2011-10-22

Coffee and Python

Last week I started giving Ewelina ad-hoc Python programming lessons.

This is as much for my own enjoyment as her benefit... after all, we have no idea whether she will even like programming, so it's all one big experiment really. She enjoys logic though and remembers her basic algebra, which is an excellent foundation. I've always enjoy opportunities to teach people about the things I like, I find it's a very interesting mental exercise to try and explain abstract concepts which have long ago become obvious to me.

Today I found myself trying to introduce abstraction itself, and why it is useful.

It's a fun topic, because I think abstraction really is at the heart of all programming - finding the appropriate level of abstraction can be the main difference between good and bad code and I think it's one of the things the field of computer science hasn't even come close to measuring or quantifying yet.

But all programmers know how confusing (or downright tedious) it can be to work with overly abstract systems (FactoryFactoryFactory, anyone?) - and how frustrating it is when a program is artificially constrained (insufficiently abstract) and only does one or two specific things when it's methods are obviously more widely applicable (imagine a text editor that only knew how to edit files named textfile.txt).

I think abstraction is a big part of what makes programming more of an art than a science.

Not having any real teaching experience, I have no idea if if that was an appropriate subject for a 3rd lesson...

But I enjoyed it, and when we stopped Ewelina had written a working program with 3 functions, exploring arguments, variables, loops and logic abstraction. She had also found and fixed 3 syntax errors and 1 logic bug.

Probably a bit much for one hour!

We'll go over it again... :-)

Tags: life, tech


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