On C++

10Sep14

I’m teaching C++ this semester, for CSCI 103 at the University of Southern California. The students are great! However, the transition to this language is challenging. I am trying to build some tools to work around the language, with mixed success. As always, StackOverflow is very helpful, as is the DeathHandler tool on GitHub.

With C++ there are so many opportunities for a student to shoot themselves in the foot. But even with these tools it feels like trying to get them better shoes rather than getting rid of the gun.

</rant>

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7 Responses to “On C++”

  1. I just cannot imagine a programming class nowadays. In my times you had to look up stuff from a book and figure it out yourself. We had to hand in our program code on paper (most, like mine, were handwritten). Today you can ask the solution to everything online, and the rest you can ask on a site and you’ll get five answers in half an hour. What do students do? Okay, they can resist to use the web, but I guess homework assignments are pointless.

  2. 2 deepc

    But python is slooooooooooooooow (or is it?)

  3. Python is only like 50 times slower than C++, but in an intro course, there’s almost no reason a program would need such speed. And having things like error messages (instead of opaque segmentation faults) makes errors educational rather than impenetrable.

    I think most students appreciate that we assign a reasonable amount of work that is there to build their skills. Sort of like with language. Why bother taking a language course if you can just use Google Translate? Mainly because you teach the concepts deliberately and in a layered fashion.

    It may be that they have to write some code on paper for the midterms, or do similar things like rearranging lines into the correct order. It could be a pain to grade though, maybe and we can just ask people on stackoverflow to grade it for us!

  4. If I learn a language, I can communicate with people with whom I could not before. Maybe in 10 years I can just plug the BabelDroidFish into my ears, then I probably won’t learn anymore. But whenever I need to code, I can always look it up online. Hm, maybe it is exactly this attitude why I always got bad marks on exams where we were allowed to use our textbooks…

    • As long as at least two students look it up online, we have a chance of catching them 🙂

      • In fact I heard that at my university they even do that during CS exams a teaching assistant is monitoring the related QA sites and his job is to give incorrect answers to questions from the exam.

      • That’s so delightfully nefarious!


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