All About Homework

This handout describes some general thoughts and techniques for doing homework, as well as what is required, how to submit it, how late homework is handled, and other administrative matters.

Turning In Homework

The homework assignment due date will be on the homework assignment. Unless modified by an announcement, it is due then. We will grade it and return comments to you as quickly as possible; we’ll try for three class periods, but can’t guarantee it.

For written homework, you must turn in a plain text or PDF version of your answers (you can use any text processor you like to generate these). Please do not submit Microsoft Word files; these sometimes appear very differently on different types of systems. If you submit a plain text file, please choose a name that ends in “.txt”. If your file is a PDF file, please choose a name that ends in “.pdf”.

Please turn in your work electronically through Smartsite. If you need to turn in something on paper (for example, a diagram that you can’t draw using your text processing program), please hand it to the instructor before the assignment is due, and put a note in what you submit electronically that you have done this. That way, we will know to look for something written, rather than mark you off for that problem.

Doing Written Exercises

When you are asked to analyze something, or explain something, please be complete, and show your work. Otherwise, even if you get the right answer, you will get ZERO (that’s 0, zip, nada, rien, nothing) points. Think your answer through and do a rough draft. Students (and professionals, actually) often overlook this, but it is vital. Write clearly and cogently. If the question asks for an opinion, state your opinion clearly, justify it, and don’t ramble. Answers that start, “My opinion is yes …” and conclude with “… on the other hand it could equally well be no” won’t get much credit.

Asking For Help

We do not mind being asked for help; indeed, we welcome it because it helps us know what you are finding difficult or confusing, and sometimes a few words about the problem in class will clarify the assignment immensely for everyone. Your questions may also point out ambiguities that we didn’t think of, so the more questions you ask, the better for everyone!

Before asking for help (except for questions about what the problem is asking), please be sure that you have:

When you come to us, or send us a note, asking for help, please describe whatever you have done to solve the problem, because the first question we will ask you is “What have you tried to solve the problem?” This isn’t because we think you’re wasting our time; it’s because understanding how you have tried to solve the problem will help us figure out exactly what your difficulty is and what we can do to help you. Remember, we will do everything we can to avoid solving the problem for you; when we give you help, our goal is to help you solve the problem yourself.

Don’t Delay!

We must emphasize the importance of taking time to think through, outline, and draft your answer, thoroughly. More points are lost through unclear organization, or superficial answers, than anything else. So do think both your answer and your expression of the answer through, and---as always---try to find the simplest way to solve the problem (within the limits given in the assignment, of course)!

Do not leave assignments for the last minute. The assignments are non-trivial and will require significant time before you write your answers for submission. When we decide on the due dates, we assume you will spend significant amounts of time solving (at least some) of the problems. If you choose not to do this, you will have difficulty finishing the assignments on time.


We will post your score, and our comments, to the assignment area in SmartSite when the homework assignment is graded.

Extra Credit

Extra credit in this course will be tallied separately from regular scores. If you end up on a borderline between two grades at the end of the course, extra credit will count in your favor. However, failure to do extra credit will never be counted against you, because grades are assigned on the basis of regular scores. You should do extra credit if you find it interesting and think that it might teach you something. Remember, though, it is not wise to skimp on the regular assignment in order to do extra credit!

Late Homework

You can turn in your homework up to one class period late (unless the assignment says otherwise). If you turn it in late, we will grade it normally, and then deduct 20\

Grade Appeals

If you feel that there is an error in grading, please come see me and I will look over it (and possibly talk with you about it). However, don’t dally; you must make any such request within one week of when the grades were made available. After that, I may refuse to even look at it.

You can also obtain a PDF version of this. Version of September 26, 2013 at 8:41AM