[racket-dev] guidelines on error messages -- please send feedback

From: Justin Zamora (justin at zamora.com)
Date: Fri Jun 3 21:08:07 EDT 2011

I agree that simplifying the error messages is a good idea and will be
extremely helpful, but is there a good reason not to *teach* students
the students much of this vocabulary?  Many (most?) high school
science textbooks have a "Vocabulary" section at the end of each
section/chapter that defines the important terminology for that
section, and it is common test students on the vocabulary via tests or
quizzes.  I have toyed with the idea of giving my students a weekly
vocabulary list to study that would not only include formal technical
items but also the informal vocabulary that computer scientists all
the time (e.g. "call", "passing", "invoke", etc.  I think it would be
reasonable to give students a set of procedure definitions and ask
them to circle the variables, underline the parameters, identify
function calls, etc.  We use this terminology all the time in our
lectures and notes; it seems unfair not to explain to the students
what all the words mean.


On Fri, Jun 3, 2011 at 8:34 PM, Shriram Krishnamurthi <sk at cs.brown.edu> wrote:
>> Oh, I'm all in favor of skipping "identifier".   But using the word
>> "variable" both for global variables (i.e. constants) and for
>> function parameters strikes me as asking for confusion.
> Okay.  We have no evidence one way or the other.  It could be
> something we try to investigate.  Given our observation (for other
> terms) that fine-grained distinctions actually cause more confusion
> than help, I am not at all ready to buy your argument.  Moreover, I
> have also come to distrust arguments from pure reason in this area.
>> Is the "x" in "f(x)" indeed consistently called a "variable" in high
>> school math classes?   Or do they also use words like "parameter" or
>> "argument"?
> There is no consistency across books.  We do know that many math books
> and educators use "variable".  In addition, we have not run into
> either Bootstrap or college students who had trouble with the term
> "variable".  It's also a term I hear from people who studied in other
> countries (so is "parameter", but much less so "argument").  That's
> why we chose it.
> Shriram
> _________________________________________________
>  For list-related administrative tasks:
>  http://lists.racket-lang.org/listinfo/dev

Posted on the dev mailing list.