Brown CS offers eight introductory courses in computer science. Here's a quick guide on how to choose which one to take. You can also watch this video, an overview given by the faculty of 0111, 0150, 0170, 0190, 0200, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Note that the placement process for 0190, our accelerated course typically taken by students with prior programming experience, occurs between late June and early August. If you are considering 0190, see the instructions for how to get started (follow the "next offering" link at the top of the page). No exceptions are made once the placement period has finished.
For Potential Concentrators
Those planning to concentrate (major) in computer science should take one of 0150/0200, 0170/0200, 0190, or a sequence starting with 0111, as explained below. None of 0150, 0170, or 0111 assume prior programming background; the 0190 placement process is open to anyone, regardless of prior programming experience. All of these options prepare students for subsequent courses in the concentration, but with different approaches and some differences in content. The descriptions below outline the differences: to help you decide between them, you might attend the first lectures of multiple courses (except for 0190, which students must place into over the summer).
0111 provides the most leisurely paced introduction to programming and is ideal for students who are taking other time-consuming courses at the same time. Students in 0111 may decide to do additional work that, while increasing the load of the back half of the course, prepares them for 0200, which they may then take in a subsequent semester. Alternatively, students who have completed 0111 may continue on with 0112, which maintains the pace of 0111. Students completing 0112 may continue with 0200, and then go on to take other courses in the CS concentration.
Currently, 0111 is offered both fall and spring. 0150, 0170, and 0190 are offered only in the fall. 0112 is offered only in the fall. 0200 is offered both fall and spring.
Students who would like an introduction to using computers might consider 0020 (this does NOT lead into any other CS course, or the concentration, however)
Students who want a one-semester course on programming that’s not as time-intensive as 0150 and 0170 might consider 0111 (which can lead into either a CS concentration or the Data Fluency certificate)
Students who want a one-semester course on data science might consider 0100 (this does NOT lead into any other CS course or the Data Fluency certificate, however)
Restating for emphasis: 0020 and 0100 do not satisfy prerequisites for other CS courses. They do not count towards a CS concentration. They do not count towards the new Data Fluency certificate for non-concentrators (nor do they satisfy prerequisites for the DATA 0200 course within that certificate). Students who want to continue into the CS concentration after taking one of these courses will need to start over with 0111, 0150, 0170, or 0190. Accordingly, students who are considering a CS concentration are advised to start with one of the introductory courses for concentrators.
Placement Based On Prior Background
Brown CS does not offer credit or placement for AP or IB courses. 0190 is designed for students with prior experience on par with the AP-CS A exam. To take 0190, students must pass a placement process that runs in the summer (see the 0190 link for details). Many students with prior experience still take 0150 or 0170 (both cover new content; the latter uses a style of programming that is new to most students with prior experience). Students seeking placement based on transfer credit should contact a Director of Undergraduate Studies (Tom Doeppner or Kathi Fisler).
Summary of the Courses
0020, offered in the fall, is for students who want an introduction to the use of computers that does not involve much programming. It is intended primarily for humanities concentrators and may not be used as part of a CS concentration. This course offers a broad view of the digital world and acquaints the student with a variety of applications and the underlying theory that drives them. Students can expect to get a broad perspective on computing history and future trends as it applies to many current day activities and issues.
0111/0112 is a two-course introductory sequence designed to provide students with more flexibility in exploring CS within their overall academic program. 0111 focuses on data: how we program with it, error-check it, and organize it depending on the computational problem at hand. The course combines basic data science content (though not statistics) with core data structures and algorithms from CS. Students work in a combination of programming languages (Pyret and Python) to begin to learn how different programming tools are suited to different tasks. Collaboration is welcome on some assignments; collaborative discussion of concepts is always welcome.
0112 focuses on strengthening students’ skills in programming and program design, including introduction to additional data structures. Students work in Python.
Students who have done well in 0111 and wish to accelerate their pace into CS can do an additional 4-5 medium-size assignments to go directly into 0200 for their second semester. The assignments are handed out as soon as 0111 covers the corresponding material, but they are not due until sometime during the following break (winter or summer). This allows students to complete 0111 before deciding whether to bridge to 200, while also providing the opportunity to complete the assignments during the regular semester.
0150 emphasizes programming practice. 0150 is a challenging object-oriented programming course (using Java) in which students gain experience with object-oriented design techniques and the use of Java-FX, Java's 2D graphics library. Basic data structures (arrays, lists, stacks, queues, trees) are covered as well. Students will design and implement a sequence of moderate to fairly lengthy interactive programs, including Tetris, a fascinating computer game. All programs use graphical user interfaces. While the course uses games as a motivating domain, this is not a course in game design, and the techniques and skills learned are equally applicable across other domains. Even if you have programmed in Java before, you might find this a challenging course.
Direct questions to the professor: Andy van Dam, firstname.lastname@example.org.
0170 integrates learning programming with learning the theoretical foundations of computer science. Students learn how to break problems down into elegant and concise programs using functional programming (in Racket and ReasonML). Functional languages have a gentle learning curve, while differing from the styles of programming that students typically see in high school. The course introduces both practical and theoretical techniques for assessing how well programs satisfy their requirements.
Direct questions to the professor: John Hughes, email@example.com.
0190 is offered in the fall. It compresses much of the first-year curriculum into a single semester by spending significantly less time on fundamentals of programming. Students cannot enroll directly into 0190; instead they must qualify for it by taking a placement exam administered the summer before. (The placement is self-contained, so even students with no prior computing background are welcome to try it out.) Additional information is available on the 0190 home page.
Taking 0190 does not reduce the total number of courses that a student must take for a CS concentration. Students will take an additional course (of their choosing) to act as the second course of their introductory sequence. Many students go on to take 0200 after 0190, especially if they did not have a strong grounding in object-oriented programming prior to starting at Brown.
Consult the FAQ on the 0190 website for answers to most questions (and directions for contacting the professor, Shriram Krishnamurthi).
0200 is the second-semester intro course that follows 0150, 1070, 0112, 0111 (with additional work), and 0190 (if desired). (It merges the former 0160 and 0180 courses). The course emphasizes choosing and implementing data structures, essential graph algorithms, performance and social-impact analysis of algorithms, and strong programming practices. Students work in a combination of object-oriented and functional programming, using each of Java and Python.
The first two weeks of 0200 run as two different tracks: one to help students from 0150 learn functional programming, recursion, and run-time analysis and another to help students from 0111/0112/0170/0190 learn object-oriented programming in Java. After the first two weeks, the two tracks merge into one course for the rest of the semester.
- How do I decide which intro course to take? Check out the video at the top of this page to hear from the professors of these courses. Shop as many as you are interested in (this is normal). Each of 0111, 0150, and 0170 will post lecture capture during shopping period (and generally for the entire semester), so you can always watch the videos to check out multiple courses if you can't make it in person.
- I've never programmed before -- can I take a CS Intro course? Absolutely! None of 0111, 0150, or 0170 assume any prior background. Roughly half of the students in each of these courses has never programmed before. The majority of students with significant prior programming experience take 0190 instead.
- Which intro CS course is the easiest? There's no single answer to this because each course takes a different perspective and different students respond well to different perspectives. 0111 goes a bit more slowly than the others (especially at first), since it has the benefit of the bridge and 0112 to help students accelerate if and when they are ready, but all of 0111, 0150, and 0170 have been successful for students with a range of backgrounds.
- How isolated will I be as a female student in a CS intro course? Roughly 40% of students graduating in CS at Brown are female. In each of 0111, 0150, and 0170, females make up just about half of the class. 0190 has a smaller percentage of females due to the experience skew in high-school CS courses (since most in 0190 had prior high school experience). All of our intro courses (including 0190) include female (identifying) teaching assistants.
- How many hours a week does an Intro CS course take? Each of 0111, 0112, 0150, and 0170 has a 1-2 hour lab or section beyond the 3 hours of lecture. In terms of homework, 0111 takes 6-10 hours a week outside of this. 0150 and 0170 are on par with each other at around 12-15 hours per week depending on the assignment. Check the Brown Critical Review (student run course evaluations) for data from students regarding workload and the course perspective.
- I'm considering several concentrations. How early do I have to start CS? Think of this through the lens of required courses. An ScB in CS needs 13 courses (plus Math 100). An AB in CS needs 9 courses (plus Math 100). This typically includes a couple of math courses (like linear algebra, probablility and statistics, and perhaps multi-variable calculus). you can comfortably start an AB as late as your fourth semester (sometimes even 5th semester though that limits what you can fit in due to prereqs). For an ScB, you can start as late as your third semester (especially if you already took at least one of the math courses), though taking at least one course in your first year can take the edge off. As of Fall 2022, you can start a CS intro sequence in any semester (0111 and 0200 are both offered every semester).