Table of contents

  1. Course Info
  2. Realistic Prerequisites
  3. Subject Matter
  4. Course Staff
  5. Lectures
  6. Problem Sets
  7. Exams
  8. Resources
  9. Grading
  10. Advice to Future Students

Course Info

Class Size 18
Hours/Week 7.1 (10 responses)
Instructors William Franks (Lecturer)
# of Responses to Course 18 Underground Questions 8/18

Realistic Prerequisites

  • Students recommend having some familiarity with algorithms (e.g. 6.006, 6.046) and proof-based discrete math (e.g. 18.200).
  • Basic knowledge of linear algebra, graph theory, and big-O notation/runtimes is very helpful.

Subject Matter

  • Foundational and mostly theoretical but with many useful applications, some of which are pointed out on psets.
  • Students found the course content somewhat broad but still able to be tied together.

Course Staff

  • Students found the instructor and TA to be very approachable, accommodating, and considerate.
  • “Cole is a very caring instructor and will happily make time to help you - he is very accessible. And the TA (Alexey) was great too!”


  • Most students found the lectures to be very useful for understanding the course material and seeing illustrative examples.
  • Pacing was sometimes too fast, especially for more difficult proofs.
  • “Lectures are good - Cole is always willing to slow down and go back over something to make sure that everyone is understanding the material. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the lectures!”

Problem Sets

  • Students found the biweekly problem sets to be fun and doable and felt well-prepared by the lectures.


  • Most students found the exams to be not too stressful and generally easier than the psets.
  • Reviewing lecture notes and taking practice quizzes was helpful.
  • There was adequate time for the exams.


  • There is a set of thorough typed notes written by Prof. Goemans from a previous semester. These are accompanied by handwritten notes presented during class.
  • Students found both sets of notes very helpful.


  • Grading was fair and transparent, with comments on Gradescope and posted solutions.
  • Some students felt the midterm (25%) and final (35%) were too heavily weighted.

Advice to Future Students

  1. “I really loved the content of the course. Definitely take it if you know that you like combinatorics.”
  2. “Please make generous use of the office hours, not just for pset help but to explore anything else you might be wondering about as well. Combinatorial optimization is such a rich topic, and you definitely want to make sure you get the most out of the class!”