018