Theory of Computation, V22.0453.01

Instructor. Richard Cole, 303 WWH, tel: 998-3119,

Class time. 9:30-10:45pm, Tuesday/Thursday, room 613, Warren Weaver Hall.
As of November 3, the class will meet in room 201, Warren Weaver Hall.
First meeting:  Tuesday, September 2.

Final Date: Note changed time. Thursday, December 18, 10:00-11:50am, room 201, Warren Weaver Hall.

Office hours. Monday 4-5; Tuesday 11-12, and by appointment.

Mailing list, home page. There is a class mailing list:;  please join it.   The course home page can be accessed from the department home page ( by following the links to course home pages and then to this course, or directly at

Course Goal and Syllabus. The goal of this class is to develop the ability to evaluate and write mathematical claims in computer science, so as to be able to:

  •  Judge when a problem is solved (and equally important, when it is not yet solved).
  •  Explain such mathematical claims clearly and precisely.
  • Broad ly speaking, this course will be studying what can and cannot be computed, and when something can be computed how simply can it be done. The specific topics covered will include proofs techniques, finite automata and regular languages, pushdown automata and context free languages, decidable and undecidable problems, and NP-completeness.

    Assignments. There will be more or less weekly homeworks. Late homeworks will not be accepted (except in the event of illness or other unavoidable circumstances). If for some reason you will be unable to hand in a homework on time, please discuss it with me beforehand.   While you may discuss homework problems with your fellow students, you must write up your solutions in your own words.  Be aware that you are unlikely to perform well on exams unless you gain practice at problem solving on the homeworks.

    Academic Integrity.  Please take note of  the course and departmental policy on this matter:

    Assessment. The homeworks will comprise 40% of the overall grade, the midterm 20% and the final 40%.  However, if the grade on the final is better than the midterm grade it will replace the midterm grade.  Exams will be closed book.

    Required text. There is no required text. I will be providing handouts that cover the course material. There is no textbook that is particularly close to my approach to the material.  If you want a textbook, you might consider: Michael Sipser, Introduction to the Theory of Computation, Thomson. The second edition has the advantage of including solutions to a selection of problems. However, let me point out that the approach I will be taking diverges quite a bit from this text. Another possible text is: Daniel I.A. Cohen, Introduction to Computer Theory.  This text provides a lot of examples and can be quite helpful.  However, it does not cover material for the whole course, and the approach it takes differs even more from the one I will be using in this course.

    Reading guide.  

    Homework Details. You may handwrite your homework, legibly of course, if you prefer, rather than typeset it.  In my experience, when typesetting, often too much effort is spent on the appearance of the homework and minor yet significant errors are overlooked.  Also, if your homework solution has multiple pages, please staple them; please don't fold down the corners or use paperclips, for the pages are much more likely to come apart.  Finally, if handwriting, please use an easy to read ink color (blue or black, not red or green).

    Homeworks and handouts

    Course content  
    Mathematical background    
    Finite Automata, Part 1  
    Finite Automata, Part 2 
    Finite Automata, Part 3 
    Finite Automata, Part 4   
    Pushdown Automata, Part 1  
    Pushdown Automata, Part 2 
    Pushdown Automata
    , Part 3  
    Pushdown Automata, Part 4 
    Pushdown Automata, Part 5   
    Pushdown Automata, Part 6  
    Computability, Part 1  
    Computability, Part 2   
    Undecidability, Part 1  
    Undecidability, Part 2  
    NP Completeness, Part 1 
    NP Completeness, Part 2  
    NP Completeness, Part 3  

    Problem Collection 2  

    Homework 1   
    Homework 1, updated 
    Homework 2   
    Homework 3 
    Homework 4   
    Homework 5  
    Homework 6  
    Homework 8   
    Homework 9   
    Homework 10  
    Homework 11     
    Homework 12    
    Homework 13  

    Sample final

    Last modified: December 11, 2008