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What To Expect From This Class

This class is designed for students who have never written a program in a high-level computer language. However, unlike other introductor courses, simpl reading the !ook and memori"ing #facts# won$t necessaril lead to success in this course. The first goal of this class is for students to understand the s ntax and semantics of C. This sounds complicated, !ut let me !reak this down% &' ( ntax% The rules of the language. )n English class, ou learn rules one must adhere to in order to speak proper English. (imilarl , C has rules that ou must follow, otherwise our program can not !e executed. *' (emantics% The meanings of the s m!ols and expressions of the language. +ot onl do ou have to follow the rules of s ntax of C, !ut ou will also have to learn WH,T those grammaticall correct C statements -E,+ to the computer. This understanding is the !asic goal of the class. However, .ust !ecause ou understand the s ntax and semantics of a computer language doesn$t guarantee that ou$ll !e effective using it to solve pro!lems. (imilarl , one can speak grammaticall correct English that has some meaning, !ut doesn$t effectivel communicate the solution to a pro!lem. The ultimate goal of the class is for students to !e a!le to take the tools provided ! the C language and use them to write programs that solve various pro!lems that range from simulating a real-life situation to carr ing out mathematical calculations.

(o how can ) succeed at this/


This answer, as with most other aspects of life is practice. ,lthough ) will onl assign 0 programming assignments, in realit , this is simpl not enough to ensure that a !eginning programmer will feel comforta!le solving new pro!lems. 1eading the text!ook is important, !ut writing extra programs on our own is even more important to succeeding in this class, especiall if ou have never programmed !efore. Furthermore, man lectures will involve looking at programs, some of which are reasona!l long. T picall , it$s difficult to understand exactl how these programs work unless ou run them ourselves. ,lso, it$s usuall instructive to take a program given in lecture, cut-n-paste it into our compiler, and edit it to see what changes occur in execution. )n this manner, ou can get a !etter feel for what particular statements in C do. ,lso, it$s important to note that some people write programs much, much faster than others. This is simpl a fact of life. For whatever reason, whether it is experience or getting the hang of things 2uickl , there will !e students who find the assignments in this class ver eas . This should !e irrelevant to other students. )t$s important to spend the time 345 need to understand the material to the point that ou can produce programs to solve pro!lems. )t$s oka to spend more time than others. 6e aware that this is simpl part of the learning curve of .umping into a new discipline. )f ou feel that ou are taking a particularl long amount of time to learn the material and write programs, please come and see me. 7erhaps ) can give suggestions that will speed up our learning process. -ake sure ou see me and the T,s when ou run into pro!lems888

(ummar of 1esults from Fall *99: ;ata Collection &' 6oth men and women do e2uall well in the course. ,lso, race is not a factor in course performance. *' There is some correlation !etween prior programming experience and course performance, !ut not in the expected manner. (tudents who do !est are the ones who have some experience with a scripting language, such as HT-<. These students do even !etter than those with prior programming experience !ut no scripting experience. =' Classroom attendance is correlated with course performance. 65T, onl students who attended more than >9? of the courses reaped an significant !enefit. @' There was no correlation !etween office hour attendance and course grades. A' Bui" 7rogram participation Cwhich was optional last semester' correlated strongl with program grades and course grades. This correlation was strongest for !eginning students. ,s a conse2uence, ) am re2uiring some 2ui" programs for all students this semester. (o, what this !asicall means is to succeed in the class ou ought to% &' Come to Class almost ,<< the time. *' ;o the Bui" 7rograms. ***NOTE: Since this document was written, due to last of ample TA time, I have done away with requirin the qui! pro rams" Instead I stron ly encoura e students to do them###

,ddressing (ome Comments from (tudent Evaluations


#The stud time for this class is dou!le of that of m regular classes.# This may $e true for some students" It%s important to understand that even thou h the word, &Introduction& is in the title, this is a demandin class" This is the type of class where some students won%t read the $oo' and will $e a$le to fi ure out a pro ram in () minutes while others read the $oo' and still ta'e up to * hours on the same assi nment" +or whatever reason, some students are $etter pro$lem,solvers than others" It%s important for students who have difficulty to write as many practice pro rams as possi$le" -nfortunately, this ta'es time, often times more time than another class would ta'e" This is the nature of the su$.ect matter and it%s important that students 'now this up front $efore they dive in" DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD #)t$s difficult to grasp new concepts when we onl have lectures.# It would $e nice if we had the resources to provide a la$ section with computers for all the students in this class, $ut unfortunately we don%t have those resources" This means that all the instruction for the course is throu h lecture, which is not ideal for a pro rammin course" The $est way to cope with this restriction is to write practice pro rams" /ou are encoura ed to wor' on the practice pro rams posted on your own" In addition, if you write other practice pro rams, you can come to the TA or any of the course instructors to et feed$ac' on the practice you%ve done" Also, comin to the TA and Instructor when you have eneral questions not related to a homewor' assi nment can $e very helpful" I pro$a$ly sound li'e a $ro'en record $y now, $ut even thou h I say this (00 times, I usually only see a$out 12 of students in my office showin me e3tra practice pro rams they have written" Those 12 always do very well in the course" I%d li'e to see this num$er $ecome hi her4 I promise I%m a nice uy and will $e helpful#

#(ome T,s don$t understand English ver well.# This may $e true" 5ost of our 6h"7" students are on contract and must wor' as a TA in some capacity" -nfortunately, very few American students even apply for our 6h"7" pro ram" This means a ma.ority of the TAs in the 8S department come from other countries" 5ost of these students have a solid understandin of written En lish, $ut may have some difficulty understandin quic'ly spo'en En lish or slan " In order to communicate effectively with the TAs in the course, you may have to spea' clearly and rephrase your question if you see that they misunderstood it" /ou%ll find that once you ma'e this effort, and ma'e a concerted effort to understand their En lish, that communicatin with them will $e quite doa$le" DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD #The !ook made things confusing at times.# The $oo' isn%t incredi$ly friendly, $ut it does a very solid .o$ of e3plainin the material in specific technical terms" 9ased on my e3perience, students don%t have enou h practice readin technical te3ts, so they say the $oo' is written poorly without truly tryin to read it" :This may mean rereadin the same three pa es five or si3 times"; Once you practice this s'ill more, the $etter you will $e at readin te3t$oo's" This type of s'ill is indispensa$le in the wor'place, where anytime you run into a pro$lem, you are e3pected to $e a$le to &loo' it up"& If you are havin trou$le with a passa e, come into office hours and have either a TA or an instructor e3plain the passa e" DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD #, little less time for the first programs and more for the later ones.# Students will find that the later pro rams are more demandin and that they will spend more time on them than earlier ones" One reason for this is that it ta'es a while to et throu h enou h material to assi n a reasona$ly comple3 pro ram, $ut after you et over that hump, it%s very easy to assi n pro rams that are quite difficult# 9e prepared for this chan e" <e may try to post pro rams early, so that students can et an early start, $ut when we do this we may not have already covered what is necessary to solve the future pro ram"

#) didn$t feel like ) reall learned how to write code from the lectures.# =ery accurate comment" /ou can%t learn to write code from these lectures" /ou can only do so $y writin pro rams" :>ust li'e you can%t learn how to hit a $ase$all even if I stood up here for four hours descri$in every detail a$out the mechanics of a $ase$all swin "; The lectures will e3plain the rules of the 8 lan ua e" In order to succeed on pro rammin assi nments, you%ll have to &fi ure out& how to arran e 8 statements to solve the desired pro$lem" The main way in which students et $etter at puttin to ether 8 statements to solve pro$lems is throu h practice" DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD #For someone with no programming experience, the class started at a good pace !ut midwa shot out and left those with little or no experience !ehind.# This is true" The class does et more difficult towards the end" E3pect this to $e the case" On the other hand, once students are comforta$le with some of the $asics of 8, it should $e easier to incorporate new aspects of the lan ua e into an already e3istin understandin of the lan ua e" The point where students typically start havin difficulty is functions, and the use of pass $y reference parameters" 9e prepared to spend a $it more time understandin ideas at the end of the course: pointers, structures and lin'ed lists" DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD #The tests didn$t seem indicative of the skills needed to write programs. The tests were much harder than writing programs and what was explained in class.# In some ways the tests do au e different s'ills than the pro rams" If they were to au e the e3act same s'ills, why should $oth $e iven? The types of questions students typically complain a$out are questions that seem &tric'y"& An e3ample of this is where the answer to a question chan es $ased upon whether there is one equal si n or two equal si ns" The reason I pose these questions is that the compiler follows certain rules e3actly" If you don%t 'now these rules and can%t replicate them, you are more li'ely to have trou$le spottin pro$lems in your pro ram" I as' questions a$out the rules of the 8 lan ua e, even if the rules are very specific $ecause the understandin of these rules is essential for students to $ecome ood at de$u in their pro rams"

#7olic on ad.usting letter grades makes it difficult to predict exactl how semester will turn out.# I have difficulty perfectly controllin the level of difficulty of my e3ams" @ather than accidentally ive a hard test and not $e a$le to ad.ust my radin scale, I allow my radin scale to $e fle3i$le all semester so that I can $e fair in ivin rades in spite of the fact that I may accidentally ive a difficult e3am" Typically, the low A for the course ran es from *A to *B, and a low 9 is close to B0, while I li'e to set my 8 line around ))"