CS 3 General Information

Summer 2006


Welcome to CS 3, "Introduction to Symbolic Programming". This course will introduce you to computer programming, using the Scheme programming language (a dialect of Lisp). Examples and programming assignments will be drawn from nonnumeric ("symbolic") applications.

The only prerequisite to CS 3 is high school algebra: more specifically, familiarity with variables and simple functions. We don't assume that you have had any previous computing experience. If you have done some programming, especially involving the technique of recursion, you should seriously consider taking CS 61A instead of CS 3. Many people, however, find CS 3 a good precursor to CS 61A.

You learn programming by doing it rather than by listening to us talk about it. Thus, CS 3 is organized to maximize your time designing and writing programs and experimenting with the programming environment. You'll work hard, but learn a lot. The lab sections and online activities are designed to help you get feedback at the time you need it; we hope to ensure that you're working productively rather than flailing around.


The instructor is Clint Ryan (ryanc@cs.berkeley.edu). There are also readers who grade your homework and lab assistants who work with you during the lab sections.

Books and other course material

There are two required books for the course: Simply Scheme, by Brian Harvey and Matt Wright (second edition, MIT Press, 1999), is available at local bookstores; the CS3 reader is available at Copy Central, 2483 Hearst Avenue, for around $12.

Class activities and scheduling

There is no lecture hour in this class. Instead, you spend fourteen hours each week in lab. Class meets Monday-Thursday from 9-noon and Friday from 10-noon.

For most of the semester, the typical lab period will involve a variety of activities, the majority provided online. It will start with a short quiz based on topics covered on the homework or in the preceding class; each start-of-period quiz will count toward your course grade, and you have to take (the majority of these) in the lab classroom. Following this, you'll be reading, experimenting, brainstorming, evaluating each other's ideas, and sometimes working with partners. Your instructor may set up impromptu discussion sections to clarify any confusion he/she has noticed. There will be three "mini-projects" during the semester, to which some of the lab meetings will be devoted. The last week of the semester will be less structured, as you'll be working on a large programming project.

A short set of homework exercises will be typically be assigned at the end of each lab. The exercises will involve writing or analyzing programs and contributing to online discussions about typical programming misconceptions. Answers to the programming exercises and contributions to the discussions will be submitted online. You should expect to put in eight to ten hours of work per week outside of class. If you finish the online exercises early, you may leave early or work on your homework. Some of the work later in the course, along with the project, may be done in partnership with other students in your section.

There will also be three exams. Two 1.5-hour midterms will be during lab. The other will be a three-hour final exam, on August 18th, from 9 to noon.

In CS 3, you will be using programming tools and course material devised by a research group of computer science and education researchers. To determine the effectiveness of these tools and material, we are gathering data on your background and performance, via questionnaires, interviews, and analysis of your work. You may be expected to take part in an hour-long interview with a staff member, and to complete several surveys through the course of the semester.


Most of your work for this course will be done in class in 273 Soda. Outside of class, you may work in any EECS lab room in which a lab section is not meeting. You may also work at home, of course! You may obtain a card key to work in Soda on weekends or late at night by going to 387 Soda Hall and filling out the relevant forms. You will need to have a "newer" student ID that can double as a card key. 

To do work for this course on your own computer, you will need to use a recent Firefox or Mozilla browser.  You can run scheme by connecting to the lab machines via a secure telnet connection, or by getting a scheme environment for you home computer.  Earlier versions of Netscape and any version of Internet Explorer will not work (or at least work well). If you use a Macintosh, it has to be running OS X.


The various course activities will contribute points to your grade as follows.


course points

percent of total grade




all mini-projects

24 (8 each)

12% (4% each)

all other homework

scaled to 24


all on-line quizzes

scaled to 16


random on-line step



midterm exams

60 (30 each)

30% (15% each)

final exam



You are expected to keep up with the classwork! There will occasionally be time devoted in lab to helping you catch up or solidify your understanding of the material. Homework is due at the start of the next lab section. You will at most earn half-credit for homework turned in after the due date but before the next lab meeting; you will not earn any credit for any homework exercise submitted more than one class meeting after it is due

There will be more than 24 points worth of scaled homework points to earn; your homework score, however, will be capped at 24. As such, you can miss some homework assignments and still earn the full amount that homework can count towards your final grade.

Quizzes are online, and while they may be taken outside of the lab room, you will receive credit for at most four quizzes taken outside of your lab section. You will not receive any credit for quizzes taken after the lab-section in which they were assigned, whether or not you take them in the lab room or out of the lab room. As with homework assignments, there will be more than 16 points worth of scaled quiz points to earn, but at most 16 will count toward your course grade.

Each week one of the steps in the on-line materials will count towards your grade. Which step this is won't be known to you (or to us, beforehand), but will generally be a step for which you are asked to answer a question or create a file, although it may be a simple reading step for which we will log requests from the UCWISE server. The purpose of grading this is to encourage you to keep up-to-date on the lab materials; generally, the grades for these steps will consider whether you attempted it, rather than whether you did it well.

Your letter grade will be determined by total course points, as shown in the following table:























< 75


In other words, there is no curve; your grade will depend only on how well you do, not on how well everyone else does.

Incomplete grades will be granted only for dire medical or personal emergencies that cause you to miss the final exam, and only if your work up to that point is satisfactory.  Copying and presenting another person's work as your own constitutes cheating. It will be penalized at least by a 0 on the work in question and notification of the incident to the Office of Student Conduct.