CS 4424a/9556a: Foundations of Computational Algebra

Course information

Lectures: MC-105B, Wednesday, 9:30am - 12:30am
Office Hours: MC415, Tuesday, 9:30am - 11:30am

Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you will be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.

Instructor information

Éric Schost, Computer Science Department


Symbolic computation develops algorithms to manipulate mathematical objects (numbers, matrices, polynomials, ...) formally. This course provides an overview of a few fundamental aspects, with an emphasis on the design of fast algorithms, and the study of their complexity. Explicitly, we will discuss

Course materials

The course's textbook is Modern Computer Algebra, by Joachim von zur Gathen and Jürgen Gerhard.
Lecture notes will appear here as well.

Student evaluation

Grades will be based on Schedule On assignments

All assignments will be made available here, on the course's web page. The availability of assignments will be announced in class. Students are responsible for checking their e-mail on a regular basis. Assignments must be handed in class.

If for any reason the assignment schedules cannot be adhered to, the assignment marks will be pro-rated.

Midterm exam

No electronic device will be allowed during the Midterm exam. Books and notes will be allowed. There will be no makeup Midterm exam, except for students requesting a Special Midterm exam for religious reasons. These students must have notified the course instructor and filed documentation with their Dean's office at least 2 weeks prior to the Midterm exam.

If you miss the Midterm exam for any other reason, and present valid documentation to the Dean's office, your Final exam mark will be reweighted to include the weight of the Midterm exam. You must notify the course instructor within a week of the missed Midterm exam, and documentation must be received by your Dean's office within 2 weeks of the missed exam.


You will pick a project from a list I will provide, or come up with a personal one. If you want to work on a project not in the list, it will be subject to my approval. The projects are individual, but I have no objection to several students picking the same project, as long as they work individually.

The projects will be oriented towards litterature review. You will read one paper; you will have to explain their content in your own words. When the papers are long, I mostly want you to understand and extract the main ideas, and present them by yourself; you must coordinate with me to decide what part of the paper to focus on.

You are to submit a written report of about 5 to 15 pages (quality matters, not quantity), and give a presentation, followed by questions.

Accessibility Statement

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 661-2111 x 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.

Ethical Conduct

Scholastic offences are taken seriously and students are directed to read the appropriate policy, specifically, the definition of what constitutes a Scholastic Offence, at the following web site: http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/handbook/appeals/scholastic_discipline_undergrad.pdf.

Plagiarism: Students must write their assignments in their own words. Whenever students take an idea, or a passage from another author, they must acknowledge their debt both by using quotation marks where appropriate and by proper referencing such as footnotes or citations. Plagiarism is a major academic offence.

All assignments are individual assignments. You may discuss approaches to problems among yourselves; however, the actual details of the work (assignment coding, answers to concept questions, etc.) must be an individual effort.

The standard departmental penalty for assignments that are judged to be the result of academic dishonesty is, for the student's first offence, a mark of zero for the assignment, with an additional penalty equal to the weight of the assignment also being applied. You are responsible for reading and respecting the Computer Science Department's policy on Scholastic Offences and Rules of Ethical Conduct.

The University of Western Ontario uses software for plagiarism checking. Students may be required to submit their written work and programs in electronic form for plagiarism checking.

Computing facilities

Each student will be given an account on the Computer Science Department senior undergraduate computing facility, GAUL. In accepting the GAUL account, a student agrees to abide by the department's Rules of Ethical Conduct .

Email contact

We will occasionally need to send email messages to the whole class, or to students individually. Email will be sent to the UWO email address assigned to students by Information Technology Services (ITS), i.e. your email address @uwo.ca. It is each student's responsibility to read this email on a frequent and regular basis, or to have it forwarded to an alternative email address if preferred. See the ITS website for directions on forwarding email.

However, note that email at ITS (your UWO account) and other email providers such as hotmail.com or yahoo.com establish quotas or limits on the amount of space available to you. If you let your email accumulate there, your mailbox may fill up and you may lose important email from your instructors. Losing email is not an acceptable excuse for not knowing about the information that was sent.

Academic accommodation for medical illness

If you are unable to meet a course requirement due to illness or other serious circumstances, you must provide valid medical or other supporting documentation to your Dean's office as soon as possible and contact your instructor immediately. It is the student's responsibility to make alternative arrangements with their instructor once the accommodation has been approved and the instructor has been informed. In the event of a missed exam, a "Recommendation of Special Examination" form must be obtained from the Dean's Office immediately. For further information, see this document.

A student requiring academic accommodation due to illness should use the Student Medical Certificate when visiting an off-campus medical facility or request a Record's Release Form (located in the Dean's Office) for visits to Student Health Services. The form can be found here.

Students who are in emotional/mental distress should refer to Mental Health@Western (http://www.uwo.ca/uwocom/mentalhealth/) for a complete list of options about how to obtain help.