CS106B Archive

This page contains links to archived versions of the Stanford CS106B (Programming Methodology) webpage in the quarters I've taught it.

2016-2017 Academic Year
Winter 2017

It had been almost four years since the last time I taught CS106B when I took over this offering of the course, and I decided to use the opportunity to make a number of changes to the course and the assignments.

In this quarter, I also introduced an updated Assignment 0 with an animated Guide to the Debugger based on the animated guides I'd developed for CS103. I also included an "Honor Code Maze" assignment that required students to work through a series of questions about the Honor Code before starting. The number of Honor Code cases emerging from CS106B this quarter was significantly lower than in the past, and I was very happy with how that turned out.

The biggest changes to the assignments were an overhauled Assignment 3 that pushed more on recursive enumeration and optimization than the past, and a completely new Assignment 4 (Recursion to the Rescue!) that explored recursive backtracking in the context of a number of socially-relevant applications (patient scheduling, disaster preparation, pathogen detection, and US Presidential Elections). These assignments were tough, but based on the experience I think that with some small updates and tweaks the assignment could become a mainstay in my offering of the course.

I also invested a lot of time updating the section handouts to provide significantly more coverage of core topics. I'm extremely happy with how those turned out and am definitely looking forward to using them more in the future!

In a break from what I did in previous offerings, I updated many of the assignments to introduce new technical concepts (structures, stack overflows, memoization, etc.) that didn't fit cleanly into lecture. I was pleasantly surprised with how well this worked and will definitely consider doing this again in the future.

In a more visible set of changes, I also updated the lecture examples, assignment starter files, and section handouts to use more C++11 concepts, such as automatic type inference (hugely useful in recursion), const correctness (which I had mistakenly thought was the norm in CS106B... oops), the nullptr keyword, and uniform-intialization syntax (also hugely useful in recursion).

The last set of major updates were to the lectures. While content-wise they were mostly the same, I spent more time talking about big motivating examples, like using recursion to figure out the best team to send to a developing country or big-O notation to analyze the efficiency of grade-school arithmetic. I also pushed much harder on recursion throughout the quarter, using it to dramatically simplify the presentation of linked lists and binary search trees. I think that I still have some work to do at the beginning of the quarter to get stronger motivating examples for elementary recursion.

And I'm really, really proud of the exams from this quarter. I invested a ton of effort building four versions of the midterm (actual, practice, alternate, and yet another alternate) and a final that I think had genuinely interesting questions on them. It will be dramatically easier to teach this class in the future simply because I can fall back on those questions when I need to.

I feel like there's a lot more work to be done - upgrading the earlier lectures and assignments, rethinking the Huffman and Trailblazer assignments, revisiting how we teach graph theory, etc. But I feel like that's going to be a much, much easier task given that I now have a stable set of materials to work with.

A massive thanks to Anton and the CS106B section leaders for making this quarter so easy to teach. It was a pleasure to work with that team and I would be happy to do so again in the future.

2012-2013 Academic Year
Spring 2013

My second offering of CS106B was 50% larger than the previous years' offering, but it was a blast! I refined the syllabus to slim down the breadth of material while increasing the depth, and overall students did quite well. This quarter also saw the introduction of a new first assignment (a modified "Welcome to C++" that included Flesch-Kincaid readability) and new final assignment (Trailblazer).

2011-2012 Academic Year
Spring 2012

This was my first run teaching CS106B and it was a lot of fun. Although I had given a few CS106B lectures before as an undergrad, I had never actually taught the entire course. It was exciting getting to develop different algorithmic approaches and data structures in lecture, and I'm looking forward to the next iteration of the course.