CS 108 - Problem Solving

Spring 2001

It is well known that when you do anything, unless you understand its actual circumstances, its nature and its relations to other things, you will not know the laws governing it, or know how to do it, or be able to do it well.

- Mao Tse-tung, Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War,
Selected Works, vol. I, p. 179, December 1936

Table of Contents

Course Description

This an introductory course on problem solving techniques. The class meets on Wednesday from 10:25 to 11:15 a.m. in Howard Hall 522. There is no class on Wednesday, 7 March, due to Spring Break.


This course has two objectives. The first is to establish a four-step procedure for problem solving:

  1. Analyze the problem.

  2. Develop and explore possible paths to a solution.

  3. Select and follow one of the paths.

  4. Analyze the solution.
The second course objective is to develop and examine several techniques for carrying out each step in the procedure; see the syllabus for details.


R. Clayton, Howard B-13, rclayton@monmouth.edu, 732 263 5522. Office hours are Wednesday 2:00 to 3 p.m. I'm also usually happy to talk to you any time you can catch me; setting up an appointment is recommended, see my schedule for details.


Grading is straightforward. If you have no absences of any kind, you get an A. If you have one or two unexcused absences, you get a B. If you have three or more unexcused absences, you get an F.

I take attendance between ten and fifteen minutes after class starts. If you come to class after I take attendance, it is your responsibility to make sure I erase your absence. I reserve the right to consider as absent anybody who attends less than half the class period.



There is no textbook for this course. However, the problem solving framework around which this course is organized is taken from How to Solve It by George Polya, Princeton University Press, 1971.


You should feel free to send me e-mail. Unless I warn you beforehand, I'll usually respond within a couple of hours; if I don't respond within a day, resend the message.

Home page

If you're reading this on paper, you can find the class home page at http://www.monmouth.edu/rclayton/s01-108/index.html.



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


Class attendance is mandatory; your grade is based on attendance. Repeated, unexcused absences from class will result in failing the class.

This page last modified on 9 January 2001.