meep (meep) wrote,

12 Days of Learning: Day 11 - Learn to Code

With Codecademy and Learn Code the Hard Way (and test them out on Project Euler)

I like the Udacity intro to computer science/Python class, but if you want something fairly simple (with badges!) Codecademy is a good place to go.


Codecademy is pretty sneaky, with its front page (if you're not logged in) tricking you into completing the first step to their modules for learning how to code. They started out with lessons for javascript, but I see they've also added Ruby, Python, and more.  They started up in 2012, and they've come pretty far and spiffed up their site.  There had been quite a few bugs early on, but as more people have used it, they've shaken out many of them.

What some may like compared to Udacity, etc, (or may not like) is that Codecademy is all text-based. No issues with flash for them, no sirree.  The coding lessons are carved up into bite-sized pieces.


Learn Code the Hard Way takes an old school. I'll let them explain:

The Hard Way Is Easier


This simple book is meant to get you started in programming. The title says it's the hard way to learn to write code; but it's actually not. It's only the "hard" way because it's the way people used to teach things using instruction. This book instructs you in Python by slowly building and establishing skills through techniques like practice and memorization, then applying them to increasingly difficult problems.

With the help of this book, you will do the incredibly simple things that all programmers need to do to learn a language:

  1. Go through each exercise.

  2. Type in each sample exactly.

  3. Make it run.

That's it. This will be very difficult at first, but stick with it. If you go through this book, and do each exercise for one or two hours a night, you will have a good foundation for moving onto another book. You might not really learn "programming" from this book, but you will learn the foundation skills you need to start learning the language.

This book's job is to teach you the three most essential skills that a beginning programmer needs to know: Reading and Writing, Attention to Detail, Spotting Differences.





I learned how to program this way, by the way, back in the early 1980s, when it was considered an accomplishment just to be able to run an executable from the command line.

The last two bits are really important, and I will say that one of the shortcomings of many of the approaches to teaching coding is trying to make it fun. It can be fun... if you're the type of person who can handle meticulous detail. I was this type of person at age 9. If you don't want to deal with that sort of detail, then for crying out loud, find somebody else to do that bit for you. I suck at cooking, and I outsource that to my husband.  I also outsource pest control to him. 

But let us suppose you do like this detail stuff, one great way to test out your coding chops is Project Euler. It's a bunch of mostly-math problems that you are to write code to solve. Most answers are whole numbers. Some of the problems are classic, and others are just good at checking whether you know how to optimize code.

The earliest problems (and the ones that have the most people who have solved) are good just to test that you know how to use the language of interest - can you process files? Do loops? Deal with boolean functions?  Others require some mathematical sophistication.

Indeed, as I progressed, I went from testing out my new knowledge of python and javascript (from Udacity and Codecademy, respectively), to using any damn tool I could find. Because some of those problems are hard, and it's more important to know how to solve a problem any which way you can, rather than focus on a particular tool to solve it.



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