MIT’s Free Algorithms Track

MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has published a free set of three undergraduate level Algorithms classes that I recommend to the readers of this blog. These are links to the three classes in the order that they should be taken.

Mathematics for Computer Science (Spring 2015)

Introduction to Algorithms (Fall 2011)

Design and Analysis of Algorithms (Spring 2015)

I took the 2010 version of the Mathematics for Computer Science class and I am almost done with the Introduction to Algorithms class. I am considering taking the third class next. I want to use this post to explain why I recommend this set of three classes.

All three of these classes have video lectures. These classes are part of a massive collection of free educational information that MIT publishes on its OCW or Open Courseware web site: I have focused on the Computer Science classes out of the many available. But only certain classes contain video. For example, the Database Systems class does not have video. It does have free lecture notes and other content that has real value, but the Algorithms track has three classes in a row with video and that makes them especially valuable.

In addition to the video content all three classes have valuable static content such as lecture notes. The Mathematics for Computer Science class has a free online textbook. It looks like the 2015 version has all kinds of interesting extra content that was not in the 2010 class that I took, and I thought the 2010 class was great. The last two classes have solutions to the problem sets, quizes, and exams which is great when you are studying this on your own.

The Introduction to Algorithms and Design and Analysis of Algorithms classes have a highly regarded standard Algorithms textbook for their readings. It is Introduction to Algorithms, 3rd Edition by by Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest, Clifford Stein. This textbook is commonly referred to as CLRS and seems to be the standard textbook for people who are serious about Algorithms.

The price is right. All three of these classes are free. I did buy CLRS, or actually I got it as a present, so my wife’s parents bought it, but $65 is a worthwhile investment especially since it is the text for two of the three classes and a valuable reference afterwards. The first class is completely free since it has a free text book included. The three classes represent thousands of dollars’ worth of educational material for free.

These classes are not easy. I do not claim to have mastered this material. It is hard to really discipline yourself to study for a class by yourself without grades and deadlines and others to talk to about it. But I have learned a lot from the two classes that I have worked through. I am a little afraid to take on the third class which is the intermediate level Algorithms class. Yikes! But even if I struggle to fully grasp every assignment, I am learning something. Some of it is a reminder of things I learned long ago in college, but many things are new. So, I do not mind the classes being hard. Better hard than too easy.

So, if you want to learn about Algorithms this three-class sequence is a great way to go. But, why would readers of this blog want to study this subject? In my opinion, Algorithms is just one area of Computer Science that would be helpful for a database professional to learn. Obviously, it is great to learn about database theory if you work with databases. It is great to learn about other systems topics such as operating systems and compilers since your work uses this type of software. It is great to learn about hardware, software development, etc. I think that many aspects of my Computer Science background from long ago in school have helped me in my database job. So, I do not think that Algorithms is the most important or only thing within CS that a database person needs to know, but I do think that Algorithms is very helpful to database workers.

I think that all of the main topics within CS that a database person would want are covered on the list of OCW EE and CS classes. But it seems that Algorithms is unique in that it has a very nice three class sequence that is so fully developed with video and the other resources that I mentioned. Maybe there are other areas that I missed, but I know that Algorithms is well covered by OCW. So, that is why I am singling out this three-class sequence in this blog post. I believe that it is an especially well covered topic within Computer Science that is useful to database professionals and available for free. So, check it out!


About Bobby

I live in Chandler, Arizona with my wife and three daughters. I work for US Foods, the second largest food distribution company in the United States. I have worked in the Information Technology field since 1989. I have a passion for Oracle database performance tuning because I enjoy challenging technical problems that require an understanding of computer science. I enjoy communicating with people about my work.
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