For instance!

Posted on October 4, 2013


CSC 140 is careening gaily into Stuff I Know Nothing About From My Previous Experiences.  Yesterday’s lecture included Iterators and ArrayLists, because we can use very basic versions of these to do powerful things, like tell the computer “if there *is* a next thingy, do this to it.”   (So, instead of saying “while count is less than the length of my string, do it” I can say ‘if hasnext is true, do it.”)

Due discussion ensued about the big picture of how these work — and that we could take entire classes on data structures.   However, we’re working with really simple ones and using them…

… and then we get our intro algebra folks being told to find ordered pairs that are solutions to 3x – y = 3.

Have we talked about what these equations are?   Well, not really.  Have we had really simple examples — like our data structure adventure — where their role is explained, but we’re not expected to be experts already? Oops, sorry.  This is math.   Not *at all* if you’re just plowing through those ALEKS exercises.   In the “literacy” section yes, we are talking about costs vs. revenue, and things like fee + cost per item, with concrete examples, which is much better… except for the cruel fact that mixed in with all those problems are 20 more complicated ones.   For students grappling with the “wait, the *answer* has … not a number but… *two* variables in it?”  and the f(x) *doesn’t* mean to multiply by x…   they’re supposed to grasp that as it goes by and absorb it while they’re figuring out the rest of it.

It just seems that more of the whites of their eyes are showing, like trying-not-to-bolt horses.  Math shouldn’t be like that.

Now, to go do that CSC 140 lab. Last night a friend tried to explain to me that well, becoming a programmer would take *years* and… there would be authoring platforms that would do what I want.   BEEN THERE… HEARD THAT.   I had figured other people could learn the programming; I would figure out the instruction design.  Except… the programmers have figured out … ALEKS.    Dreambox didn’t pick me (not that I wanted to go to CA).  The students are flailing. And learning is fun.