April 23, 2014

Stein, Clifford
csor 4231 and [COMS W4231] Analysis of Algorithms I

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This was definitely one of the best, most rewarding classes I've taken at Columbia.

While the huge size of the class was definitely not optimal, Stein has mastered the art of teaching a large class. The class definitely covers a lot of dense material, but the instructor did a great job picking out the important ideas without getting bogged down and trying to cover every last line of the textbook. He's without question one of the best lecturers I've had at this school. I know that often taking a class from the author of the textbook can mean that lecture notes seem like copies of the textbook, but that is not the case in this class. I found his presentation a bit friendlier and more streamlines than the book, and he was also quite funny and brought great energy to the class. The book could be terse, but it was definitely helpful to refer to after lectures for more details.

As people have mentioned previously, the workload is intense. Each of the seven homework assignments are incredibly long. I don't think I've ever spent so much time on homework assignments for a class. I learned a ton from completing them, but they definitely could've been a bit shorter without compromising much value. With that in mind, this is definitely not a class to undertake lightly.

The exams were much more straightforward than the assignments, and if you put a lot of effort into the assignments, it would be reflected on the exams. It was very frustrating that so many people cheated on homework assignments for perfect scores. I don't really have a good answer to this, as I too was very frustrated by it. Seeing as this happened, giving a take home midterm might not have been the best idea. The grading seemed fair to generous, especially for undergrads who were curved separately.

Workload:

Extremely heavy workload. 7 massive homework assignments worth 30% of the grade, and a take home midterm and in class final each worth 35% of the grade.

January 08, 2014

Stein, Clifford
csor 4231 and [COMS W4231] Analysis of Algorithms I

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

First off I enjoyed the course and think Prof. Stein is an excellent teacher. His lectures do a good job of explaining some very dense material and he also is engaging and manages to keep a relatively light tone despite the large class size. He seems well prepared and obviously is a master of the material. Sometimes when you take a course where the teacher is also the textbook author you might as well just stay home and read the book; however with this class Prof. Stein manages to add a lot of value despite covering mostly similar material to the book. The book itself is pretty good too although occasionally too terse.

The material itself is critical to any advanced CS study - either research or advanced development - and so I would recommend it to anyone looking at or already in grad school or who wants to get a highly competitive job at a top company. That said, if all you want to do is get a decent entry level CS job this material is more challenging than what you need to know.

Speaking of challenging material the class is VERY hard. Primarily this is due to the HW. With one or two exceptions each of the seven problem sets is extremely long and difficult. And (as has been pointed out) cheating is rampant. If you want to get the mean or better without cheating be prepared to invest at least twenty hours on each HW.

I actually thought the midterm was great. Since the questions were brand new you couldn't cheat from the internet and so I felt the long hours I put into it were rewarded with a good score above the mean. This is in contrast to the HWs where no matter how hard I worked I generally got an average grade.

I also thought the questions on the final were fair although I was surprised at my grade (which wasn't bad but wasn't good either). C'est la vie, you can't win them all. Certainly the questions on both the midterm and final are easier than on the HWs.

Overall I loved the class although I think it would be even better if they reduced the amount of HW and used easier questions written from scratch each semester so people couldn't cheat from the internet. I do understand this would be a lot of work for the staff. As it stands right now hard work on the problem sets will help you learn the material very well, but can be frustrating due to sheer volume and the fact many people cheat/collaborate.

Curve seemed fair to me but I haven't discussed grades with anyone else in the class. Overall TAs seemed pretty good. Some logistical hiccups (not nearly enough seats in lecture hall, HWs returned via huge pile/mad rush method) but generally grading was quick. Feedback on Piazza questions a bit skimpy but not bad.

TL;DR - really enjoyed the class overall, particularly the rigorous material and good lectures. Prof is high quality. Have mixed feelings regarding the huge HWs. Textbook is relatively good.

Workload:

Extremely high primarily due to HW. 7 HW problem sets (30% total), one of these is half size but the others are all pretty brutal. Very fair take home midterm and fair in class final (35% each).

February 05, 2008

Stein, Clifford
csor 4231

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Stein is a great professor - and you do learn algorithms really well if you attend all lectures and are sincere in your homeworks.

He is great at teaching, prepares his lectures well, and knows how to make his subject interesting. Frequently jokes in class, and keeps the class alert.

Homeworks are hard, start early. They are never short, and take a lot of time. Exams are hard too. Usually he gives 7 homeworks, 1 take home mid-term, and one open book final. Use the TAs.

Class is mainly a graduate level course, so undergraduates may find it a bit too hard.

Workload:

7 homeworks, 1 take home midterm, 1 open book final, Heavy workload.

January 24, 2008

Stein, Clifford
csor 4231

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Prof. Stein is a really entertaining guy with a good sense of humor. He seems genuinely interested in making people understand the material. It is very important that you attend class, because he follows an intuitive teaching approach which can save you time as opposed to reading from the book. In other words, he does a very good job of teaching from the book without getting into the uninteresting itsy bitsy details.

If you have taken any course on algorithms before, this class might seem like a repetition. However, he teaches the material on NP completeness very well, which I think many algorithm courses don't delve deep into.

The homeworks take a lot of time, and are pretty intense, and so is the course aas a whole. But I think if you are really interested in algorithms you should take the course, but make sure you mix it with light courses.

Workload:

Heavy. 7 homeworks (intense), take home midterm, in class final.

January 04, 2006

Stein, Clifford
csor 4231

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This course can be improved. There should be a mandatory recitation session.
As a teacher Stein is not the best, avoid taking this course.
The home works are very time consuming and some questions are very difficult and takes away time from your other classes The course syllabus is from the book if you truly interested in algs. you should get the book and study at your own pace

Workload:

7 hws1 mid term take home1 final in class

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