[Edu-sig] a non-rhetorical question

Jeff Rush jeff at taupro.com
Fri Jul 6 09:40:04 CEST 2007

Andy Judkis wrote:
> I've just completed my 6th semester as a teacher, teaching 2 sections per 
> semester of a 10th grade course that includes a 4 week introduction to 
> programming in Python.  Here's a question from one of my exams:
>     Write Python code that will ask the user how who is the best looking 
> teacher in the school.  The program must loop until the user responds either 
> "Mrs. McGrath" or "Mr. Judkis".  If the use responds "Mr. Judkis", the 
> program must print out "Excellent choice."  If the user responds "Mrs. 
> McGrath", the program must print out "Also a fine choice."  If the user 
> responds with anything else, the program must print out "Wrong, sorry." and 
> ask again.

The first sentence of this question is awkwardly worded, "ask the user how who 
is" -- did you mean "ask the user who is"?

> Rather than catalog my frustrations, let me just pose a question to you 
> all -- how much Python exposure do you think it should take before a student 
> should be able to answer this question?  If a student can't even answer 
> this, is it reasonable to say that they have learned any programming at all? 
> (I know that they might have learned something -about- programming, but that 
> is not the same thing.)

No, if they cannot answer this then they have NOT learned any programming at 
all.  It requires them to demonstrate the four very basic programming concepts 
of input, output, conditional branching and operand comparison.  I would 
expect a student to grasp those in the first afternoon of the course, or 
perhaps two afternoons.  I would not expect them to understand formatted I/O 
or container types like lists/tuples or even modules, but the act of writing a 
string, reading a string, comparing two strings and printing a string, yes, 
they should have those down pat very quickly.

So what were your frustrations?  I'm really curious.  I don't have the 
opportunity to ever speak with a teacher of formal education, so I don't know 
what their world is like.


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