[Edu-sig] python for kids...

Jason R Briggs jasonrbriggs at gmail.com
Sun Nov 11 21:36:01 CET 2007

Thanks Laura (and everyone else who posted comments).  All useful info.
I think I've got enough to go on for the next release I make of the book.


Laura Creighton wrote:
> In a message of Sun, 11 Nov 2007 11:09:47 EST, Jay Bloodworth writes:
>> On Sat, 2007-11-10 at 19:04 -0600, Michael Tobis wrote:
>>> I agree that the concept of a "variable" is deeply unpythonic in most c
>> ontexts.
>> But it's pretty darn programmatic.  I think overemphasizing python idiom
>> and ontology in a first programming course is a mistake.  Variables,
>> subroutines, loops, conditionals - these are a few of my favorite
>> things.
>> I've never really taught programming, but my intuition, based on ten
>> years experience teaching algebra and prealgebra to middle school
>> students, is that they will "get" the idea of variables with any
>> reasonable explanation: boxes, labels, names, whatever.  Certainly, many
>> will have difficulty understanding scoping, reference vs. value, deep
>> vs. shallow copies, etc., but these are concepts that are fundamentally
>> more subtle and challenging, and most adults must work to wrap their
>> heads around them as well.
>> I'm going to go a little further out on a limb here and offer a theory
>> and a prediction to test it, that I'd appreciate it if anyone who has
>> taught programming to 10-15 year old can respond to: Regardless of how
>> they are taught, kids first mental model of a variable is something
>> like: "a value the program needs to change".  Hence they will be
>> uncomfortable and may resist understanding when a variable is used to
>> name a constant value.
>> jay
> Your limb is creaking :-)
> Younger ones are happy with the notion that 'a variable is a handle'.
> As in 'an avatar for posting to a fora is a handle'.  
> At least the 12-13 year olds I taught were.  And constants was easy,
> it was the opposite, that they could vary that confused them.  But
> that may say more about how I presented the idea than anything
> about what is easier for 12 year olds to grasp.  I think its all
> how I taught them.  We're making online text based games.  Everybody
> know what an avatar is.
> Laura

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