Use graphs, visualizations, and examples to help make seemingly ‘ill-defined’ topics like Big-O feel more concrete.

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  • Students, especially those with backgrounds in math, are often uncomfortable with the seemingly ‘arbitrary’ dropping of constants and lower-order terms in Big-O runtime analyses. Some students will understand this better after viewing runtime graphs.
  • It may be helpful for students to avoid introducing simplification of Big-O expressions until after students have intuition about it.
  • When viewing math-like definitions of Big-O, students often want to treat the topics like mathematical expressions, and this can be a hard habit to break.
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Interview with John Dougherty

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