Incorporating Computer Science's Methods of Inquiry into the Introductory Sequence

Doug Baldwin
Department of Computer Science
SUNY Geneseo


For over ten years, SUNY Geneseo has included a "methods of inquiry" course in its introductory computer science sequence. This course's goals are to show students that computer science is not just about programming, but rather about applying a mixture of intellectual methods to understanding and solving algorithmic problems, and to give students rudimentary abilities to apply those intellectual methods for themselves. Our course concentrates on three general methods, namely (1) design and implementation of algorithms, (2) mathematical analysis of algorithms, and (3) experimental analysis of algorithms.

Although developed independently, the methods of inquiry course addresses a number of the ACM/IEEE Computing Curriculum 2001 recommendations for introductory computer science remarkably well. This talk will describe how the course addresses CC2001 recommendations and how it fits into a larger computer science program. The talk will also present concrete examples of each method of inquiry to illustrate how they can be taught to novices and how they interact, and will discuss the advantages (and disadvantages) of this course as experienced at Geneseo.

Colloquia Series page.