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moof's prattling

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July 18th, 2006

(no subject) @ 09:15 pm

Current Mood: high fascinated

One of the most interesting papers I've read in a long, long time, from here:

All teachers of programming find that their results display a 'double hump'. It is as if there are two populations: those who can, and those who cannot, each with its own independent bell curve. [....] We have a test which picks out the population that can program, before the course begins. We can pick apart the double hump.

I think one of the best parts of the paper is on page 16:

Formal logical proofs, and therefore programs -- formal logical proofs that particular computations are possible, expressed in a formal system called a programming language -- are utterly meaningless. To write a computer program you have to come to terms with this, to accept that whatever you might want the program to mean, the machine will blindly follow its meaningless rules and come to some meaningless conclusion. In the test the consistent group showed a pre-acceptance of this fact: they are capable of seeing mathematical calculation problems in terms of rules, and can follow those rules wheresoever they may lead. The inconsistent group, on the other hand, looks for meaning where it is not. The blank group knows that it is looking at meaninglessness, and refuses to deal with it.
The paper's also damn funny, with a few things that made me laugh out loud. In addition, a friend of mine who follows the classic "Good at calculus/geometry/physics, sucked at algebra/chemistry" pattern, made the following comment about the questions on the test:
*ren* like. if a and b already have values, how can they be equal in any way?
I suspect that, for people like her, assembly language might actually be easier to pick up than HLLs - there's no hidden context, everything is very explicit. (That everything seems foreign and artificial might not be a bad thing, perversely enough.)
 
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Comments

 
From:node
Date:July 19th, 2006 06:24 am (UTC)

disappointed

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All that and no puerile double-hump jokes?
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From:moof
Date:July 19th, 2006 06:32 am (UTC)

Re: disappointed

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Huh huh, huh huh, you said "puerile."
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From:merovingian
Date:July 19th, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC)

Re: disappointed

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Baby got Bactrian!
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From:drangnon
Date:July 19th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
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you are the second person to mention this on my friends page. my friend Josiah also caught this, possibly at a recent conference he attended, and speculated on whether he could follow up the paper with some data from CS students at UCI (he's a grad student there).


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