Discrete Mathematics

Generating PDFs

We are finding many of the assignment submissions for PS1 and PS2 are barely readable. When it is hard for the graders to read your answers, you will get less useful feedback on your submission. We are not intentionally down-grading work that is hard to read, but you will lose the benefit-of-the-doubt for answers that are too hard to read, and it also makes a bad impression when your work is presented in a way that looks careless.

We provide some advice below on how to generate a readable PDF to submit. Please review what you are submitting before submitting it to make sure that it will not cause the graders headaches attempting to discern your answers from it.

We’ve been forgiving on PS1 and PS2, but from PS3 on will be expecting everyone to follow the directions well and generate readable submissions, and will refuse to grade unreadable submissions.

One Submission per Team, with Everyone’s Name and ID

Each team that works together should submit exactly one assignment, and it should have each team member’s name and email ID clearly at the top of it. When you neglect to do this, it causes a lot of extra trouble for us.

PDF files only

Your submission must be a single, PDF file. We will not grade Word documents, images, or other formats. We do make two exceptions: entertaining videos and cakes. (If your answers are in the form of a cake, it make not be possible to submit it through collab, but you can drop it off in person.)

Ways to Generate Good PDFs

There are three ways to generate reasonable PDFs to submit: (1) use a mathematical typesetting tool, (2) use a scanner that scans to PDF files, or (3) use a camera. If you use a scanner or a camera, the page you are scanning has to be readable to begin with, and you have to scan it well. It is best to write on only one side of the paper, since often the writing from the back side bleeds through in the scan or image.

The most difficult to read submissions are when people use their mobile phone camera to take a picture of handwritten paper, and then put the image into a Word document without any filtering or processing. This is not a way to make a readable PDF, and its not fair to expect graders to deal with that type of document.

There are ways to generate readable PDFs using your mobile phone camera. One tool that works for this is CamScanner (available as a free app for limited use, for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone). There are lots of other scanning apps that should work - see The best scanning apps for Android and iPhone. Please look at the file you have generated before submitting it. If you are not able to generate a readable PDF using your phone, you should use a scanner. There are public scanner to use in some of the UVA libraries including in Clemons Library.

Mathematical Typesetting

More ambitious, forward-thinking, aesthetically-minded, or handwriting-averse students will prefer to use a system that generates PDFs directly. The system used for nearly all technical typesetting is LaTeX (which was started by Leslie Lamport who won the Turing Award in 2013, and builds on the TeX typesetting program created by Donald Knuth, who won the Turing Award in 1974; neither of the awards were for work on typesetting). (Word and Google Docs do include equation editors, and you are welcome to use these if you want for cs2102. But, anyone doing serious mathematics quickly finds that these gui-type equation editors are both painfully slow and not able to generate good output. So, I don’t recommend using them unless you already know how and are happy with this.)

LaTeX has a fairly steep learning curve, but there are lots of tools available now to make it easier to get started. ShareLaTeX is a web-based, multi-user LaTeX editor; TeXnicCenter is a LaTeX editor for Windows; and texpad is available for Mac and iOS.

If you are expecting to take further math and CS courses, it is worth learning to use this to produce documents efficiently. Some later CS courses required submissions to be typeset using LaTeX (depending on whom is teaching them, this is sometimes the case for CS3102 and CS4102), and nearly all research papers are written this way. You are not required to produce beautifully-typeset problem sets for CS2102 and shouldn’t spend inordinate extra time just trying to make your answers look great, but we will definitely appreciate your efforts to make submissions easier to read, and after a small effort in getting started with LaTeX, you may find that it takes less time than hand-writing (especially since it is easy to edit, instead of needing to rewrite).