[Edu-sig] minimum age to learn python (a.k.a graphical vs text languages)

Peter Chase pchase at sulross.edu
Mon Mar 19 01:51:29 CET 2007

I used to judge science fairs in the DC area.  There were junior and 
senior divisions, and the junior division age range was from 6th to 9th 
grades.  At the time I got the occasional project written in Basic, many 
of which were very interesting.  I would think that Python would easily 
outclass Basic!  It would depend entirely upon the individual student.  HTH

Brian Blais wrote:
> Hello,
> I was wondering what the approximate minimum age to learn python is.  Has anyone had 
> experience teaching middle school students, or elementary school students Python? 
> What brought this up for me is thinking about starting a Lego robots group in a local 
> middle school.  I only teach college, and have little experience with middle school 
> students, so I find it hard to guess what they could actually do.  I started 
> programming when I was about 5th grade, on a Commodore VIC 20 (3.5k RAM!) in basic, 
> but I don't think I am typical.  (Of course, now, you can probably infer my age to 
> within 2 years!  :)  ).
> I've written something so that students can program in Python syntax to run the Lego 
> Mindstorms robots.  The most commonly used language for these robotos, in the middle 
> school, is Robolab which is entirely graphical.  Although a good program, I find 
> there are some drawbacks:
> 1) Robolab is commercial, and not all schools can afford this above and beyond the 
> price of the lego mindstorms
> 2) Robolab only runs on Mac/Windows, and not Linux, so those schools that have tried 
> to save money on the operating system get whacked there too
> 3) Robolab can *only* do Lego robots.
> Although you learn the basic language structures (loops, branching, etc...), because 
> it is graphical, Robolab doesn't translate directly.  Perhaps this is enough for kids 
> to start, but perhaps one can do better.
> On the other hand, my pynqc tool (which uses the freely available nqc language for 
> the Lego Mindstorms) is:
> 1) free (in both senses)
> 2) runs on Mac/Linux/Windows
> 3) because you use python syntax, it is easier to go and do other python projects not 
> involving robots
> In my mind, this opens up more doors, but it is not graphical.
> I wanted to hear responses from people who have experience teaching programming in 
> elementary/middle (or even high) school.  Do graphical languages make a big 
> difference?  Do text-based languages put up barriers to young learners?  Is it no big 
> deal either way?
> 		thanks,
> 			Brian Blais

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