Sign up ×
Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I find it hard to achieve true understanding reading theoretic computer science books. In particular, I struggle with symbolic notations and proofs. After spending a very long time perusing all the pages, I find that I still struggle with the very basic concepts when doing exercise problems. What's a good process to really understand the concepts being communicated in the books?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

You don't state what level of TCS problems you're dealing with or what books you're reading.

There are several incredibly bad textbooks in the field of TCS. Maybe you should look for alternatives which may provide better intuitive explanations, rather than just symbolic proofs. Or maybe you should back down for a while and go back to studying the basics if you haven't grasped them yet.

Other ideas:

  • Use TeX to write a summary of the stuff yourself. That will impress your peers, and you will learn a lot while doing it.
  • Engage with the Wikipedia community and try to improve the related TCS articles. That will give you a whole lot of new insights.
  • Discuss the problems with your peers and ask for help.
share|improve this answer

I have the same problem. I struggle with the symbols, and that makes it really hard to follow the theorems.

Recently I came across a statistics book at a library which had a list of those symbols and their meaning at the start of the book and while reading I realized something that was so obvious - I should've compiled a similar list and kept it next to me when reading a TCS text. Whenever I come across a symbol I don't recognize/understand, just look it up.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.