The course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:00-1:15, in Fulton
250. There is no class on March 6, 8, and 29.
Methods from probability and statistics are used throughout
Computer Science, in the design and analysis of algorithms,
artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining,
natural language processing, cryptography,.... This is a
course on the mathematical fundamentals of probability and
their applications in Computer Science.
The official prerequisites for CSCI2244 are Computer
Science I (CS101) and calculus. In particular, it is assumed
that students taking CSCI2244 are comfortable with fundamental
programming techniques, as well as with basic concepts of
differential and integral calculus.
I intend to make all the programming assignments in Python,
supplemented with the matplotlib library which enables, among
other things, the drawing of nice plots. If you have not
programmed in Python before, you will find it reasonably easy
to pick up, particularly since we don't use any of the really
fancy stuff (just basics of functions, branching and looping,
manipulation of one-dimensional lists).
Since we use the basic language of sets and functions
throughout the course, it is also helpful to have taken
CSCI2243 before CSCI2244. However, it is understood that
some students are taking this sequence in the reverse order,
so I will provide supplemental materials to help these
students bridge whatever gaps are present in their
All of our programming demos and
assignments will be in Python 2.7, supplemented by the
matplotlib library. Instructions for installing the software
can be found here. I strongly recommend that you do
the installation right away, and inform me of any problems
The official textbook for this course is Randomness and
Computation, by Prof. Sergio Alvarez. This book,
which is available for free in electronic form, was prepared
specifically for this course, and is posted on the Canvas
site. In the detailed course syllabus below, you will
find references to the relevant sections of this book.
You might also want to have a look at
Introduction to Probability, 2nd Revised Edition, by
Charles M. Grinstead and J. Laurie Snell. This
book, along with a lot of supplemental material, is
for free on line. The associated code samples are in
different programming languages from the one we are using,
but it is the text itself that I am most interested in.
If you would like to have a paper-and-ink copy of this book,
you can buy one from the online bookstore of the
American Mathematical Society for $60, a very reasonable
price compared to most textbooks.
The core mathematical material in this course is quite
standard, and covered in a variety of sources, including
printed textbooks, online lecture notes from courses at other
universities, even lectures on YouTube. Feel free to
explore, and please let me know if you run across anything
that you find particularly useful, and that ought to be shared
with the class. You should be aware that different books may
use slightly different terminology, and that there is
considerable variability in the order in which topics are
There will be approximately 10 problem assignments
during the semester. Typically, every assignment
will involve some coding, and some written work. The
assignments are not meant to be completed in a single
late-night session, and I strongly advise you to
start every assignment within a day or two of receiving it, so
that you will be able to find out where the troublesome parts
are and ask meaningful questions in class or in office
hours. This does not mean that assignments will
necessarily require many hours to complete, but rather that
questions are likely to arise during the work, and you may
need some answers before you can proceed further.
Assignments will be posted on this web site. I will try
to post solutions to assignments in a timely fashion.
For this reason (and others) late homework assignments
will not be accepted. Assignments will be submitted through
the Canvas site for the class. There is a required
format for assignment submissions, described in detail in the
first row of the course grid below.
There will be a number (probably four) of brief quizzes, two
in-class midterm exams, at dates to be announced. There will
be a common final exam for all three sections of
CSCI2244 on Friday, May 11, at 4PM.
While I do not take regular attendance, students are
nonetheless expected to attend class, notify me of any
absence, and inform themselves about any material or
announcements they miss in the event of an absence.
My colleague Bob Muller calls this policy the
'laptop-free classroom'. (For 'laptop', read 'laptop and
A successful class requires your attention,
engagement, and participation. You need to be prepared
to ask and answer questions during the lectures, and to
attend to the questions and answers of your fellow students
and of the instructor. That screen open to your e-mail
or Facebook page distracts not only you, but the students
sitting behind you. For this reason, open laptops are
not permitted in the classroom, unless they are part
of some planned activity for which your computer is
You say you're taking notes on that
laptop instead of shopping on Amazon? You should be aware
that (a) it is very difficult to take notes for this class
on a computer, given the large number of mathematical
symbols, formulas and diagrams that we use; and (b) taking
notes by hand is better for you. It is
acceptable to take notes on a tablet computer with a stylus.
Exceptions to this rule will be made for the
rare instances of in-class activities that require students
to use their computers. There will be one such activity on
the first day of class.
While I encourage you to discuss problem assignments both
among yourselves and with me, when it is time to finally
sit down and prepare the completed assignment, you are required to work alone.
Thus it is acceptable to learn from another student the
general idea for writing program code to perform a particular
task, but unacceptable to take an extended piece of code
written by another person and incorporate it into your
submitted assignment as your own work. Similarly, you
may get ideas from additional reading that you do both in
books and on the Web, but you may not incorporate it verbatim
into what you submit and claim that it is your own work. If
you have any uncertainty about the application of this policy,
please check with me.
It should go without saying that during quizzes and exams
there is to be no communication between students, and no use
of outside materials except those explicitly authorized in
If you are a student with a documented disability seeking
reasonable accommodations in this course, please contact Kathy
Duggan, (617) 552-8093, firstname.lastname@example.org,
at the Connors Family Learning Center regarding learning
disabilities and ADHD, or Rory Stein, (617) 552-3470, email@example.com, in the
Disability Services Office regarding all other types of
disabilities, including temporary disabilities. Advance notice
and appropriate documentation are required for accommodations.
To be eligible for a passing grade in this course,
you must complete at least 60% of the assignments in a
satisfactory manner. Once this criterion is met, your grade
will be computed from the various course components, with the
problem assignments, quizzes and midterms, and final exam each
weighted approximately equally. I do not have a fixed scale,
made in advance, for translating raw scores into letter
grades, but instead consider the difficulty of the work and
class performance as a whole. In a large required course
such as this one, the median grade is typically B.
Take this with a grain of salt. The list of topics is
largely accurate, but now and again I will decide to eliminate
or add a topic, or change the order in which I present
them. The dates are almost surely inaccurate. Expect
this section of the website to grow and change as the semester
progresses. The numbers next to each topic are the corresponding
sections of the course textbook.