CS250 Symbolic Computation
Fall 1998


Instructor: Christino Tamon
Lectures: MWF 4-5pm SC362
Office hours: MW 2-4pm and F 2-3pm or by appointment SC373

Syllabus: A course that emphasizes techniques for controlling complexity in large programming systems. Topics covered include building abstractions with procedures and with data (recursion, higher-order procedures, compound and hierarchical data) and controlling interactions (generic operations, modularity, objects, infinite data structures, self-describing data). Students will be introduced to symbolic computation using Scheme, a dialect of LISP.
Text: Oliver Grillmeyer. Exploring Computer Science with Scheme. Springer-Verlag, 1998.
Other references: Abelson, Sussman and Sussman. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. MIT Press, second edition, 1996.
Grading scheme:
  • Final exam: 40%
  • Midterm exam: 20%
  • Assignments and quizzes: 40%

Course Plan: In this course we will study functional programming. In the two previous introductory courses, CS141 and CS142, we studied a particular type of programming paradigm called imperative or procedural programming. The functional paradigm differs from the imperative paradigm in the way one views computation. The imperative style treats computation as operations performed on state variables whereas the functional style treats computation as functions operating on values. Benefits of the functional approach, among others, are the clean and direct approach to program design without introducing unnecessary side-effects. Typical well-written functional programs are easier to understand, simpler to debug, and have a simple proof of correctness. This course will use a language called Scheme, a dialect of Lisp, as an example of a functional programming language. Recursion and higher-order functions will play an important role in our exploration of symbolic computation in functional programming. Other topics include streams (infinite list structure) and generic procedures. A final topic of this course will be a discussion of an assembly language environment (PDP-11) and its implementation in Scheme. A contrast between interpreted and compiled environments will be discussed.

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