Course Code COMP9020
Course Title Foundations of Computer Science
Units of Credit 6
Course Website
Handbook Entry

Course Summary

The official scope is: mathematical methods for designing correct and efficient programs; mathematics for algorithm analysis; logic for proving and verification.

The actual content is taken from a list of subjects that constitute the basis of the tool box of every serious practitioner of computing: set, function and relation theory; propositional logic and boolean algebras; graph theory and trees for algorithmic applications; induction, recursion and recurrence relations; order of growth of functions; structured counting (combinatorics); discrete probability.

Assumed Knowledge


Course Timetable

Day Start Time End Time Room Who
Thursday 12:00 14:00 Room CLB7 (Central Lecture Block, E19) Michael Thielscher
Friday 14:00 16:00 Room CLB7 (Central Lecture Block, E19) Michael Thielscher

Course Aims and Student Learning Outcomes

After successfully completing this course, students will have developed an increased level of mathematical maturity to assist with the fundamental problem of

  1. finding and formulating properties of programs, especially their correctness w.r.t. given requirements and specifications
  2. analysing and proving properties of programs, in particular their correctness and runtime behaviour

Online quizzes, mid-term test and final exam will ensure that students have acquired this level of mathematical maturity.

This course contributes to the development of the following graduate capabilities:

Graduate Capability Acquired in
Scholars capable of independent and collaborative enquiry, rigorous in their analysis, critique and reflection, and able to innovate by applying their knowledge and skills to the solution of novel as well as routine problems lectures, in-class exercises, problem sets, quizzes
Professionals capable of ethical, self-directed practice and independent lifelong learning problem sets, quizzes
Global citizens who are culturally adept and capable of respecting diversity and acting in a socially just and responsible way interaction with your lecturer and fellow students

Teaching Strategies

  • Lectures introduce concepts and show examples
  • Problem sets reinforce concepts, provide additional examples and allow students to solve problems
  • Quizzes allow students to demonstrate their problem-solving skills

Teaching Rationale

Lectures will include exercises where we examine the practice of formulating and proving mathematical properties of relevance to Computer Science. Weekly problem sets and assignments in the form of short quizzes aim to deepen analysis and understanding via additional examples and problems.


Component Maximum Mark
Assignment 1 (weekly; weeks 2-5, 7-10) 20
Assignment 2 (mid-term; week 6) 20
Final Exam (exam period) 60

Each of the 8 weekly assignments is worth 2.5 marks (8 * 2.5 = 20).

Your overall score in the course will be the maximum of:

  • weekly + mid-term + final
  • weekly + 80*(final/60)
  • mid-term + 80*(final/60)
  • 100*(final/60)

In other words: If you do better in the final exam, then your result for the weekly assignments and/or your mid-term assignment result will be ignored.

To pass the course, your overall score must be 50 or higher and your mark for the final exam must be 25 or higher. If you meet both conditions, your overall score will be your mark for this course.

Course Schedule

Numbers, Sets, Formal Languages week 1
Logic, Proofs, Boolean Algebra week 2
Functions and Relations week 3
Equivalence and Order Relations week 4
Graphs and Trees week 5
Mid-term week 6 (Friday)
Induction, Recursion, Big-Oh Notation week 7
Counting week 8
Probability week 9
Random Variables, Expectation, Course Review week 10

Student Conduct

The Student Code of Conduct ( Information , Policy ) sets out what the University expects from students as members of the UNSW community. As well as the learning, teaching and research environment, the University aims to provide an environment that enables students to achieve their full potential and to provide an experience consistent with the University's values and guiding principles. A condition of enrolment is that students inform themselves of the University's rules and policies affecting them, and conduct themselves accordingly.

In particular, students have the responsibility to observe standards of equity and respect in dealing with every member of the University community. This applies to all activities on UNSW premises and all external activities related to study and research. This includes behaviour in person as well as behaviour on social media, for example Facebook groups set up for the purpose of discussing UNSW courses or course work. Behaviour that is considered in breach of the Student Code Policy as discriminatory, sexually inappropriate, bullying, harassing, invading another one's privacy or causing any person to fear for their personal safety is serious misconduct and can lead to severe penalties, including suspension or exclusion from UNSW.

If you have any concerns, you may raise them with your lecturer, or approach the

School Ethics Officer , Grievance Officer , or one of the student representatives.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

UNSW has an ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of learning informed by academic integrity. All UNSW staff and students have a responsibility to adhere to this principle of academic integrity. Plagiarism undermines academic integrity and is not tolerated at UNSW. Plagiarism at UNSW is defined as using the words or ideas of others and passing them off as your own.

If you haven't done so yet, please take the time to read the full text of

The pages below describe the policies and procedures in more detail:

Resources for Students

The primary textbook associated with this course is

This has been the recommended textbook for the course for the last 10 or more years. The following comprehensive lecture notes, which are from a similar course at MIT, provide supplementary material:

Course Evaluation and Development

This course is being continuously improved and we will conduct a survey through UNSW's myExperience process at the end of session to obtain feedback on the quality of the various course components. Your participation in the survey will be greatly appreciated. Students are also encouraged to provide informal feedback during the session, and to notify the lecturer-in-charge of any problems as soon as they arise.

Student feedback from last offerings indicated that students were very satisfied with the course, but suggested a tighter connection between the problem set and the quiz in each week, which we will endeavour to achieve in this offering.

Resource created Tuesday 04 February 2020, 02:58:15 PM, last modified Wednesday 02 December 2020, 11:32:02 AM.

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