Clarity vs. code reuse/generality

Bearophile bearophileHUGS at
Fri Jul 3 10:48:57 EDT 2009

On 3 Lug, 16:05, kj <no.em... at> wrote:
> I'm will be teaching a programming class to novices, and I've run
> into a clear conflict between two of the principles I'd like to
> teach: code clarity vs. code reuse.

They are both important principles, but clarity is usually more
important because short code that can't be read can't be fixed and
modified, while long code that can be read is alive still.

> So I thought that I'd code a helper function, called _binary_search,
> that took five parameters: a lower limit, an upper limit, a
> one-parameter function, a target value, and a tolerance (epsilon).

Five arguments are a bit too much, even for non-novices. 2-3 arguments
are more than enough for novices.

Where are doctests'? Novices have to learn to think of tests as part
of the normal code :-)

I think the main problem in all this discussion is that generally to
learn to program you have to write code yourself, so your students
have to invent and write their own binary search. Reading your code
they are going to learn much less. Creating a binary search from
almost scratch can turn out to be too much hard for them, it means you
have to ask them to invent something simpler :-)

Programming is (among other things) problem solving, so they have to
learn to solve not easy problems from the beginning. Showing them
famous algorithms (and very good code to copy from) can be useful, but
it's less important than learning basic problem solving skills, and
much less important than learning why solving problems has to became
their purpose and pleasure :-)


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