gregbo (gregbo) wrote,

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Another theorist for your perusal, Jeff Erickson, Associate Professor of CS at UIUC. He teaches graduate and undergraduate algorithms courses. (His lecture notes are available.) If you take a look at his introductory notes, he uses songs to illustrate the time complexity of algorithms. There is a class of songs known as cumulative songs whose verses are built from earlier verses. These songs have a quadratic running time (in the total number of stanzas sung). Another example of such a song is Dans mon pays d'Espagne, which I have used to learn French.

He makes some interesting remarks later in the introductory notes. Among them are an emphasis on practice of algorithm design and analysis, and a curious claim that "we" (the course staff) cannot teach the students how to do well in the class, but can provide the tools that will (hopefully) enable the students to do well. This is reasonable, I suppose (if not reassuring). My only criticism of the class is that he's part of the camp that doesn't provide solutions to problems, claiming that more is gained from attempts to solve the problems than looking at the answers. (If you recall, my response to such arguments is that solutions are helpful when they explain how the solutions are arrived at, what common techniques may be employed in the solutions, and possible pitfalls one might encounter in attempting solutions).

At any rate, it's good to see professors using familiar examples to illustrate key concepts. This helps develop intuition and problem-solving skills.
Tags: education

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