[Edu-sig] Now I went and did it.

Kirby Urner pdx4d@teleport.com
Mon, 09 Oct 2000 11:28:22 -0700

>Millions of people use HP calculators with their RPN notation.  That
>doesn't speak directly to prefix notation, but certainly suggests that
>people can learn another syntax without much problem -- even if there
>is something about our innate linguistic skills that favors some
>particular syntax.

Right, RPN is another door we should open in K-12.  We had a poster
awhile back sharing his Python RPN module as I recall.  I downloaded
it and played with it some.  Certainly I was a big fan of HP and 
using parentheses-free entering the way RPN allows.  HP calculators
were also what first exposed me to the concept of a stack (RPN goes
togther with a stack concept).

When minds are young, open, flexible (that's the stereotype anyway
-- analogy with bodies) is a good time to keep thowing out alternatives,
other ways of thinking.  So I'm wholly in favor of early exposure to
prefix notation, in a addition to RPN.  If a student starts experimenting
with an altogether new notation, having learned the less that these are
technologies we can just _invent_ (not handed down as eternal practices
that weigh us down forever with legacy notions), I'll take that as a very
positive sign.

Python's ability to override (aka overload) syntactic elements such as
+ * () [] and give them new meaning provides further encouragement in
this direction.  As one of the Scheme websites put it, you want your
language to be more like the problems you're thinking about, so you 
do some language customization, vs. always trying to make the problems
conform to the strictures of some unalterable given.