Data Structures and Algorithms
CS 503

Spring 2011

Everyone knows Moores Law, a prediction made in 1965 by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the density of transistors in integrated circuits would continue to double every 1 to 2 years. [] Even more remarkable and even less widely understood is that in many areas, performance gains due to improvements in algorithms have vastly exceeded even the dramatic performance gains due to increased processor speed.

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Table of Contents

Course Description

Covers the Design and implementation of fundamental data structures and algorithms, including: linked lists, hashing, sorting, trees, stacks, queues, sets and bags, and recursion. Application to problem solving and object-oriented design of moderate sized programs. Prerequisite: CS 501B.

The course is divided into five sections. See the syllabus for details.

The class meets on Mondays and Wednesdays in Howard Hall 316 (the CS conference room) from 6 p.m. to 7:50 p.m. Class starts on Wednesday, 19 January and ends on Monday, 2 May. There is no class Monday and Wednesday, 7 and 9 March, during Spring Break . Monday, 28 March, is the last day to withdraw from class with a W on your transcript.


At the end of this course you should
  1. know some basic data structures and algorithms,
  2. be able to choose wisely among data structures and algorithms, and
  3. design and write code supporting data structures and algorithms well.


R. Clayton, Office hours are from 5 to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays in HH 318 (schedule).


The usual grade ranges are in effect:
95 A
90 A-<95
83.3B <86.6
80 B-<83.3
73.3C <76.6
70 C-<73.3
All grades are kept with one digit of precision to the right of the decimal point and 0.05 rounded up. No grades are adjusted to a curve; that means, for example, that 89.9 is always a B+, never an A-.

Final Grade

The final grade is the weighted sum of the quiz-grade average and the assignment-grade average with the weights

55%assignment grades
35%quiz grades
10%presentation grades

The quiz- and assignment-grade averages are straight, unweighted averages.


There are four quizzes, one quiz for each section after the first section; see the syllabus for the schedule. Quizzes are given in class, and are closed book with no notes; calculators and computers will not be necessary. The quizzes are cumulative, covering everything taught up to and including the class before the quiz. Quizzes should take no more than an hour to complete, and are given in the first hour of class. Quiz answers will be made available off the syllabus.

There are no midterms or final exams. Mid-term grades are computed from the straight, unweighted average of what ever grades have accrued by the day mid-term grades are due (Tuesday, 26 October).

Programming Assignments

There are four programming assignments, one for each section after the first. Each assignment is as long as the section in which it is given; see the syllabus for details.

Problem Presentation

Each person in class will give a talk about a problem they've solved; see the problem-talk page for more details.



There are many data structures and algorithms textbooks, all more or less the same. Theres no assigned textbook for this course; instead, pick a textbook or two youre comfortable with. As a first cut, compare the books table of contents with the syllabus to make sure the topics mentioned in the syllabus appear in the table of contents. You can glean further advice from a small annotated bibliography of data structures and algorithms books.

Please do not interpret Theres no assigned textbook for this course to mean Great! I dont need a textbook. Absorbing everything you need to know from lectures wont be possible, not the least because there wont be time to cover everything in lectures. Working it out over a textbook or two will give you the time and space to learn what you need to know. In addition, the tests are written assuming knowledge found in basic data structures and algorithms textbooks.

This is a programming course, and youll be programming in Java. In addition, the course will cover (possibly) new Java features in just enough detail to get by in data structures and algorithms. You should have at hand at least one Java programming language book to help you recover the old details and pursue further the new details. The book from CS 175 and 176 should be fine. Also recommended are Core Java 2, Vol. 1 Fundamentals by Cay Horstmann and Gary Cornell, Sun Microsystems Press, 2008. and Java in a Nutshell by David Flanagan, OReilly Media, 2005.


Feel free to send e-mail to . Unless I warn you beforehand, Ill usually respond within a couple of hours during the usual work days; if I dont respond within a day, resend the message.

Mail relevant to the class are stored in a hyper-mail archive. If your message is of general interest to the class, Ill store it, suitably stripped of identification and along with my answer, in the archive.

Home page

If youre reading this on paper, you can find the class home page at ( ). Ill make the class notes, assignments, and quizzes available off the syllabus ( ); you should get in the habit of checking the syllabus regularly.


The lectures for this class will be recorded and podcast. Audio will be available on the syllabus and via an RSS feed.


Follow the course on ( , ) or twitter ( , ). The same messages appear on all services.



People who need assistance or accommodations above and beyond what is usually provided in class should contact the Universitys ADA/504 coordinator to get those needs met. See the Disability Services page for more details.


I have no class attendance policy; you may attend class or not as you see fit. However, I hold you responsible for knowing everything that goes on in class; I wasnt in class for that. is not an acceptable excuse for a wrong answer, or for giving no answer at all.

My attendance policy applies only to lecture attendance; it does not apply to other kinds of attendance which may be required for the course. Repeated failures to meet the attendance expectations set for tests, meetings, projects, labs or other forms of course work will have a bad influence on your grade.


I deal with suspected cheating by failing first and asking questions later. Although cheating has many forms, I generally consider cheating to be any attempt to claim someone elses work as your own; also, I consider both the provider and the user of the work guilty of cheating. See the chapters on Academic Information and the Student Code of Conduct in the Student Handbook for more details.

Complaining about Grades

I recognize and encourage a students sacred right to complain about their grade. There are, however, a few rules under which such complaining should take place, and those students who dont follow the rules will be less successful in their complaints than those students who do follow the rules.

First, the only complaint that matters is that something got marked wrong when it was actually right. When you come to complain, be prepared to present, in explicit detail, what it is you did and why you think its right.

Second, complaints about a particular test or assignment are only valid until the next test or assignment is due; after that point the book is permanently closed on all previous test or assignment grades.

Late Assignments

Assignments must be turned in by their due date; assignments turned in after their due date are late. You should contact me as soon as possible if you need to negotiate a due-date extension. The longer you wait to negotiate, the less likely it is youll be successful; in particular, you have almost no chance of getting an extension if you try for one the day before the due date, and you have no chance of getting an extention on the due date.

A late assignment is penalized ten points a day for each day its late. I use a 24-hour clock running from midnight to midnight to measure days; note this means that an assignment handed in the day after its due is penalized ten points: five for the day it was due and five for the next day.

Missing Tests

There may occasionally be a conflict between taking a test and doing something else, particularly among those working full time. If youre going to be out of town, or on jury duty, or whatever, on a test day, let me know beforehand and well discuss a make-up test.

A make-up test must be scheduled to be taken by the date of the test following the missed test (or the final exam if you miss the last test). If a missed test is not made up by the time of the next test, you get a zero for the missed test.

There will be only one make up given per missed test. If more than one person misses the same test, those people will have to coordinate among themselves to pick a mutually agreeable date for the make up.


Learn data structures 'n' algorithms in the comfort of your home, courtesy of MIT. Theres also a more recent, non-video, advanced but still introductory version of the course. Or maybe you prefer Berkeley.

The NIST dictionary of algorithms and data structures.

FreeTechBooks' list of on-line data structures and algorithm books.

Softpanoramas old but wide ranging link page for data structures and algorithms.

Algosorts link page to algorithm pages.

The last time I taught this course.

This page last modified on 7 January 2011.

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