[Edu-sig] Considering Python for an algebra course

David MacQuigg macquigg at ece.arizona.edu
Tue Apr 14 22:38:27 CEST 2009

At 11:14 AM 4/14/2009 -0700, kirby urner wrote:

>> Depends on your own background in programming, and whether you need to do anything unusual like accelerate a program with a function in C.  My guess is the average math or science teacher will have no difficulty learning the basics of Python in a few weeks, and will get all the help they need from participants on this list.  The tutorials at http://docs.python.org/3.0/tutorial/index.html and http://wiki.python.org/moin/BeginnersGuide are excellent, and the tutorials (help files) on PyWhip will be even better for teaching specific topics like logic, strings, etc.
>Actually if you skip thinking like a computer scientist and just focus
>on algebra, i.e. namespaces and operator overloading within the first
>20 minutes,

I think what you are saying is focus on teaching the language in the most efficient way possible, and leave the teaching of CS to others.  I agree 100%.  PhWhip is intended to help teachers avoid spending class time on syntax, and focus more of their efforts on teaching science, engineering, economics, whatever.  CS is still important, even for non-CS majors.  It's just not the focus of PyWhip.

PyWhip is also not intended to be a complete self-study tool.  Students need more than rote practice and repetition of what they see in examples.  It takes both theory and practice to learn efficiently, at least for adults.  Maybe kids are better at absorbing language without any theory.  Their minds are like dry sponges, absorbing water for the first time.  Adult minds are more like packed warehouses.  We've got to move something out before we can squeeze other stuff in.  We also have to keep the junk to a minimum, and that's where theory can help.  It can help our brains decide what is worth keeping, and what we should ignore or forget.

> then you'll leave these CS nerds in the dust within a year
>or two, won't need 'em as sysadmins even. :)

LOL. :>)  You underestimate the power of the nerds to complexify our systems.  Their jobs are secure! :>)

-- Dave

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