6.008 and Department Requirements: an FAQ


Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

6.008 Introduction to Inference
Fall 2014

6.008 and Department Requirements: some FAQs

1. What departmental requirements does 6.008 satisfy?

Students in the 6-2 program may select 6.008 as one of their EE or CS foundation subjects. All EECS students may select 6.008 as one of their math elective or free elective subjects.

2. I am in 6-2: Could I select 6.008 as a foundation subject? What about prerequisites?

Yes, please note that currently there is no EECS header that follows 6.008. This means that in order to take at least one EE header subject as required by the 6-2 program, you must take at least one of 6.002, 6.003 or 6.007 as a foundation subject.

3. I am in 6-2. Could I select 6.004, 6.005, 6.006 and 6.008 as my foundation subjects?

This is a more CS-centric 6-2 program. If you feel that this set of foundation subjects accurately reflects your future plans for header subjects and AUSs, you should consider switching to 6-3. In that case, you could take 6.004, 6.005, 6.006 as foundations and count 6.008 as a math elective or free elective. As the answer to the previous question explains 6-2 students must take at least one of 6.002, 6.003 or 6.007 as your foundation subject to be able to satisfy the 6-2 requirement of at least one EE header.

4. What if I am committed to 6-1 or 6-3? Can I get credit for 6.008?

In this case you can certainly get credit for 6.008 as a math elective (for 6.041 or 6.042) or free elective. You just can’t currently use it to satisfy your foundation requirement.

5. I am 6-3: The degree requirements state that I must select 6.042 as one of my math electives. I also noticed that several subjects require 6.042 as a prerequisite. The 6.008 website states that I can petition to take 6.008 instead of 6.042. What is the purpose of the petition?

The department views 6.008 as an adequate prerequisite for subjects that require 6.042, with one exception: 6.042 introduces students to the concept of precise formal proofs and helps them build skills for constructing proofs. While 6.008 is a mathematically rigorous subject, proofs are not explicitly part of its syllabus. As part of your petition, you will need to make a convincing case that either you already have had sufficient exposure to proofs (by telling us where you learned about the concept and how rigorous your training was) or that you are committed to and capable of learning the concept on your own before you take more advanced subjects that require 6.042 as a prerequisite. Note that the subsequent subjects will make no allowances for students who took 6.008 instead of 6.042 and will assume that all students are familiar with proofs. If you have questions about this, or are unsure if your background in proofs is adequate, we will be happy to meet and help you understand if this is the right path for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us! Please also note that you must file the petition and get it approved before the add date in Fall 2014.

6. Most of our foundation subjects lead to more advanced subjects in the curriculum. Is this the case for 6.008?

Indeed it is. A new header-level course 6.036 Introduction to Machine Learning was introduced in Spring 2013 and can serve as a CS header subject instead of 6.034. While 6.036 does not currently require 6.008, the two courses form a natural sequence building up to more advanced subjects in inference and machine learning, including 6.437, 6.438, and 6.867. The final structure of the subject sequence is being currently discussed in the department and will be likely finalized in the next year.

7. I am not in Course 6. Can I take this subject?

Of course! This subject is for anyone at MIT who wants an introduction to the fundamentals of inference.

8. Will 6.008 have labs like some of the other foundation subjects?

No, the subject will not have traditional labs. It will be problem set based. However, computational aspects of inference are an important aspect of the subject, and thus problem sets will consist of a combination of analytical and computational exercises to reinforce the material from class.

9. With my schedule, I am not sure if I will be able to take this offering of 6.008. On what schedule will this subject be offered in future years?

The plan is to offer the subject once per year for the next couple of years while it gets up to speed. In the longer term, we anticipate the course being offered each term.

10. I have not taken the official prerequisite 6.01, but I notice that students without this subject can take 6.008 with permission of the instructors. What kind of background is expected?

We will assume that students in the class have had at least a brief introduction to probability and random variables in a prior subject. For example, 6.01 provides a roughly two-week introduction to such material. This will be our starting point. In the first week of classes we will hand out a brief diagnostic problem set that will help remind students what we want them to remember from 6.01 if they took it, or otherwise help students assess their background for 6.008.