Re Michael Genesereth CS157: Computational Logic

I am thinking of taking the Introduction to Logic at Coursera by Michael Genesereth.  The videos are up for Coursera but not the materials.  However, at Stanford CS157: Computational Logic, there are materials posted.

It appears roughly or perhaps identical course materials have been used back to 2004.

The solutions 1c, 1d, 2h, and 4a are “explanations” that assume you understand the course perfectly.   We could call these cryptic explanations.  They only explain if you already know the material extremely well.  This includes obscure notation and cases of empty objects.

Who benefits from these explanations?  If the student doesn’t understand what is going on, they won’t follow the explanation.

How well are these outcomes or situations in 1c and 1d explained in the course lecture notes?  I don’t find it very well explained.  Maybe I couldn’t find it.  Maybe it isn’t there.  Maybe it was not part of the original thought process and then in years since he never bothered to change it. Despite student difficulties over and over again with these same points.

Section 2.5 reverse evaluation is poorly explained with no example to help.

I am wondering if it is worthwhile to take the Coursera Introduction to Logic given these poor materials at Stanford.  This is like Khan Academy videos but at a higher level.

Have students at Stanford been taking this course and failing to get it because of these poor explanations since 2004?  And for years before that?

So students can’t get past this course because of these obscure explanations and lecture notes lacking in example?

This is what is wrong with math education at the university level.  The professors fob this off by saying doing problems is how you learn the course.  Or they say working with other students is how you learn.

There is no point taking poor materials at Stanford that have blocked students from their intended major and putting them into Coursera.  That just blocks thousands of students instead of the unlucky ones to take this at Stanford.

These same materials exist year after year at this site.  Past year students must have complained about them.  Others dropped out. But nothing was done to ever fix them.  Just a stone wall of you can’t get it, then you are dumb and can’t do computer science or logic.

This is the attitude to be enshrined into Coursera?

These remarks are draft and preliminary and may simply reflect my failure to understand the course website or some other reason.  They are intended only to stimulate discussion and not be taken as criticism.


About New Math Done Right

Author of Pre-Algebra New Math Done Right Peano Axioms. A below college level self study book on the Peano Axioms and proofs of the associative and commutative laws of addition. President of Mathematical Finance Company. Provides economic scenario generators to financial institutions.
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2 Responses to Re Michael Genesereth CS157: Computational Logic

  1. Meg Richards says:

    I am taking Keith Devlin’s course, “Introduction to Mathematical Reasoning” and had even bought the book by the same title, before I knew there was a free MOOC course along with it. From my experience halfway through, I would say it is definitely worthwhile to take the course. What I have seen so far, is that the course does challenge people to overcome their notions of what math is, and to learn to think using mathematical reasoning, in an original, meaningful way. I love this course, and it has stretched my mathematical/logical thinking ability. Yes, it is difficult and challenging; if not in the beginning, then at some point through the course (though there are undoubtedly people for whom no part of it would be challenging, but in taking it, they still lose nothing).

    I don’t agree that the fact that many people drop the course, and much fewer succeed at it, than begin it, demonstrates a flaw in the course. I think it demonstrates a high degree of variability in people taking it. Some come with more mathematical reasoning ability already in place; others have more determination to put large amounts of time and effort into learning the concepts. Lastly, there is variability in the constraints of life, as to how much time and effort can be afforded toward it on a practical level. Not everyone taking it is a high school or young university student. Many are people doing it in spare time after job and family obligations, and something as simple as a sick child can interrupt the participant’s outward success at the course. University courses that charge handsomely, tend to self-select against people who have obligations that might get in the way to succeeding at the course, but by making it free, anyone can take the risk, and learn something, without fear of not getting their money’s worth, should they fail. It is also true that one can learn and benefit even from something one fails at overall. But again, that doesn’t matter; there are no consequences to not making the grade at this course except to one’s pride.

    Since it is free, is beneficial, and scores are irrelevant, it is an opportunity to grow and learn, beyond simply going through the motions of calculations-based math classes. Since it costs only time, I would recommend it to anyone. The worst that can happen is a blow to the ego, but that is a benefit, also, for most of us.

    I definitely do not perceive any attitude or message toward those who take the course, that if they don’t get it, they are dumb, unworthy, or shouldn’t be trying. Quite the contrary: no questions are treated with disrespect by either the Prof or the TAs, and no one is made, so far as I have seen, to feel unworthy to be taking the class, no matter their performance in it. In fact, one’s performance in the class isn’t referenced or mentioned. Anyone can ask questions on the discussion forums, and help in the form of discussion from other students, or from TAs or the professor, is given without regard for who is asking or whether they are “star” pupils. There are no stars, and no failures, and no pecking order except any you happen to imagine. Each person undertakes this as a mission for personal reasons, and may come and go, contribute to it or take away from it, whatever they please, without being judged. I’d be interested to see what your take on it is, once you take it yourself. 🙂

  2. I agree it is inevitable that most people taking a MOOC will drop off as it goes on, no matter how good it is. I also agree that you can gain from a MOOC just by dipping it, the same as a textbook.

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