Now three insights on teaching computer programming

Kenneth A Lloyd kalloyd at
Wed Jan 4 08:39:20 EST 2006

The discourse has been very enlightening.  Thanks!

As I've followed (tried to follow) the threads of the discussion, there is
one concept that seems to be missing.  Between the domains of computer
programming, software engineering, and computer science - and even the
liberal arts domain - there has been no talk of using an intermediate
modeling language like the UML to relate them.  I find this sort of strange
in that the formalism underlying the UML directly relates to the discrete
math and graph theory, patterning, best practices, and so much more.  I even
translate UML's underlying graph structure into DIMACS files. Using a
language neutral MDA approach, one can generate structure and behavior into
most computer programming languages, and with a little skill / creativity,
even into structured or aspected paradigms.  Further, the extension into
SysML allows one to leverage these concepts into other engineering domains.
Even some business majors seem to be jumping on board with BPM in UML
(what's the world coming to!).

To teach general CSSE concepts, round trip engineering can be quite
enlightening.  The dynamics of software can be simulated, complexity can be
identified and ameliorated (where possible).  

After having gone through structured languages like Fortran and Cobol,
through many assemblers, Basic, C, C++, Lisp, Java, and C# in my career -
and even Python, Kirby, UML has been a welcomed formalism.  And, it's
practical in the real world - even if you end up using Microsoft's
Whitehorse agglomeration.  Properly applied, it seems to be rather platform
neutral as well.

I think I could successfully challenge anyone that thinks the UML it TOO
object oriented (early on, this may have been the case).  So my question is:
Does anyone else think that the UML relates adequately to the mathematical,
and graphical formalism in Computer Science and Software Engineering?  If
not, why so?

Ken Lloyd
Sr. Software Architect
Watt Systems Technologies Inc.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: math-thinking-l-bounces at 
> [mailto:math-thinking-l-bounces at] On Behalf Of 
> Henderson Peter
> Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 12:54 PM
> To: Peter Van Roy
> Cc: math-thinking at
> Subject: Re: Two insights on teaching computer programming
> Another key factor impacting the students views of, and 
> reactions to, a course is the individual instructor.  To be 
> considered a succes a model for a course should be taught 
> effectively by a wide varietly of instructors at different 
> institutions for the intended student audience.
> Matthias model has passed this test and Peter's model is 
> making good progress.  However, the student audiences are 
> different - novice vs second year college.  It ould be very 
> interesting to study the impact of the sequencing these two 
> approaches.
> Thanks for this interesting thread.  Good way to end one year 
> and start the next.
> Pete
> On Sun, 25 Dec 2005, Peter Van Roy wrote:
> > David Klappholz wrote:
> >
> >>> (...) Not a single student out of 300 has complained to me that I 
> >>> should be teaching them Java.  On the contrary, feedback 
> about the 
> >>> course is mostly positive.  (I first taught using this 
> arrangement 
> >>> in 2004, and this lack of complaints caught me much by surprise.
> >>> Especially since my students are not especially docile: 
> they don't 
> >>> hesitate to ask me questions about technical issues.  
> This lack of 
> >>> complaints doesn't seem to be the same in US universities.
> >> 
> >> You may very well be wrong in your conjectures about the Europe-US 
> >> difference.
> >
> > I agree with you, the dividing line might not be US/Europe but 
> > something else, such as how the institution is funded 
> > (direct/indirect) or the historical traditions at the 
> institution.  I 
> > have not done a serious study of what makes the difference in 
> > attitude.  All I know is that UCL and our department seem 
> to be more 
> > enlightened than many others I know of in both Europe and 
> the US, in 
> > letting me teach the course the way I want to teach it, and 
> I am grateful to them.
> >
> > Peter
> >
> >
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