CSI 4336: Introduction to Computation Theory, Fall 2012


This course is an introduction to the theory of computation. There are three main parts to this course: the model of an abstract computer, what problems can be computed, and how efficiently given problems can be computed. This course forms the foundation for much of the subsequent work/research you will do in computer science. As you'll see, computation theory is fascinating because there are problems which we can describe simply which have not yet been solved.

The basic topics covered in this course are:

This is a difficult course. Be prepared to invest the time necessary to understand the concepts, and to do the assignments. My best advice is to attend the lectures, ask questions, and start assignments early.

Practical information

Lectures are from 8:00 AM to 9:15 AM in Rogers 204 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Note that this is a change from the university scheduled time and room.

My office is in the Rogers Engineering and Computer Science building. My office hours are listed on my home page. I am glad to talk to students during and outside of office hours.


Here is a schedule of the material we will cover (order/content may be adjusted):

Week Dates Topics Reading Tuesday Thursday
1 Aug 20-24 Introduction, discrete math foundations, proofs, languages 0 Assignment 0
2 Aug 27-31 Regular languages, finite automata, nondeterminism, regular expressions, equivalence of REs and FAs, closure properties for RLs, decision problems for RLs 1.1-1.3, 4.1 (RL part) Assignment 1
3 Sep 3-7 Nonregular languages, pumping lemma for RLs 1.4 Assignment 2
4 Sep 10-14 Context-free languages, push-down automata, normal forms for CFGs, ambiguity in CFGs, pumping lemma for CFLs, closure properties for CFLs, decision problems for CFLs 2.1-2.3, 4.1 (CFL part) Assignment 3
5 Sep 17-21 Turing machines, variants of the TM, nondeterministic TMs 3 Assignment 4
6 Sep 24-28 Exam 1
7 Oct 1-5 Universal machines, decidability, the halting problem, reducibility, undecidable problems by the dozen, Rice's theorem 4.2, 5 Assignment 5
8 Oct 8-12 Recursion theorem, fixed-point theorem, compressibility and descriptional complexity 6.1, 6.4
9 Oct 15-19 Oracle computations, hierarchy of undecidability, logic and decidability, incompleteness 6.2, 6.3 Assignment 6
10 Oct 22-26
11 Oct 29-Nov 2 Computational complexity, models of computational efficiency, resource usage, complexity classes 7.1 Exam 2
12 Nov 5-9 P and NP, polynomial-time reduction, TSP, Hamiltonian circuit and vertex cover 7.2, 7.3 Assignment 7
13 Nov 12-16 Boolean satisfiability, Cook-Levin theorem, NP-completeness, survey of NP-complete problems 7.4, 7.5 Assignment 8
14 Nov 19-23 More NP-Complete problems, co-NP, dealing with NP-completeness, space complexity and Savitch's theorem 8.1-8.2, 8.4 Thanksgiving break
15 Nov 26-30 Randomized polynomial time, probabilistic algorithms, primality 10.1, 10.2 Assignment 9

The final exam date will be Friday, December 7th, 2012, 2-4 PM. Note that this is NOT the same as the scheduled final exam time for the original class meeting time.

Textbooks & resources

Required text: we will be using Michael Sipser's textbook Introduction to the Theory of Computation (2nd Edition). You can purchase this book from the bookstore or amazon, among other places. Please note that there is a third edition appearing in summer 2012, but we will still use the second edition published in the USA. If you use another version or edition which is different, you are responsible for any differences. I have seen students lose credit for using "international" versions that are mostly the same, but they have different problems.

Further online resources:


Grades will be assigned based on this breakdown:

A: 90-100, B+: 88-89, B: 80-87, C+: 78-79, C: 70-77, D: 60-69, F: 0-59

Some homeworks may be worth more than others. All exams are closed-book. The final will be comprehensive.

Homeworks should be written up in (nice-looking) LaTeX. Homeworks are due at the beginning of class on the due dates for full credit. Homeworks turned in after I have collected them but before the end of class will receive a 20% penalty. No homeworks will be accepted after class on the due date.

Graduate credit

Students receiving graduate credit for this course will be required to complete additional components of several homework assignments. These components will give the advanced student an opportunity to explore topics, to implement algorithms, and to apply techniques that are not normally covered by undergraduates in this course. Scores on these additional components will be included in the homework assignment portion of the grade. Students receiving graduate credit will also have additional exam questions on these advanced topics, and the scores for these extra questions will be included in the examination portion of the grade. The set of topics for graduate credit include:


Academic honesty

I take academic honesty very seriously.

Many studies, including one by Sheilah Maramark and Mindi Barth Maline have suggested that "some students cheat because of ignorance, uncertainty, or confusion regarding what behaviors constitute dishonesty" (Maramark and Maline, Issues in Education: Academic Dishonesty Among College Students, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Research, August 1993, page 5). In an effort to reduce misunderstandings in this course, a minimal list of activities that will be considered cheating have been listed below.

Copyright © 2007-2012 Greg Hamerly, with some content taken from a syllabus by Jeff Donahoo.
Computer Science Department
Baylor University

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