[Edu-sig] Programming in High School

Warren Sande warren.sande at rogers.com
Wed Dec 10 18:12:26 CET 2008

David MacQuigg wrote:
>We need lots of examples where programming is useful to non-programmers.  I already mentioned the real estate agent 
> needing to digest some data from the property appraisers office.  For the shop teacher: How about a homeowner wanting 
> to lay tiles, avoid wastage, and slivers that look bad along the edge.  If you know Python, it is quicker to write a little 
> program than find one, purchase and install it, read the manual, struggle with a bunch of stuff you don't really need, 
> and maybe not get what you want in the end.  I can think of lots of examples in engineering, but they are not ordinary 
> problems that would seem relevant to high school students.  What we need is a collection of relevant problems, 
> easily solved with a quickie program.

These are not so easy to find.  For many of these types of problems, creating a spreadsheet is more
efficient that writing a program.  (Why re-invent the wheel?)  One could argue that having more people know how to use Excel is a good thing and goes part of the way to having a population that's more savvy at computers/math/problem-solving.  That's another discussion. 

But the
criteria of "relevant problems, easily solved with a quickie program"
is tough to meet.  Not much gets through that filter.  Problems that are relevant and complicated enough to be interesting usually require a moderately complex program to solve them.  The non-programmer has to make at least some investment in learning the basics (variables, loops, control structures, operators, lists, I/O) before taking on even the simplest problem-solving using a program.  So we need to convince people that it's:  a) not that hard   and   b) worth it.

Warren Sande.
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