Customer Review

246 of 263 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Magisterial, and impenetrable, August 29, 2011
This review is from: Introduction to Algorithms, 3rd Edition (Hardcover)
I'm a professor of Computer Science at a respected teaching university, and have been the principal instructor of our introductory algorithms class for the past several years. I used Cormen (doesn't *everyone*?) for a year or two, but have finally relegated it to recommended-text status.

On the plus side, the text is, as my review title says, magisterial. It covers the field comprehensively and authoritatively. When one of the authors is the "R" in RSA, and others are well-known names, you can count on the text's expertise and accuracy. I've never found an error in this text.

BUT.... The pedagogy needs work. Explanations tend to jump too quickly to pure mathematical notation, and there are often insufficient concrete examples. The pseudocode has one-letter variable names that appear at times to be randomly generated :). At least the latest edition fixes what was a baffling indentation style. If you took a sample of 100 CS undergrads and asked them to learn algorithms principally from this text, I'd venture a guess that only the 10 brightest could do so. And even they'd be baffled at times.

I apologize for having to offer such an "emperor is naked" review to such a highly respected work, but it's time to consider more carefully pedagogical texts in the undergrad market.
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Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 24, 2011 6:11:43 AM PST
Such as?

Posted on Feb 27, 2013 5:06:51 AM PST
Z Konyves says:
Any alternatives?

Posted on Aug 14, 2013 7:45:50 PM PDT
Leo Picado says:
I'm very interested in getting more into algorithms, so I'd also like to get a recommendation of a more entry-level text book on the matter.

Posted on Sep 14, 2013 10:54:42 PM PDT
Tejas says:
I had CLRS as a course textbook when I was in college and tbh I didn't get a whole lot out of it. Now, two of years out of college, I recently purchased and started reading Sedgewick's book on algorithms and I've found it to be a lot nicer to read (esp if you're relatively new to the field of computer science). Not to take anything away from CLRS though, It's a great book and I intend to pick it up once again when I'm "ready" for it.

Posted on Sep 24, 2013 4:46:48 PM PDT
Charles A says:
Foundations of Algorithms was written by a professor at a Northeastern Illinois University [NEIU] for students who lack the math background to understand this text. All that is required is an understanding of college algebra and discrete math.

Posted on Feb 28, 2014 7:48:49 PM PST
J P says:
As an undergrad CS student I couldn't agree more!! I'd far rather spend the time it takes to tediously interpret this text, searching google for some simple explanation on Stack Overflow or the like. While the mathy-side of understanding algorithms is certainly useful, the majority of undergrad students will only remember what is required to pass their exams and thenceforth relegate it (and happily) to the spacial bin of lost neurons in the far reaches of their mind.

Posted on Aug 1, 2014 10:56:33 AM PDT
I agree. If you are writing a PhD dissertation this book will be useful. If you want to learn algorithms as an undergrad or for a job interview, it's overkill. I would recommend Algorithms by Robert Sedgewick and Kevin Wayne. It's about 1/4 the length but focuses on the essentials in a way that will be more immediately useful to mere mortals. If you think you need more detail then you can always turn to CLRS as a reference. But in most cases, you don't.

Posted on Sep 7, 2014 12:33:21 AM PDT
Farshid says:
Maybe it's not the right book for most undergrads. Nevertheless, some of the cons that you mentioned are what make this book so special e.g., I love the fact that it chooses concise and precise mathematical definitions and proofs over lengthy, "intuitive" interpretations of the topic. Think of red-black trees for instance; I've seen attempts to explain the insertion algorithm using examples and written text (not pseudocode or mathematical notation, so that students don't freak out!) and at the end most students can't do a single rotation.

Posted on Oct 16, 2014 7:55:08 PM PDT
Tom Hunter says:
Thank you. On my desk I have the following books that I have read:

"Data Structures & Algorithms in Java" by Lafore
"Algorithms" by Sedgewick
"Programming Pearls" by Bentley
"Advanced Data Structures" by Brass.

Every one of these books is easier to understand than is Cormen. I am baffled that there are CS instructors who believe that Cormen is the first choice--it's not. I'm glad I have it to study and I'm also glad that it wasn't my first exposure to these topics.

Posted on Nov 13, 2014 4:04:44 PM PST
Hey Staley I think it is a fantastic book though sometimes is hard to understand :)

Btw Coming back from a pause
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