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March 30, 2005

Why Johnny can't code

This latest iteration of math related moral panic is no more likely to be effective at getting anyone to learn math than the posters they used to pin to the wall in the back of math class. Besides, coding is a writing skill.

Imagine being the parent of a 15-year-old sophomore at an elite high school who comes home with a report card ranking him near the bottom of his class in math.

Knowing your child will soon enter the same job market as his classmates, would you be concerned? Would you work with him to improve? Would you begin to question the way math is taught in school?

Posted by Ghost of a flea at March 30, 2005 09:39 AM

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Besides, coding is a writing skill.

I'm curious why you say that, Flea. To me, it seems to draw much more on deductive logic skills.

I would agree, though, that programming ability is not directly related to mathematical ability/knowledge.

Posted by: Varenius [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 30, 2005 11:45 PM

This is something I am thinking about but don't have a firm answer for at this point. One way to think about coding as writing is to think about people working collectively through a wiki. Academics in the arts and social sciences will often criticize notions of individual ownership (let alone old fashioned notions of genius) and wax poetic on the virtues of collaborative work. But try getting any of us to write an essay collaboratively (or even edit an anthology... though that is simpler to conceptualize). Software engineers, by contrast, routinely write code in groups or teams or groups of teams. Open-source wiki software is often written by people who the original author does not know and has never met but who jump on board at their own impetus, anonymously and with no formal vetting. So I am thinking about programming as writing for want of a better metaphor for the social aspect of the process rather than the individual cognitive process which may very well be better thought of as a function of deductive logic...

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 31, 2005 06:15 AM