Discovering Computer Science : Interdisciplinary Problems, Principles, and Python Programming book cover
1st Edition

Discovering Computer Science
Interdisciplinary Problems, Principles, and Python Programming

ISBN 9781315381756
Published July 6, 2016 by Chapman and Hall/CRC
750 Pages 242 Color Illustrations

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Book Description

Discovering Computer Science: Interdisciplinary Problems, Principles, and Python Programming introduces computational problem solving as a vehicle of discovery in a wide variety of disciplines. With a principles-oriented introduction to computational thinking, the text provides a broader and deeper introduction to computer science than typical introductory programming books.

Organized around interdisciplinary problem domains, rather than programming language features, each chapter guides students through increasingly sophisticated algorithmic and programming techniques. The author uses a spiral approach to introduce Python language features in increasingly complex contexts as the book progresses.

The text places programming in the context of fundamental computer science principles, such as abstraction, efficiency, and algorithmic techniques, and offers overviews of fundamental topics that are traditionally put off until later courses.

The book includes thirty well-developed independent projects that encourage students to explore questions across disciplinary boundaries. Each is motivated by a problem that students can investigate by developing algorithms and implementing them as Python programs.

The book's accompanying website — — includes sample code and data files, pointers for further exploration, errata, and links to Python language references.

Containing over 600 homework exercises and over 300 integrated reflection questions, this textbook is appropriate for a first computer science course for computer science majors, an introductory scientific computing course or, at a slower pace, any introductory computer science course.

Table of Contents

What is Computation?
Problems and Abstraction
Algorithms and Programs
Efficient Algorithms
Computers Are Dumb
Further Discovery

Elementary Computations
Welcome to the Circus
What’s In a Name?
Using Functions
Binary Arithmetic
Further Discovery

Visualizing Abstraction
Data Abstraction
Visualization with Turtles
Functional Abstraction
Programming in Style
A Return to Functions
Scope and Namespaces
Further Discovery

Growth and Decay
Discrete Models
Visualizing Population Changes
Conditional Iteration
Continuous Models
Numerical Analysis
Summing Up
Further Discovery

Forks in the Road
Random Walks
Pseudorandom Number Generators
Simulating Probability Distributions
Back to Booleans
A Guessing Game
Further Discovery

Text, Documents, and DNA
Counting words
Text Documents
Encoding Strings
Lineartime Algorithms
Analyzing Text
Comparing Texts
Further Discovery

Designing Programs
How to Solve It
Design by Contract
Further Discovery

Data Analysis
Summarizing Data
Creating and Modifying Lists
Frequencies, Modes, and Histograms
Reading Tabular Data
Designing Efficient Algorithms
Linear Regression
Data Clustering
Further Discovery

Two-Dimensional Data
The Game of Life
Digital Images
Further Discovery

Self-Similarity and Recursion
Recursion and Iteration
The Mythical Tower of Hanoi
Recursive Linear Search
Divide and Conquer
Lindenmayer Systems
Further Discovery

Organizing Data
Binary Search
Selection Sort
Insertion Sort
Efficient Sorting
Tractable and Intractable Algorithms
Further Discovery

Modeling with Graphs
Shortest Paths
It’s A Small World
Random Graphs
Further Discovery

Abstract Data Types
Designing Classes
Operators and Special Methods
A Flocking Simulation
A Stack ADT
A Dictionary ADT
Further Discovery

Appendix A: Installing Python
An Integrated Distribution
Manual Installation

Appendix B: Python Library Reference
Math Module
Turtle Methods
Screen Methods
Matplotlib.Pyplot Module
Random Module
String Methods
List Methods
Image Module
Special Methods



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Jessen Havill is a professor of computer science and the Benjamin Barney Chair of Mathematics at Denison University, where he has been on the faculty since 1998. Dr. Havill teaches courses across the computer science curriculum, as well as an interdisciplinary elective in computational biology. He was awarded the college's highest teaching honor, the Charles A. Brickman Teaching Excellence Award, in 2013.

Dr. Havill is also an active researcher, with a primary interest in the development and analysis of online algorithms. In addition, he has collaborated with colleagues in biology and geosciences to develop computational tools to support research and teaching in those fields. Dr. Havill earned his bachelor's degree from Bucknell University and his Ph.D. in computer science from The College of William and Mary.


"Havill’s book introduces computer science in a very unique and effective way. The book discusses fundamental computer science concepts such as abstraction, repetition, condition, and recursion through real-world problems such as personal finance, population growth, DNA sequence, and earthquake analysis. The book is designed for a CS 1 course for majors, a CS 0 course for nonmajors with omissions, or a basic computing course for natural or social sciences students. Traditional introductory computer science content is well covered, though in a different way compared to most other introductory books. Most other introductory CS books would arrange the topics either around features of programming such as objects, variables, repetitions, conditions, and functions, or around data structures or algorithms such as list, array, graph, search, and sorting. Havill’s book presents readers with the same content using topics of real-world problems as a road map. ... For each problem studied, the author provides ample details in fine language so students can follow the discussions easily. Plenty of "Reflections" are presented throughout the discussions that inspire students to think deeper and synthesize what they just learned. ... The book is best suited for computer science majors, or students from natural sciences or social sciences. It requires a certain level of maturity with mathematics. With careful choices of omission by the instructor, students of other majors can definitely benefit from the book as well, as the author points out in the preface."
ACM Computing Reviews, February 3, 2016

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