Cruel and Unusual?
November 4, 2011, 5:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Below is the last problem on a midterm for my graduate algorithms class.  A few years ago, I started creating problems for this class that were based on (simplifications of) research problems.  There’s a subset of the students that really like these problems and do well on them, but I worry sometimes that they hurt the students who are struggling in the class.  I’m curious if others assign these types of problems for general graduate classes?

midterm problem


2 Comments so far
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it is a perfectly reasonable homework question. the reality of whether or not it is reasonable for a midterm is determined simply by checking to see how far your students got. depending upon the school and students, perhaps it’s reasonable. i’d be interested in any group where half of the students did okay on the problem and aced the rest of the exam. my guess is that it’s too hard to solve in 10-20 minutes (which i’m guessing is the amount of time left after working on the rest of the exam).


Comment by steve uurtamo


It was a take home exam so the students had several days to work on it. I’d say that roughly a third of the students got most of the problem and maybe a bit more than a half got the first three parts. I guess there is a more fundamental question here about how hard can an exam problem be for the class. I usually have at least 1 or 2 problems that I expect less than 1/3 of the class to get, but there is no deep reason for my doing this – maybe just to try to keep the very strong students on their toes. I’m willing to hear an argument that this is wrong…


Comment by Jared

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