Thursday, May 27, 2021

Othello/Reversi for After the APCS Exam

My good friend and former teaching partner, Tom Indelicato posted about his end of year project for his AP CS A student recently. With his permission I share it with you.

I said goodbye to my seniors today (last day of classes for them). We wrapped up the post-Exam project (I gave them the framework for a Reversi / Othello game, and they wrote an AI for it) by having them play against each other. I put up a randomized tournament bracket, and awarded a $10 Dunks card to the winner.

An incredibly good class of students, they told me that they thought this was the greatest final project ever! I'm gonna miss them.

Tom also generously shared his framework code at!AmXKuaTMPmyCpVBNCyiB0h3t5uWi?e=j9Gv1N

Interestingly, a similar project was in the Nifty Projects session at the CSTA Annual conference in 2018. Unfortunately the GitHub code repository that was associated with it seems to have disappeared. There are other related and useful resources still there at

Most likely Tom's framework would fit along with it with a few minor tweaks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Learning From My Students

Being back in the classroom has been a learning experience for me. For one thing I have had to learn a bit of Processing (the IDE) as students had been using it prior to my coming in as a replacement teacher. That’s been fun actually. And learning Processing has been on my to-do list for a while. It’s a pretty useful tool and makes graphics programming in Java almost as easy as C#/Visual Basic and the .NET library.

I have had to get reacquainted with Java as well. That’s more of a refresher than a new learning but students have given me some fresh insights into using it. One of the disadvantages of having programmed for so long is that my mindset is, to some extent, stuck in old ways of thinking. Take for loops for example. I am rather stuck in the idea that the comparisons in a for loop are just simple single Booleans when of course the Boolean expression can be a lot more complicated than that. My students are not as stuck so they suggest various options. That has been helpful in broadening my thinking.

CodingBat is a web site I have come to appreciate as well. I’ve known about it for a long time of course but never used it before because I wasn’t teaching either Java or Python. It includes a lot of very good projects that make for great homework being web based. It’s a little like Code Hunt, which sadly no longer exists. CodingBat is easier for beginners to use though which is a plus.  I found it very useful and recommend it to other teachers.

For one course I have had to review my knowledge of some data structures. Again, a refresher rather than all new learning but I think I picked up some things I either forgot or never knew. (Memory is a fickle thing)

I’ve also learned some things about teaching but that will be another post at a later date.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Which Sort Do You Use?

My algorithms class is studying sorts this week. I felt like we needed a little hands on sorting to get an understanding of how some sorts related to the types of sorting people do. I had a number of decks of playing cards and their easy yo hand out and to sort. I don’t have one deck for each student and watching others sort is boring. You really want to avoid boring this close to the end of the year so I decided that I could split the decks by suit and have enough small decks for each student. Faster is often better anyway.

My students had been assigned some reading on Insertion, selection, and bubble sorts. I was interested to see if they would relate any of these to their chosen sort methods. Not bubble sort though. I wonder if we should even teach that one. But I digress.

The students were asked to sort their deck which they all did pretty quickly. Than I asked them if they used a selection sort or an insertion sort. About half of the students choose each one. This led to a good discussion of the two methods. It made for a good exercise introduction.

As a side issue, I had my beginner class separate the decks into suits. This was part of a discussion about While loops and the need to properly plan for data storage (the four output files), That it meant I didn’t have to do the separation was a nice side benefit.

In both classes, we had a brief talk about parallel processing and breaking a problem up into parts that could be run in parallels by separate processors. I take my lessons where I find them.