Intelligence of programmers

Ivan Medvedev posted an interesting little exercise on his weblog yesterday. It has generated quite a few comments (incuding some from me) and an interesting discussion that I think shows an interesting aspect of human nature.

Check out the link.

It’s interesting to me that some of the people responding to the exercise are coming up with answers that don’t solve the problem. Even after I had posted a logical reasoning (IMHO) of the answer, some posters are still questioning if that is correct.

My mother teaches programming in a local high school. In past years, she has also had to teach algebra classes. She had some students who were seniors taking algebra for the third time — and failing for the third time. I don’t know if my mother is an effective teacher, but I wonder if there are simply people who can’t grasp the abstract concepts required in algebra. They can add concrete numbers with the best of them, but they can’t factor an equation.

I wonder if some of these programmers are simply incapable of grasping the logical and mathematical concepts involved in the exercise that Ivan posted. If that is the case, how is it that they are successful programmers?

Back in my day — when we walked through 3 feet of snow to school every day — programming classes were relatively small. In my programming classes, all the students were also in the honors classes. In other words, they were among the smartest students in the school. When I went to college, there was a computer science program, but there wasn’t a business programming curriculum.

Today, a lot of colleges have business programming curricula. I wonder if these programs are turning out “boilerplate” programmers. I wonder if these programmers would be capable of completing the standard computer science program? Are they dumbing down the intelligence of the programming pool? Am I sounding like an elitist blowhard? 🙂

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