MATH 108: Introduction to Combinatorics and its Applications

Stanford University, Winter 2016

Lectures: Mon/Wed/Fri 1:30 - 2:20 PM, room 308W
Instructors: Persi Diaconis, Jan Vondrak (
Course Assistant: Ben Bond (
Office hours:
Persi: Tuesday 2:30-4:40 (383-D)
Jan: Friday 3-4 (383-J)
Ben: Sunday 3-5 (380-T)

Course description: This is an introductory course in combinatorics. Tentative list of topics: Complete syllabus here.

Midterm exam: The midterm is closed book (one 3" x 5" card of notes allowed). It is Monday, Feb 8 from 5:00-7:00 pm in room 380-Y.
Information about the midterm and sample questions.

Prerequisites: Linear algebra and calculus (Math 51).

Reading material: While much of the material we will cover is in this book, much isn't. We expect you to come to class and take your own notes. One of the lectures will be a Q&A session with Don Knuth.

Some additional material:
Homework: Weekly sets of 4 problems each, due in class on Monday (or the first class day of the week). We will post them gradually right here: Many problems are taken from Knuth's book which has hints/solutions in the back. Feel free to consult these if needed.
Please try to write out complete arguments, using full sentences in a way that we can read them.

If you don't have experience with rigorous proofs, here is a nice essay on how to construct proofs and write them down properly.

Course project: The course project consists of two parts. You have to choose a project from a list of topics we will give out. This will be a section of the book that we haven't covered. You have to delve in, figure it out in your own language and go beyond what is there in some way (check out some of the references, work out special cases, put in the details where the author says "it is obvious", find a mistake, take the result in a new direction, detailed notes will follow). A 3-5 page project description is due in class Friday, Feb 12. The project itself (a 10-15 page paper) is due at the time of the final exam for the course (March 14).

Here is more information about the course project with some suggested topics.