Dan Anderson on TeachScheme in middle school

A series of progress reports, over the course of several months:

Good news!... one of my eighth graders won first place in LA county fair. He wrote a program that uses a Recursive Transition Network to determine if a list of words is grammatically correct. He is currently working on his project for state and is upgrading his program so that it takes a graph and a list of words and applies the graph to determine if the list of words follows the grammar represented by the graph. Obviously, this program is difficult for many AP students to write but with your methodologies (which he has referenced in his report) he has executed it well. He goes to state in a couple of weeks. He will be passing my AP students (who were resistant to scheme) like they are standing still :-)

... I am astonished at the increase in introductory programming students at my school. What is more astonishing is that I have 11 teachers signed up to take a programming class next semester. (1 day a week for the year).
Well, I am finally happy with the way that I am teaching programming...

I have to say I am delighted with last years results. The numbers in my computer electives are increasing and the abilities of my students are much greater than when I was teaching C++ to introductory students. One ninth grader of mine has completed the 35 sections (mostly) and is programming at a higher level than my 11th graders (who resisted scheme). Across the levels I am seeing more consistent, more capable programming.
Too bad I can't teach it to my Junior College students!

I am seriously thinking of turning several ninth graders loose on some AI projects that previously would have been inconceivable. Actually, I tried them in C++ with a student that made the national level Intel-Westinghouse awards. He was unable to keep track of all of the memory leaks (and I was unable to find them myself in 60 pages of code). I can do this with Scheme and the code will be a fraction of what it was in C++. The program was [based on Melanie Mitchell's "Copycat"].

Dan Anderson
Webbed by Stephen Bloch / sbloch@adelphi.edu