# Give a Solid Foundation to Students Rong Yang University of the West of England, Bristol

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Give a Solid Foundation to Students Rong Yang University of the West of England, Bristol Rong.Yang@uwe.ac.ukRong.Yang@uwe.ac.uk

What ? A set of teaching materials on Computer Science Theory  Lecture slides  In-class tests  Assignments Used for our first year Computer Science, Software Engineering, and Computing Students (20 credit module, 80-90 students per year)

Why ? Our students are generally weak in Maths We were interested in experimenting with new interactive teaching methods

How ? 1.Avoid using formal terms; explaining concepts by lots of examples E.g. for the time complexity A number guessing game – you think an integer between 0 and 1,000, how should I guess? This introduces the sequential search and the binary search algorithms and their time complexity

How ? 2.Using formative assessment - giving students a serial of small coursework. E.g. for three abstract machines: finite automata. push down automata, and Turing machines, we asks students do many design tasks (assessed and non- assessed).

How ? 3.Introducing a small learning activities during lectures, so that rather than just being listeners, students have to some work. That is in-class tests: Five multiple choice questions for every lecture, which cover the contents of the lecture.

An example of in-class test Inductive Definition (easy) The following is an inductive definition of a set S. Basis: 1 is in set S. Induction: if x is in set S so is 2x (i.e. 2 times x) Closure: only numbers generated from the above two steps are in set S Can you tell what the set S is? (a) S is a set of positive integers, i.e. {1,2,3,4,5,6,...} (b) S is a set of positive even numbers, i.e. {2,4,6,8,10,12,...} (c) S is a set of numbers which are powers of 2, i.e. {1,2,4,8,16,32,...} (d) S is a set of squared numbers, i.e.{1,4,9,16,25,36,...}

Another example of in-class test Recursion (harder) Consider the following Java program static public void print(int n) { if(n == 0) System.out.println(n); if(n > 0) { System.out.println(" "+n); print(n-1); } else { print(n+1); System.out.println(" "+n); } Q1. What do we get on the screen when we call print(5)? a. 0 1 2 3 4 5 b. 5 4 3 2 1 0 c. 0 d. 5 Q2. What do we get on the screen when we call print(-5)? a. 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 b. -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 c. 0 d. -5

Evaluation The materials did fulfil the expectation of both ourselves and students. An increase in the first-time pass rate. It changed from 73% to 78% which is a quite significant increase.

Students Feedback It felts like a math module, but it is very interesting. Lectures and tutorials integrated well – we learn something during lectures, immediately do something in tutorials. ‘It is easy when being given a lecture to listen, but not really take in the information given. By doing short practical questions at the end I am able to consolidate the topics learned.’

If the material will be adopted … The deliver method and the contents can be changed. The examples should be helpful. The exercises (in-class test and assignments) should be useful.

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