Syllabus 2011

PPOL225/SOC125 Modeling and Simulation in Social and Policy Sciences
Mills College Spring 2011
Instructor: Dan Ryan

Required Books

Stokey & Zeckhauser. 1976. A Primer in Policy Analysis.

Readings in this book will be supplemented and complemented with electronic sources.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE FALL 2011 (check back often)

Week Day Topic
1 Th
2 Tu
W Flowchart Lab
3 Tu
W Lab: Chart Art and Discipline
Project Management Charts (including logic model charts)
4 Tu

Included page "ppol225-syllabus:back-of-the-envelope-calculations" does not exist (create it now)


Included page "ppol225-syllabus:decision-trees" does not exist (create it now)

5 Tu

Included page "ppol225-syllabus:decision-trees" does not exist (create it now)

W Decision Tree Lab 1 and LAB 2

Included page "ppol225-syllabus:decision-trees" does not exist (create it now)

7 Tu
W Linear Programming Lab
8 Tu
W Difference Equations Lab
9 Tu
W Stock and Flow LAB
10 Tu
W Queuing Models LAB
11 Tu
W Markov Lab
12 Tu
W Cost Benefit Analysis Lab
13 Tu
W Discounting Lab
14 Tu OPEN
W Advanced MSWord Formatting Lab
15 Tu OPEN

Course Policies

Attendance As a graduate class, 100% attendance is expected. You are responsible for obtaining from classmates or other sources any materials missed because of absences. Do not contact the instructor with valid excuses. Attendance at lab, in particular, is expected to be 100%; missed labs may result in final grade attenuation at instructor's discretion.

Class Preparation and Assignments You are expected to read, work with, and learn from assigned readings BEFORE the class in which they will be discussed. Do not expect lectures and notes you might take during them to suffice for learning the material. Written assignments are due when they are due without exception. Expect zero credit and zero feedback on any work not submitted by deadlines. Better incorrect and incomplete but on time. Incorrect or incomplete work should still be presented in as professional a manner as possible.

Grading Policy

Your grade for this course will be based on 1) your ability to understand and analyze the various topics and perspectives presented in the readings and during class, and 2) to communicate in writing effectively and with sophistication. Failure to complete all course assignments ON TIME may result in a failing grade. In general, no late papers or make-up work will be permitted. If there is an emergency, an exception to the late policy may be made. In this case, late assignments may be accepted with a grade deduction per day they are late (extreme emergencies excepted).

How will my work be evaluated and graded?

The evaluated work for this course will consist of problem sets, mid-semester exams, and a final exam.

Labs/Problem Sets

There will be problem sets covering material from a section of the course and employing techniques introduced. Grading is based on the degree to which the artifact demonstrates skill competence and professional presentation.

A Excellent exceptionally good; extremely meritorious; superior; of the highest quality; very good of its kind ; eminently good
A- Very Good
B+ Good Having the qualities that are desirable in a particular thing; better than average or satisfactory
B Adequate Satisfies the requirements of the task, acceptable
B- Unsatisfactoryish Falls distinctly short of adequate practice
C Unsatisfactory Not acceptable as demonstration of competence
D Dastardly and Despicable Strongly suggestive competence has not been acquired yet
F Failure Demonstrative of competence nonacquisition


Please keep in mind that grades are not measures of effort, stress, time, or other personally variable factors. They represent an assessment of competence demonstrated in the artifact of problem solutions or answers on an exam.

Final course grades will be translations of semester achievement into the conventional scale:

A = Excellent. The work

  1. consistently demonstrated competence in skills under consideration,
  2. results essentially correct; the final product
  3. communicated clearly what was done, how, and why, and is presented in a
  4. professional manner.

B = Satisfactory. Fundamentally sound as far as demonstration of competence, but falls short on one or more of above criteria.

B- = Weak Satisfactory. Uneven performance or consistently middling performance with significant gaps.

C,D = Unsatisfactory. Unacceptably low achievement.

Keep in mind that the purpose of these exercises is two-fold. First, you are practicing a skill. Second, you are using the exercise as an opportunity to demonstrate your competence and skill.

With the latter in mind you should shift from thinking of it in terms of "what is required?" and "what does the teacher want?" to "what have I learned how to do and how can I demonstrate it?" Everything you submit should be complete and stand on its own as a document, and, as much as is possible at a given point in time, be something one could show around to say "look what I can do."

NEVER submit "naked" answers that presume that some evaluator knows what the question was. Never omit your reasoning. Never assume that the reader, knows something and doesn't need to read it again.


AccessibilityTo request academic accommodations due to a disability, students should contact Services for Students with Disabilities in the Cowell Building. If you have a letter indicating you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so that I will be able to provide the accommodations that you need in this class.


How the Skills-Wiki Works

What to Bring and What You Can Expect to Take Away


  1. Basic algebra/geometry: simplifying equations, solving for unknowns, equation for lines, graphing inequalities
  2. Probability
  3. Beginner level familiarity with Excel and Word
  4. A sense of policy science and policy problems


  1. Mental flexibility associated with model thinking
  2. High level Excel skills, word processing skills for visualization/presentation
  3. Step-wise refinement approach to problem solving
  4. Repertoire of 5-7 fundamental models from among diagrams, decision trees, stock and flow/causal loop, linear programming, difference equations, Markov processes, peer/neighbor effect models, diffusion, cellular automata, cost benefit analysis.
  5. Cognitive tool kit that includes back-of-the-envelope calculations, sensitivity analysis, systems thinking, probabilistic thinking.

What is a Model? What is Simulation?


Word Skills

Flow Chart Skills

Decision Trees

* choice/chance

  • exhaustive/mutually exclusive
  • folding-back
  • imperfect tests
  • risk-aversion
  • the value of information
  • utility theory

Charts, Tables, and Diagrams

CBA Cost-Benefit Analysis

Discounting Skills List

Randomness and Monte Carlo Simulation

Stock & Flow Models

Project Management

Markov Models

Last was mm06

Queuing Models

Back of the Envelope Skills

Other Models

Linear Programming

Agent Models

Difference Equations