[plt-scheme] Poacher turned gamekeeper

From: Matthias Felleisen (matthias at ccs.neu.edu)
Date: Mon Nov 9 12:02:24 EST 2009

On Nov 9, 2009, at 10:43 AM, Stephen Bloch wrote:

>> 3. Assuming that the majority can't solve it, proceed with 'in  
>> decent colleges, this kind of stuff is taught in the first course.'
> Or you could NOT open with antagonism and NOT run down the students'  
> previous teachers and background.  Instead, I would say "for those  
> of you who have done some programming before, we'll be doing it a  
> little differently; this approach may seem weird to you at first,  
> but in my experience, it helps you produce correct, working programs  
> faster.  Approach it with an open mind, and you can combine the best  
> of both approaches."  You'll have to decide, based on your group of  
> students, whether it'll work better to start by showing them how  
> much they don't know.

Just drop the phrase "in decent colleges ..." but conduct the  
experiment anyway. Do tell them that good programmers can solve these  
questions easily and you will teach them how and more about systematic  

I repeatedly get students who think that their bad grades in an HtDP  
course are due to the odd choice of language. Over 10+ years, I have  
easily overcome strong versions of such opinions with "no problem.  
What language would you like to use? I'll give you an A for the course  
if you can solve this problem ..." A variation is to do it at the  
beginning and to let people go who can solve such things (give them  
the option). In my 10+ years, I have had ONE student who solved the  
problem in the alotted 30 mins, indeed, he needed much less time and  
he didn't do it in anything modern: he did it in C. He had 15 years of  
experience and no contact to FP. BUT he was a good programmer and he  
wanted to take my course anyway.

-- Matthias

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