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The syllabus below is a generic template for CDS 130. Instructor- and section-specific information (schedule, grading policy, announcements, etc.) may be found on your Instructor's page.


  1. Brief Description
  2. Description
  3. Prerequisites
  4. Text
  5. Topics
  6. Grading
  7. Honor Code
  8. Software
  9. Schedule
  10. General Education
  11. IT Requirement
  12. Student Resources
    1. Email
    2. Disability
    3. Writing
    4. Ask a librarian
    5. Psychological Services
    6. University Policies
    7. You read this far

1. Brief Description

In this course, students will learn how to use computers to solve practical scientific problems. See the #Topics section of this syllabus for a list of specific topics.

2. Description

In this course, students learn to use a computer to solve scientific problems. No prior programming experience is required; an intuitive step-by-step approach is taken. Students

  • Learn how a computer works internally;
  • Learn basic programming concepts including assignment, conditional statements, iteration, arrays, and matrices;
  • Use these programming concepts to develop simple simulations and implement models and algorithms using MATLAB;
  • Develop and implement algorithms that solve problems encountered frequently in scientific computing involving image processing, pattern recognition, and numerical integration;
  • Understand the importance and use of verification and validation;
  • Understand several important concepts related to IT security and Ethics; and
  • Use on-line scientific collaboration tools to work on group projects and contribute to class discussions.

3. Prerequisites

C or better in MATH 104, Trigonometry and Transcendental Functions, or MATH 105, Precalculus Mathematics, or passing score on the math placement test for MATH 110 or MATH 113.

4. Text

None - no suitable textbook exists for this course. On-line notes and web-based content (including tutorial videos) will be used to supplement the lectures and in-class assignments. Feedback on past student evaluations has indicated that these materials were sufficient for success in this course and for understanding the material.

Several students have asked for books to read in order to prepare for class before the semester starts.

  • The following textbooks cover many of the topics in CDS 130, but require a much higher background in math
    • Introduction to Computational Science [4]
    • Insight Through Computing [5]

5. Topics

Topics covered in this course by category. Objective numbers given in parenthesis indicate the learning outcome(s) that the topic meets in #IT_Requirement. Each topic category heading includes in parenthesis the general category that the topic falls into among Computing, IT, and Science.

(Red links are pages that are under development and have not been posted.)

6. Grading

See your instructor's syllabus

7. Honor Code

Your instructor enforces the honor code [6]:

Student members of the George Mason University community pledge not to cheat, plagiarize, steal, or lie in matters related to academic work.

For more information see

The following paragraph was extracted from the document 2014_SYLLABUS_LANGUAGE.pdf attached to an email sent by the Provost.

Mason is an Honor Code university; please see the University Catalog for a full description of the code and the honor committee process. The principle of academic integrity is taken very seriously and violations are treated gravely. What does academic integrity mean in this course? Essentially this: when you are responsible for a task, you will perform that task. When you rely on someone else’s work in an aspect of the performance of that task, you will give full credit in the proper, accepted form. Another aspect of academic integrity is the free play of ideas. Vigorous discussion and debate are encouraged in this course, with the firm expectation that all aspects of the class will be conducted with civility and respect for differing ideas, perspectives, and traditions. When in doubt (of any kind) please ask for guidance and clarification. In addition, you may not copy any text, computer code, image, data or any other material from the Internet or any other source and represent it as your own. Any material that is taken in whole or in part from any other source (including web-pages) that is not properly cited will be treated as a violation of Mason's academic honor code and will be submitted to the honor committee for adjudication, as will other violations of the honor code.

8. Software

Either MATLAB [7] or Octave [8] will be used, depending on instructor. Students may access and use MATLAB without charge either on campus or from any computer with an internet connection. Octave may be installed on your personal computer for free, but is not available in any of Mason's computer labs (see Introduction_To_Octave for installation instructions). A $109-dollar student version of MATLAB may be purchased at Patriot Computers [9] and installed on your personal computer.

9. Schedule

See your instructor's page.

10. General Education

This is a general education course. From: [10]

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” — this ringing phrase from the Declaration of Independence makes a fine statement about the ideals of General Education (or, as it is more classically called, liberal education) as we strive to articulate it at George Mason. Let’s take the three parts of Thomas Jefferson’s affirmation of humanity’s “unalienable rights” and see how they apply to the goals of a general, or liberal, education.
A liberal education prepares us for life’s unpredictable, fascinating journey. One sobering truth about formal learning is that no matter how many courses we take or degrees we earn, we can’t master every skill and possess every piece of knowledge that we need to succeed in a dynamic world. A liberal education proposes that the highest value of the college experience is the development of our ability to continue learning, adapting, creating, and responding to an ever-changing society and career environment. A liberal education is the most practical of all, because it never goes out of date; the habits of mind it fosters help us to stay current with our careers and the life of our times.
A liberal education takes its name from this part of Jefferson’s phrase; the root word for both the concept we so cherish and the education we practice is the Latin liber, meaning “free.” So this kind of education is meant to increase our freedom—of thought and action, from prejudice and ignorance. It is the foundation stone of citizenship as Jefferson and his contemporaries envisioned that notion, a liberty built on rights, responsibilities, and respect for differences. A liberally educated person feels free to seek knowledge and wisdom from across the whole spectrum of human experience—free to challenge the assumptions of the past (and also, after critical consideration, to accept them).
The liberal arts tradition provides its participants with tools for the pursuit of a happier, more engaged, more fulfilled life by putting ideals into action. The definition of happiness is personal; for some, an appreciation of “the best that has been thought and said”—or composed, constructed, painted, danced, or acted—is a necessary condition for happiness. For others, it might be an understanding of the wonder of the natural universe, the ever-changing ability of humans to create marvelous new inventions, or the complexities of the social fabric in an increasingly borderless world. For still others, it is a call to serve the community and the world in large and small ways, acting for the betterment of humanity. For most, it is some combination of the above. No matter the specifics: a liberal education offers the joy of discovery and the satisfaction of engagement with the largest questions of our time—and all time.
At Mason, we have created several ways to experience the excitement and gain the benefits of liberal education: the University General Education program; the New Century College Cornerstones; and, for a small group of outstanding students, the Honors College. Though their approaches are very different, as befits the creative spirit and diverse nature of our University, they are united in their commitment to the ideals of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

11. IT Requirement

This course fulfills the University's General Education "Information Technology with Ethics" requirement. These guidelines are copied below.

Guidelines and student learning outcomes for the IT requirement

Information Technology

Almost no area of academic, professional, or personal life is untouched by the information technology revolution. Success in college and beyond requires computer and information literacies that are flexible enough to change with a changing IT environment and adaptable to new problems and tasks.

The purpose of the information technology requirement is to ensure that students achieve an essential understanding of information technology infrastructure encompassing systems and devices; learn to make the most of the Web and other network resources; protect their digital data and devices; take advantage of latest technologies; and become more sophisticated technology users and consumers.

Courses meeting the “IT only” requirement must address learning outcomes 1 and 2, and one additional outcome. Courses meeting “IT with Ethics component” must address outcomes 1, 2, 3, and 5. Courses meeting the only IT Ethics component must address outcomes 3 and 5.

  1. Students will be able to use technology to locate, access, evaluate, and use information, and appropriately cite resources from digital/electronic media.
  2. Students will understand the core IT concepts in a range of current and emerging technologies and learn to apply appropriate technologies to a range of tasks.
  3. Students will understand many of the key ethical, legal and social issues related to information technology and how to interpret and comply with ethical principles, laws, regulations, and institutional policies.
  4. Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate, create, and collaborate effectively using state-of-the-art information technologies in multiple modalities.
  5. Students will understand the essential issues related to information security, how to take precautions and use techniques and tools to defend against computer crimes.

12. Student Resources

12.1. Email

Students must use their MasonLIVE email account to receive important University information, including messages related to this class. See for more information.

12.2. Disability

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) at 993-2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through the ODS.

12.3. Writing

Mason's Writing Center is in A114 Robinson Hall; (703) 993-1200;

12.4. Ask a librarian

12.5. Psychological Services

Mason's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): (703) 993-2380;

12.6. University Policies

The University Catalog,, is the central resource for university policies affecting student, faculty, and staff conduct in university academic affairs. Other policies are available at All members of the university community are responsible for knowing and following established policies.

12.7. You read this far


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