15-112 Syllabus

Previous Iterations of the Course

This is a well established course at Carnegie Mellon University. You can find the course website for previous iterations of this course at the following links. Former course websites can provide excellent sources of old quizzes and exams to study from.

Qatar: S20, F19, S19

Pittsburgh: F20, S20, F19, S19, F18, S18, F17, S17, F16, S16, F15, S15, F14, S14, F13, S13, F12, M12, S12, F11, S11, F10, S10, F09, APEA-09, S09, F08, APEA-08, S08, F07

Course Description and Learning Outcomes

Official Course Description
A technical introduction to the fundamentals of programming with an emphasis on producing clear, robust, and reasonably efficient code using top-down design, informal analysis, and effective testing and debugging. Starting from first principles, we will cover a large subset of the Python programming language, including its standard libraries and programming paradigms. We will also target numerous deployment scenarios, including standalone programs, shell scripts, and web-based applications. This course assumes no prior programming experience. Even so, it is a fast-paced and rigorous preparation for 15-121 or 15-122. Students seeking a more gentle introduction to computer science should consider first taking 15-110.

Unofficial Course Description
This course is designed to help you learn how read, write, design, and debug Python programs. Towards that end, you will spend most of the time in the course developing programming as a skill by learning about various programming constructs and techniques and by constantly practicing with code.

Students who take 15-112 generally fall into one of two categories:

  1. You might be a CS major or a student in another technical major who needs to take a set of CS classes to fulfill requirements. 15-112 will prepare you for the technical challenge of those courses by helping you develop a robust understanding for how to work with code; this skill will be essential in future courses.
  2. You might want to learn how to program in depth, but have no intention of taking further CS courses. 15-112 will help you learn that essential skill, and will also introduce you to some of the big ideas in computer science so that you can bring new ideas back to your own field of study.

In this course, you will primarily do work through completing programming assignments; these assignments will help you develop and practice your coding skills. You will also be assessed with a set of quizzes and exams, to help you measure your understanding of the class's various topics. We will teach you primarily through interactive lectures and recitations, where we will demonstrate how to code using instructions, examples, and live coding. At the end of the semester, you'll demonstrate your mastery of the course's topics by working on a 3-week term project, where you can develop and code a project of your own design, based on your own interests.

Learning Objectives
At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Write clear, robust, and efficient code in Python using:
    • sequential, conditional, and loop statements
    • strings, lists, tuples, sets, and dictionaries
    • objects and classes
    • recursive approaches
    • graphics and interaction
  • Develop programs to effectively solve medium-sized tasks by:
    • employing modular, top-down design in program construction
    • demonstrating an effective programming style based on established standards, practices, and guidelines
    • proactively creating and writing test cases to test and debug code
    • applying computational problem-solving skills to new problems, especially in the student's home academic discipline
    • explaining and analyzing the efficiency of algorithms, particularly by predicting the Big-O running time of small pieces of code
  • Design and write a substantial (500-1500 line) program in Python with minimal guidance

Lecture Schedule

There will be three classes each week:
Sunday, 1:30 pm - 2:50 pm
Tuesday, 1:30 pm - 2:50 pm
Thursday, 1:30 pm - 2:50 pm

Classes on Sundays and Tuesdays will consist of lectures where we learn and practice different concepts. Thursday's class will have a quiz at the beginning of the class and then lecture and exercises. The weekly quizzes will test topics that are covered in the readings, lectures, and exercises.

Grading and Submission

Grading Policy

 Course Component   Points   Notes 
Quizzes10%Lowest quiz grade is dropped.
Midterm Exam 110%
Midterm Exam 210%
Final Exam20%
Term Project10%

Class Participation Breakdown
Attendance 20 - Lose 3 points for every absence or tardy in lecture
CA/Mentor Meetings 30 - Lose 5 points for every missed CA mentor meeting

Letter Grade Assignment
The course uses the standard grade percentages as follows:

  • [90, 100]: A
  • [80, 90): B
  • [70, 80): C
  • [60, 70): D
  • < 60: F

Final Grade Policy
You must receive a 60% or higher (calculating using the appropriate weightings above) on in-class assessments (quizzes, midterm exams, and final exam) in order to receive a D or higher in the course.

You must receive a 65% or higher (calculating using the appropriate weightings above) on in-class assessments (quizzes, midterm exams, and final exam) in order to receive a C or higher in the course.

Homework Late Submission Policy
In an ideal world, we would be able to support varying submission schedules so that all students could work at their own pace. Unfortunately, this is impossible. I need you to submit assignments on time so that we can promptly give feedback to all students, to support the learning process.

However, we understand that life can sometimes get in the way. Therefore, we provide 3 grace days for homework assignments. These can be used to submit homeworks up to 24 hours late with no penalty. You may only use one grace day per homework. We strongly urge you not to use these grace days immediately; try to save them for unforeseen events.

Once you run out of grace days, late submissions will receive a score of 0.

Make-up Exams or Quizzes
No late / make-up quizzes or tests will be administered, except in the case of medical or family emergencies or other university-approved absences. For qualifying missed assessments, students must obtain instructor approval and schedule the make-up quiz before missing the quiz.

Course Assessments


  • Homeworks are due on Tuesdays at 10pm. These assignments generally contain a coding exercises (reading, debugging, and writing code). They generally assess the material taught the week they are released, and take several hours to complete. We strongly encourage you to start the homeworks early- The day they are released is best, and within two days of release at the latest!

  • Homeworks must be completed individually.

  • Programming assignments will be graded based on style (modularity, effective use of data abstraction, readability, commenting, etc.) and functionality (correctness and efficiency of the program on all possible test inputs). Your code should be properly annotated with comments that are well-placed, concise, and informative. Your assignments will be graded by your TA, by automated graders, and at times by your instructor.

  • The Term Project will take place over three weeks at the end of the semester. You will design and build a program of your choosing with the guidance of a mentor TA.

In-Class Assessments

  • Quizzes will be given weekly at the beginning of lecture on Thursday. Quizzes generally cover material from the previous week and the previous homework. Quizzes are designed to be time-intensive, to test for fluency and demonstrate where additional study is needed.

  • There will be two exams given in class, as noted in the course schedule. Each exam will cover material presented in the preceding weeks (with Exam 2 focusing mostly on material not covered in Exam 1). Exams also test for fluency, though to a lesser extent than quizzes.

  • There will be a standard 3-hour final exam during the final exam period at the end of the semester. This exam will cover material from the entire semester. The final exam is built to allow enough time to attempt all problems.

Academic Integrity

This course has a rigorous academic integrity policy and it is strictly enforced.

Refer to the course academic honesty policy.


Course Resources

  • Course Notes: The course notes (on the schedule page) are full of useful information and examples that can help you approach the assignments! When you don't understand a concept, try reading the notes and watching the associated videos first.
  • Office Hours: Office hours let you ask questions to TAs and professors directly, and can help you understand concepts and debug programs that you're struggling with alone. Past students swear by office hours as the resource that most helped them pass the course! You can even hang out at office hours if you don't already have a question! When you do have a question, make sure to be prepared to ask it as efficiently as possible- during busy hours, each TA is only allowed to spend five minutes with each student.
  • Piazza: Piazza can be used to ask quick questions and receive quick responses without attending office hours in person. Questions on Piazza should be specific and include all needed information (so if your code has an error you don't understand, include the code and the error message). Note that we do not make student posts on Piazza public; please only post private questions to the instructors.
  • Tutoring: The ARC offers tutoring for students in 15-112. Contact the instructor if you like to take advantage of this resource.

Required Software
Every required software package we use is available for free on the web. This includes:

  • A code editor. If you have never used Python before, we recommend Thonny, a free development environment for Python. We recognize that many of you have experience with other editors, and you are free to use any one that you wish.
  • Python version 3.x (3.7 or later), which can be freely downloaded from python.org. (Note: If you download and install Thonny, then you will not need a separate Python installation.)

External Resources
Note that all textbooks/resources are optional. There are no required textbooks for this course.

Classroom Etiquette

Research has shown that devices can greatly detract from student learning. Therefore, students may only use electronic devices in lecture during learning activities which involve those devices.

Outside of these events, students should only use electronic devices with explicit permission from the instructors. Notes may still be taken, of course, but should be done with pen and paper. This policy is meant to help all students focus, as electronic devices are distracting not only for the user, but also for the students surrounding them.

Students may not record audio or video of lectures or recitations without explicit permission in writing from the instructor. Violations will result in your failing the course. Exceptions will be granted in accordance with university guidelines for accessibility concerns, but even then such recordings may not be shared publicly or privately and must be deleted at the end of the semester.

Your regular, on-time attendance of class is important for your success. As such, class attendance is mandatory and graded as described in the grading policy. In addition, arriving late is not permitted. If you attempt to enter the classroom after class has started, you will be asked to leave. If you arrive late for a quiz, you will not be permitted to take the quiz or make it up.


In general, we cannot give individual extensions on assignments or assessments. However, there are a few exceptions.

  • Medical Emergencies: If you are sick to the point that you cannot attend class or do work, go to the doctor! If you have a short illness (such as food poisoning or the flu) you should simply use a late day (for homework) or a dropped quiz for a quiz. Students who have prolonged medical emergencies may obtain extensions from the instructors after coordinating with the Office of Health and Wellness. Please see the medical excuse guidelines available on Scotty.

  • Family/Personal Emergencies: If you are having a family or personal emergency (such as a death in the family or a mental health crisis), reach out to your academic advisor immediately! They can help support you in your time of need, and will also reach out to all of your instructors (including me) to request extensions for you.

  • University-Approved Absences: If you are attending a university-approved event off-campus (such as a multi-day athletic/academic trip organized by the university), you may request an extension for the duration of the trip. You must provide confirmation of your attendance, usually from a faculty or staff organizer of the event.

Please note that extensions must be requested before the assignment/assessment deadline.

Regrade Requests
We occasionally make mistakes while grading (we're only human!). If you find a mistake which you would like us to correct:

  • If the graded item was returned on Gradescope, use the Gradescope regrade request feature.
  • If the graded item was returned any other way, please contact the instructor.

In both cases, include all relevant details for your regrade request.

Regrades must be requested within two weeks of the time when the contested grade was released. The two week limit may be shortened at the end of the semester in order to meet grade submission deadlines.

Note: Regrade requests may result in the entire assignment being regraded, not just the incorrectly graded part.


It is my hope that students from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students' learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups.
This statement is adapted from The University of Iowa Department of Education.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Carnegie Mellon University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for all persons with disabilities. To access accommodation services you are expected to initiate the request and submit a Voluntary Disclosure of Disability Form to the office of Health & Wellness or CaPS-Q. In order to receive services/accommodations, verification of a disability is required as recommended in writing by a doctor, licensed psychologist or psycho-educational specialist. The office of Health & Wellness, CaPS-Q and Office of Disability Resources in Pittsburgh will review the information you provide. All information will be considered confidential and only released to appropriate persons on a need to know basis.

Once the accommodations have been approved, you will be issued a Summary of Accommodations Memorandum documenting the disability and describing the accommodation. You are responsible for providing the Memorandum to your professors at the beginning of each semester.

For more information on policies and procedures, please visit Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities on Scotty.

For additional information, please feel free to contact any of the following:

Take Care of Yourself
Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, I strongly encourage you to seek support. Student Affairs staff are here to help: call 4454 8526 or send Renee Camerlengo an email at reneec@andrew.cmu.edu. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night at 5554-7913, which is staffed by trained mental health care providers.

If the situation is life threatening, call 999.

Policies Related to Being Online

Quizzes and Exams
Online quizzes and exams will occur during class time and require you to show your workspace using your webcam. For more details, please visit the online quiz overview page.

This testing protocol is new for this semester, and subject to change. Any instructions given by the faculty or the assessment itself will take precedence.

Video in Lecture
In order to better promote both student and faculty engagement during remote lectures, all lecture participants are required to keep their video on throughout the class (unless otherwise instructed). Students who do not have their video on will be marked absent.

Having your video on and participating during live zoom sessions will support your learning in various ways. It may reduce the feeling of isolation and keep you connected with your colleagues and with the professor. It is also important to note that everyone’s remote classroom and learning experience is greatly improved if every student is visible. Maintaining a rich, interactive, and high-quality remote teaching experience will require us to work together. You are also encouraged to follow the same classroom etiquette as you would during normal in-person class sessions when connecting to virtual classes, such as:

  • Dressing up appropriately
  • Participating when required (whether by using your audio or the chat feature on Zoom)
  • Staying engaged
  • Avoiding any parallel work irrelevant to the session
There are legitimate circumstances under which a student may be exempted from this requirement. Students who believe they should be exempted should apply for a waiver. More information about the waiver process is available at the Guidelines for Students on the Use of Video and Audio in Remote Learning page on Scotty.