Which Introductory Course Should I Take?

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, 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 and 0112 are offered both fall and spring. 0150, 0170, and 0190 are offered only in the fall.  0200 is offered only in the spring.

For Non-Concentrators

Note that 0020 and 0100 do not satisfy prerequisites for other first-year programming 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 new 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

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

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, sanity-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 most assignments.

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 extended assignments during 0111 (including an additional final project) to place directly into 0200 for their second semester.

Direct questions to the professors: Kathi Fisler (0111), kfisler@brown.edu or Tim Nelson (0112), tn@cs.brown.edu.

0150

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.

Direct questions to the professor: Andy van Dam, avd@cs.brown.edu.

0170

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, jfh@cs.brown.edu.

0190

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

0200 will be a new course in Spring 2022 that merges the former 0160 and 0180. It will serve as the second half of both 0150 and 0170 (as well a follow-on to any of 0111, 0112, and 0190). The course emphasizes choosing and implementing data structures, essential graph algorithms, performance and social-impact analysis of algorithms, and strong programming practices. Students will work in a combination of object-oriented and functional programming, using each of Java and Python. 

The first two weeks of 0200 will 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.

The course in under active development in Summer 2022. Details are being posted to the 0200 website as they are finalized.

Direct questions to the professor: Kathi Fisler, kfisler@cs.brown.edu.