[Edu-sig] My experience teaching Python

Kirby Urner pdx4d@teleport.com
Wed, 23 Feb 2000 08:58:33 -0800

>That's Martijn -- Michael is the guy whose thread I hijacked; my 
>apologies to Michael!

And mine to you.

>Probably true -- I myself am pretty unfamiliar with IDLE so far, though
>(was just toying with it again yesterday), so I went with Emacs. For basic
>editing both are fine, and I wasn't beyond that yet.

Yes, both are fine, and Emacs is a whole world unto itself (largely
unexplored by me), for those wanting to branch off in this direction 
(I look at the computer world as full of branch points -- people do 
"random walks" and end up traversing entirely different pathways, 
meeting up from time to time).

>>    like 3*"CAT" = "CATCATCAT".  Yet modern mathematics is a lot 
>>    about symbolic manipulation beyond what we do with numbers.
>Yes, I showed things like this. You can do some amusing things there, which
>will keep the students happy.

Great to share these amusements!  In my world, it's all about 
showing how computers have their distinct advantages over calculators 
-- one of which is this ability to work with strings.

Calculators completely dominate in math curricula in my neck of 
the woods, and teachers endless debate about their merits -- but 
without seriously considering the computer as an alternative.[1] 

Here's some text from an article I had published in FoxPro Advisor 
(an Xbase mag) in March of last year:


  I live in Greater Portland, the Silicon Forest. Intel, Tektronics,
  Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec all nest in this area, and Microsoft,
  near Seattle, isn't far away.

  The high tech sector is now Oregon's biggest employer. Oregon is
  like an oil-rich state on the Persian Gulf, except our wealth,
  being know-how, is more invisible -- and more renewable.

  I bring up matters economic to give some background as to why 
  a "math makeover" might be taking hold here of necessity. 
  Our employers need computer literate, fast learners who aren't
  math phobic. But then, what is mathematics exactly? Judging
  from your average textbook, it's pretty much what we remember
  from our own K-12 careers (arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and
  calculus). But open a VFP manual and you see operators like
  DTOT(), ASORT() and PACK. More than just number crunching or
  even algebraic manipulation, our business world needs full-
  fledged symbolic processing.

  Business rules pertain to alphanumeric, not just numeric content,
  and our character sets are becoming increasingly international.
  Nor is it just businesses that need large data tables, relational
  structures, and class hierarchies. Scientists and engineers 
  work with the same tools. So why postpone much significant 
  exposure to all of this content until college? Why aren't we
  teaching VRML, XML and SQL in eighth grade? Certainly many 
  students are ravenous to learn this stuff, but when do their
  teachers have the time to learn it all themselves?

  [Kirby Urner, "Teaching Object-Oriented Programming
   with Visual FoxPro", FoxPro Advisor, Advisor 
   Communications Inc., March 1999]


>> If you haven't taken a peak, I invite you to check out my 3 part essay 
>> integrating learning Python within in a math class context.
>>    http://www.inetarena.com/~pdx4d/ocn/numerarcy0.html
>>    http://www.inetarena.com/~pdx4d/ocn/numerarcy1.html
>>    http://www.inetarena.com/~pdx4d/ocn/numerarcy2.html
>These links don't seem to work, unfortunately!

Yeah, I goofed.  Guido has linked the above directly from the edu-sig 
page at python.org.  His link goes to:


       (see Numeracy + Computer Literacy series)

>Thanks for the feedback!




[1] http://archives.math.utk.edu/hypermail/mathedcc/feb99/0090.html