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Kmj Reg
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As woman, someone who did poorly in algebra, and never programmed (well I had BASIC in grade school, but it was just copying pre-existing programs), some of the comments here are why I initially stayed out of the computer science field. Fortunately I met some men in my department who were just really encouraging and supportive so here I am in my first year of starting programming, and I discovered that I love it. I should have known, considering that 2 years before I decided that I wasn't happy about my lack of mathematical abilities and decided to teach myself and ended up loving it despite my performance in high school. What's interesting is that the book I used was from the "Art of Problem Solving" series which is designed for gifted students and students taking part in math competitions. However it teaches math in a way that I love and enjoy. I wish I had it during high school. Anyway, I found computer programming to be the same. I love it, and when I find resources that explain it to me in a way that I understand I excel. I also am very fortunate to have a professor that believes that everyone can get it and hard work determines your success. I also find it interesting that when there are women in my CS class, they are usually of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent. They don't seem to have any confidence issues, and don't seem to buy into the theory that because they are women they are disadvantaged. I've learned a lot from them and try to think as they do. (Warning: Gross generalizations ahead!) There is a real preoccupation with superior/inferior and smart/dumb in Western culture. People are believed to be inherently superior or inferior and there's not much they can do about that. Contrast that with the Asian model which posits that your superiority in a subject is a result of how much effort you put into it. I think the conclusion of the study represents the split in these two schools of thoughts. The authors of the study seem to accept the Western model, so they conclude that the students who don't form a consistent model can never be taught, rather than conclude that those who don't form a consistent model should be taught how to form a consistent model. I would suggest using the assessment not to weed out people, but as a placement for different Intro to CS courses. Most universities should have Intro to Programming courses that separate those who have had some programming experience and those who have absolutely none. I know this is not feasible for many departments but I think to assume that all students step into the the Intro CS course with an equal footing is quite wrong. In my experience this has never been the case, and those with more experience tend to drive the level of the course upward and make it miserable for those with now programming ability. I have to say I'm pretty glad I don't have the authors of these articles as my prof. I'd probably be pretty disadvantaged.
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Sep 12, 2010