[Python-ideas] Is there a good reason to use * for multiplication?

Greg Ewing greg.ewing at canterbury.ac.nz
Sat Oct 13 07:37:31 CEST 2012

Ram Rachum wrote:
> I could say that for newbies it's one small 
> confusion that could removed from the language. You and I have been 
> programming for a long time so we take it for granted that * means 
> multiplication, but for any other person that's just another 
> weird idiosyncrasy that further alienates programming.

Do you have any evidence that a substantial number of
beginners are confused by * for multiplication, or that
they have trouble remembering what it means once they've
been told?

If you do, is there further evidence that they would
find a dot to be any clearer?

The use of a raised dot to indicate multiplication of
numbers is actually quite rare even in mathematics, and I
would not expect anyone without a mathematical background
to even be aware of it.

In primary school we're taught that 'x' means multiplication.
Later when we come to algebra, we're taught not to use
any symbol at all, just write things next to each other.
A dot is only used in rare cases where there would
otherwise be ambiguity -- and even then it's often
preferred to parenthesise things instead.

And don't forget there's great potential for confusion
with the decimal point.


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