Krzysztof Onak > Teaching > Algorithmic Techniques for Taming Big Data (DS-563, Spring 2023)

Algorithmic Techniques for Taming Big Data (DS-563/CS-543, Spring 2023)

Course Description: Growing amounts of available data lead to significant challenges in processing them efficiently. In many cases, it is no longer possible to design feasible algorithms that can freely access the entire data set. Instead of that, we often have to resort to techniques that allow for reducing the amount of data such as sampling, sketching, dimensionality reduction, and core sets. Apart from these approaches, the course will also explore scenarios in which large data sets are distributed across several machines, or even geographical locations, and the goal is to design efficient communication protocols or MapReduce algorithms.

The course will include a final project and programming assignments in which we will explore the performance of our techniques when applied to publicly available data sets. Throughout the course, we will explore various strategies for implementing techniques that have theoretical guarantees in practice.

Instructor: Krzysztof Onak (
Office Hours: Fridays 3–5pm, CCDS 1336 (or an adjacent common area)

Teaching Assistant: Ben Badnani (
Office Hours: Wednesdays 4–6pm, CCDS 1420B (yellow southwest corner)

Lecture: Tuesday/Thursday 2–3:15, MCS B29
Discussion sections:
    • Wednesday 1:25–2:15pm, IEC B01
    • Wednesday 2:30–3:20pm, CGS 123

Piazza (announcements and discussions):
Gradescope code for submitting homework: 4VYBJ6

Satisfies the Following HUB Units: Quantitative Reasoning II (QR2) and Creativity/Innovation (CRI)


Class overview. CountMin sketch. [Notes]

External materials: [Roughgarden & Valiant]
CountMin sketch. Heavy hitters. [Notes]Heavy hitters. Moments and AMS sketch. [Notes]
AMS sketch. Distinct elements. [Notes]

External materials: [Chakrabarti: Units 2&3]
Distinct elements (continued). [Notes]
Adversarially robust streaming. [Notes]Adversarially robust streaming. [Notes]

Due: 2/10, programming assignment 1
Guest lecture: Prof. Alina Ene, Submodular optimization in the streaming model Guest lecture: Prof. Charalampos Tsourakakis, Implementing HyperLogLog++ 
Graph connectivity sketches. [Notes 1] [Notes 2]

Due: 2/24, homework 1
Johnson–Lindenstrauss Lemma. [Notes 1] [Notes 2]JL Lemma (continued). Locality sensitive hashing. [Notes]

Due: 3/3, final project proposal
Locality sensitive hashing (continued). Coresets for quantiles. [Notes]Coresets for quantiles (continued). 

Due: 3/17, programming assignment 2
Coresets for $k$-median. Learning general discrete distributions. [Notes]Learning general and monotone discrete distributions. [Notes]
Uniformity testing. Other testable properties of distributions. 

External materials: [Goldreich's book: Section 11.2]
Estimating the maximum matching and minimum vertex cover size in sublinear time. [Notes]

Due: 3/31, homework 2
Estimating the maximum matching and minimum vertex cover size (continued). Estimating the number of edges in a graph. 
Estimating the number of edges in a graph (continued). [Notes]Monotonicity testing [Notes]

Due: 4/14, programming assignment 3
MPC: the Massively Parallel Computation model. [predicted] More MPC: Sorting. Maximal matching in large local space. 
[predicted] More MPC: Large matching in small local space. [Additional lecture on 4/26] More MPC: random walks and PageRank. Final project presentations 
Final project presentations 
Final project report due

Useful Auxiliary Materials


Note: The due date is subject to change until the assignment is handed out.

Course Requirements

Apart from active participation, the class will require homework, three experimental programming assignments, and a final project. The overall grade will be based on the following factors:

Programming Assignments: The course will feature three programming assignments in which students will implement algorithms covered in class and apply them to data sets of their choice. Collaboration here is not allowed (except for discussing high–level ideas), i.e., students are required to implement algorithms and run experiments on their own.

Final Project: Possible final projects ideas include but are not limited to

The outcome of a project will be a short technical report, describing obtained results and conclusions. As opposed to programming assignments, students are allowed to work in teams of two or three. A list of potential projects topics will be provided, but students are encouraged to develop their own ideas. These projects have to be approved by the instructor.

Late Homework Policy: No extensions (except for extraordinary circumstances). If you submit your programming assignment or homework one day late, you may lose 10% of points.

Laptop and Cellphone Policy

Using laptops, cellphones, tablets, and other similar electronic devices is generally not allowed. If you want to use your laptop or tablet for taking notes, you have to email a copy of your notes to the TA after the class. You are not allowed to use your device for other purposes, such as replying to emails or browsing the web.


Self–assessment questionnaire: Since advanced courses offered through the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences are meant to be open to students from various disciplines, we provide an on-line questionnaire to assist students with self–assessment and placement. Please follow this link to access it.

Tentative Syllabus

The exact content may still be adjusted.