CMSC250 is Introduction to Discrete Mathematics for CS majors at the University of Maryland. Many people who have taken it have said it is one of the most hated classes of their CS career. But with these 10 tips, hopefully you’ll come out not hating the class but rather appreciating it!
1. Brush up on basic math
People have the impression that coding does not involve math. Then they come into the CS major and are shocked when the third class they have to take involves nothing but math. The math isn’t too difficult, but many students forget how to multiply without a calculator or which is the divisor and which is the dividend.
2. Learn Series and Sequences
There is a reason why MATH141 is a coreq for CMSC250. That’s because late in the semester, you’ll be diving into series and sequences. You’ll need to apply some of the knowledge that you have in MATH141 on series and sequences in order to do well in the unit. It’s a brief topic, but it will be on the exam.
3. Practice Induction
It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen induction problems a million times. Unless you actually get down to doing one, you won’t know how to do one. You need to practice before the first exam.
4. Recall basic logic
The first unit will be on simple logic like “If there is rain then Pat will use an umbrella. There is rain. What can we conclude?” The conclusion is Pat will use an umbrella. Simple enough but there will be harder ones that require you to know basic logic.
5. Know your trivia
One of the professors likes to give a random trivia question on exams worth one extra point. This extra point could mean the difference between passing and failing so if you love memorizing otherwise useless things, make it useless trivia.
6. Go to office hours
While useful for any class, going to office hours is really nice for this class. Not many people go to office hours because they don’t feel like this class counts as a CS class. So if you go to office hours, you’ll probably get all the help you want.
7. Ask questions
Ask questions if you don’t understand. Many of the topics in CMSC250 build on each other so if you don’t ask when you’re lost, you’ll be hopelessly lost when finals come around.
8. Don’t stress
People say this class is a lot of work and a pain. It’s really not. You have ample time to complete homework assignments. Unlike other CS classes, you actually have time to complete exams. And there is a curve at the end.
9. Budget your time wisely
You will have plenty of time to do homework assignments but most people don’t start until the night it’s due. Then they wonder why their grade is so low. You need to start early so you can have time to ask questions. You have a week and a half for homework usually. Use the time wisely.
10. Attend discussion section
The TAs usually go over the previous lecture’s material so if you didn’t understand something the professor said, you might be able to understand the TA’s explanation.
So those are some tips you can use to make CMSC250 less of a chore and more of a walk in the park. There are plenty difficult portions (like induction for example), but you can pass if you practice enough. Like playing a musical instrument, you only get better at math by doing math problems. Hope you find these tips helpful!