COMP30191: Choose it?

Should you choose COMP30191?

The course

COMP30191 is a theoretical course, as the third digit in its code indicates. The first part of it is decidedly mathematical in nature, and there will be quite a few proofs. The middle bit is concerned with writing programs for finding good strategies, which is where it becomes most computer-sciency. However, we will only look at general principles rather than issues that occur in implementation. There is no code in the lecture notes. Lastly we have a look at the use of games as models, which shows connections with the social sciences and biology. Here's a short description.

Pros and Cons

In my experience, students find games a much more interesting part of mathematics than most others. The subject certainly isn't as dry as some, and everybody can relate to the examples. Every year I get a few students who say it's the most interesting course unit they've taken.

That said, we are talking about a theoretical course, which has examples classes rather than labs. This has a number of consequences when it comes to how one goes best about learning the material.

In 2002/2003, 107 students chose this course. A number of them told me that they thought it was too hard, and that there was too much material. Since for the most part this criticism only started to arise a fortnight before the exam it seems clear to me that many students did not heed the advice given above: They did not work for the course during term, and found themselves overwhelmed when they started revising for the exams. In the last few days before the exam I received more than 30 emails with questions or requests for a meeting to discuss the course. On the other hand nobody had any suggestions for the revision lecture in the last week of term.

In 2003/2004, 121 students chose this course. This time I made it clear that I wouldn't be available in January other than for the revision session. The revision session was fairly well attended and quite a lot of questions were put to me via email in advance. I also didn't get so many emails!

Here is my feedback in ps format, feedback in pdf format for the exam in 2002/2003.

Here is my feedback in ps format, feedback in pdf format for the exam in 2003/2004.

In the CEQs for 2003/2004, the course got a mark of 7.6 for interest (slightly down from 7.7) and 6 for difficulty (up from 5.71). Quality was marked with 8 (up from 7.8) and suitability with 7.9 (slightly up from 7.8).

Here are some quotes from past CEQs.

I think it is fair to say that some people enjoyed the course immensely while others liked the introduction, and then started to lose interest as it all became more technical.

8 September 2006