TITLE: TFW Your Students Get Abstraction AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 31, 2016 2:00 PM DESC: ----- BODY: A colleague sent me the following exchange from his class, with the tag line "Best comments of the day." His students were working in groups to design a Java program for Conway's Game of Life.
Student 1: I can't comprehend what you are saying.
Student 2: The board doesn't have to be rectangular, does it?
Instructor: In Conway's design, it was. But abstractly, no.
Student 3: So you could have a board of different shapes, or you could even have a three-dimensional "board". Each cell knows its neighbors even if we can't easily display it to the user.
Instructor: Sure, "neighbor" is an abstract concept that you can implement differently depending on your need.
Student 2: I knew there was a reason I took linear algebra.
Student 1: Ok. So let's only allow rectangular boards.
Maybe Student 1 still can't comprehend what everyone is saying... or perhaps he or she understands perfectly well and is a pragmatist. YAGNI for the win! It always makes me happy when a student encounters a situation in which linear algebra is useful and recognizes its applicability unprompted. I salute all three of these students, and the instructor who is teaching the class. A good day. -----