How do opinions, fads, and political movements spread through society? What makes food webs and financial markets robust? What are the technological, political, and economic forces at play in online communities? This course examines connections between the social, technological, and natural worlds through the lens of networks. Students will learn basics of graph theory and game theory and apply them to build mathematical models of processes that take place in networks.

Basic Information

Instructor Dan Sheldon
dsheldon (at) mtholyoke (dot) edu
Lecture Tuesday, Thursday 11:30 am–12:45 pm
Fourth Hour Friday 3:15pm–4:05pm
Location Kendade 203
Piazza https://piazza.com/mtholyoke/fall2015/cs103/home
Moodle https://moodle.mtholyoke.edu/course/view.php?id=8445
Textbook Easley and Kleinberg, Networks, Crowds, and Markets, Cambridge University Press, 2010
Office Hours Tuesday 4–5, Thursday 3–4, Clapp 200
TAs Tiffany Chou and Areeba Kamal
TA office hours Areeba Tuesday 7–8 in CS lounge (Clapp 222A)
Tiffany Wednesday 8–9 in CS lounge (Clapp 222A)


There are no formal prerequisites. The course will rely on some basic probability (random variables, expectation, independence, and conditional probability), which we will review when it first arises.

The main goal of the course will be to build mathematical models of the processes that take place in networks. Students will be expected to interpret and work with mathematical models as they come up the course; at the same time, students should also think about how to relate these models to phenomena at a qualitative level.


The course has a required textbook, which will be used for readings and homework problems:

A pdf of the book can be downloaded here or you may purchase a copy online.

Other Resources

Learning Goals

By the end of this course, students should be able to:


Students will complete:

Assignments are due at the posted time, or at the beginning of class on the due date if not otherwise noted. Readings should be completed before coming to class.


Collaboration is allowed (and encouraged) on the homework assignments at the level of forming ideas as in small groups. However, each student must write their own solutions and completely understand what they write. They must also list the names of all collaborators on the submitted homework.

Looking at solutions from other students or any other source (including the web) is a violation of the honor code.

I highly encourage students to attempt problems on their own before meeting as a group, especially the easier problems that are designed to exercise skills.

No collaboration is allowed on exams any coursework other than homework assignments.

Late Policy

Each student will have three free late days to be used on homework assignments. Each late day buys exactly 24 hours from the original due date (so 24.5 hours = 2 late days). If you use up your late days, you will be penalized 33% of the assignment’s value for each day it is late (0–24 hours = 33% penalty; 24–48 hours = 66% penalty; 48+ hours = no credit). Late work should be submitted electronically. It is your responsibility to scan any written work and submit it in pdf form.

Fourth Hour

The fourth hour will be periodically to hold review sessions for mathematical material (e.g., probability), do in-class activities, and other other topics. Students are responsible for material presented during the fourth hour.


This term we will be using Piazza for class discussion. The system is highly catered to getting you help fast and efficiently from classmates, the TA, and myself. Rather than emailing questions to the teaching staff, I encourage you to post your questions on Piazza. If you have any problems or feedback for the developers, email team@piazza.com.

Find our class Piazza page at: https://piazza.com/mtholyoke/fall2015/cs103/home

Students are encouraged to help answer each other’s questions on Piazza. Course staff will also monitor the discussion and answer questions. So, you are likely to get an answer very quickly. Our official policy is that course staff will read and respond (as necessary) to new posts within 24 hours on weekdays, and 48 hours on the weekend.

Email Policy

Please use office hours and Piazza as the first line of defense for questions about course content (including homework). This is usually more efficient for everyone involved. Prof. Sheldon and the TAs will be delighted to see you in office hours! Please make an appointment if the regular office hours don’t work for you.

Email is a very good way to get hold of me for administrative items. I will typically respond within 24 hours (48 hours on weekends), if not much sooner, to emails about administrative items. I also expect you to check email on a regular basis to receive updates about course administration and assignments.


Accommodations for Disabilities

If you have a disability and would like to request accommodations, please contact AccessAbility Services, located in Wilder Hall B4, at (413) 538-2646 or accessability-services@mtholyoke.edu. If you are eligible, they will give you an accommodation letter which you should bring to me as soon as possible.