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CS254Fall 2006Sec1Home Page/Syllabus

Theory of Computation

Instructor: Chris Pollett
Office: MH 214
Phone Number: (408) 924 5145
Office Hours:MW 4:30pm-7:00pm
Class Meets:
Sec1 MW 7:00pm-8:15pm in MH223


To take this class you must have taken: CS154 with a grade of C- or better.

Texts and Links

Required Texts: Computational Complexity. by C. Papadimitriou
Online References and Other Links: Java 5 API Specification.
Obtaining LaTeX.
LaTeX Documentation.
LaTeX file with many examples.
JPicEdt for editing graphics for LaTeX.

Topics and Outcomes

This course covers the basics of computability and complexity theory. That is, it covers models of computation; decidability; complexity measures; hierarchies; P, NP and other complexity classes; intractable problems. By the end of this course, students should be able to: (1) Exhibit a simulation of one machine model with another. For instance, a Turing machine by a RAM. (2) Give a minimal classification of the complexity of a computational problem as being in one of the class L, P, NP, coNP, some level of the polynomial hierarchy, PSPACE, E, EXPTIME, decidable, undecidable. (3) Show the completeness of a complete problem for each of these classes. (4) Know properties of the randomized classes RP, BPP. (5) Know conditions under which various of these hierarchies might collapse. (6) Explain at least one circuit lower bound technique such as Razborov's techniques for monotone circuits. (7) Exhibit a relativized separation (oracle result) of complexity classes for standard classes such as P and NP.

Below is a tentative time table for when we'll do things this quarter:

Week 1: Aug 23 Read Ch 1.
Week 2: Aug 28, Aug 30 Read pp19-32.
Week 3: Sep 4(Holiday), Sep 6 Finish Ch 2
Week 4: Sep 11, Sep 13 Read Ch 3.
Week 5: Sep 18, Sep 20 Read Ch 4.
Week 6: Sep 25, Sep 27 Read Ch 7.
Week 7: Oct 2, Oct 4 Review.
Week 8: Oct 9, Oct 11 Read Ch 8.
Week 9: Oct 16, Oct 18 Read Ch 9.
Week 10: Oct 23 (HW3 due), Oct 25 Read Ch 10.
Week 11: Oct 30, Nov 1 Start Ch 11.
Week 12: Nov 6, Nov 8 Read Ch 11 to p268
Week 13: Nov 13, Nov 15 Review.
Week 14: Nov 20, Nov 22 Finish Ch11, Read Ch 12 to p287
Week 15: Nov 29, Dec 1 Read 14.1, Theorem 14.3, Sec 14.3
Week 16: Dec 4, Dec 6 Read Sec 14.4. Review.
The final will be Monday, Dec 11 from 7:45pm to 10:00pm


Homeworks 40%
Midterm 1 15%
Midterm 2 15%
Final 30%

Grades will be calculated in the following manner: The person or persons with the highest aggregate score will receive an A+. As this is a graduate class the material will be harder, and so I will make a slightly more lenient curve than typical for an undergraduate class. A score of 60 will be the cut-off for a B-. The region between this high and low score will be divided into five equal-sized regions. From the top region to the low region, a score falling within a region receives the grade: A, A-, B+, B, B-. If the boundary between an A and an A- is 85, then the score 85 counts as an A-. Scores below 60 but above 50 receive the grade C. Those below 50 receive the grade F.

If you do better than an A- in this class and want me to write you a letter of recommendation, I will generally be willing provided you ask me within two years of taking my course. Be advised that I write better letters if I know you to some degree.

Homework Info

Links to the current list of assignments can be found on the left hand frame of the class homepage. After an assignment has been returned a link to its solution (based on the best student solutions) will be placed off the assignment page. Material from assignments may appear on midterms and finals. For homeworks you are encouraged to work in groups of up to three people. Only one person out of this group needs to submit the homework assignment; however, the members of the group need to be clearly identified in all submitted files. Homeworks for this class will be submitted and returned completely electronically. The written and programming parts of an assignment are submitted by clicking on the submit homework link for your section on the left hand side of the homepage and filling out the on-line form. Hardcopies or e-mail versions of your assignments will be rejected and not receive credit. Homeworks will always be due by the start of class on the day their due. Late homeworks will not be accepted; however, your low homework score will be dropped.

When doing the programming part of an assignment please make sure to adhere to the specification given as closely as possible. Names of files should be as given, etc. Failure to follow the specification may result in your homework not being graded and you receiving a zero for your work. In addition, you should make sure your code conforms with the Departmental Java Coding Guidelines. This will be worth one point on every assignment.

The written part of each homework should be typeset in LaTeX. Links to where one can obtain LaTeX can be found in the Text and Links section above.


The midterms will be during class time on: Oct 4 and Nov 15.

The final will be: Monday, Dec 11 from 7:45pm to 10:00pm.

All exams are closed book, closed notes and in this classroom. You will be allowed only the test and your pen or pencil on your desk during these exams. Beeper or cell-phone interruptions will result in immediate excusal from the test. The final will cover material from the whole quarter although there will be an emphasis on material after the last midterm. No make ups will be given. The final exam may be scaled to replace a midterm grade if it was missed under provably legitimate circumstances. These exams will test whether or not you have mastered the material both presented in class or assigned as homework during the quarter. My exams usually consist of a series of essay style questions. I try to avoid making tricky problems. The week before each exam I will give out a list of problems representative of the level of difficulty of problems the student will be expected to answer on the exam. Any disputes concerning grades on exams should be directed to me, Professor Pollett.


If you believe an error was made in the grading of your program or exam, you may request in person a regrade from me, Professor Pollett, during my office hours. I do not accept e-mail requests for regrades. A request for a regrade must be made no more than a week after the homework or a midterm is returned. If you cannot find me before the end of the semester and you would like to request a regrade of your final, you may see me in person at the start of the immediately following semester.

Academic Honesty

Your own commitment to learning, as evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University, and the University's Academic Integrity Policy requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The policy on academic integrity can be found at

Specifically, for this class, you should obviously not cheat on tests. For homeworks, you should not discuss or share code or problem solutions between groups! At a minimum a 0 on the assignment or test will be given. A student caught using resources like Rent-a-coder will receive an F for the course and be referred to University for disciplinary action.

Additional Policies and Procedures

The campus policy to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is:
"If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 requires that students with disabilities register with DRC to establish a record of their disability."

More information about SJSU policies and procedures can be found at the following links: