Over the past few weeks we’ve been taking on the challenge of learning C++. We’ve made our way through the first of 7 books in the C++ All-In-One For Dummies 2nd Edition, by John Paul Mueller and Jeff Cogswell, and we’re working our way through chapter 6 of Sams Teach Yourself C++ in One Hour a Day Seventh Edition by Siddhartha Rao.
We’re going through both books at the same time and it’s fair to say that the approach for creating a foundation of knowledge on which to build is unique to each of them. Both books make heavy use of analogies to explain and build on the concepts as a means to create a form of intuitive instruction.
Both books assume little or no prior programming experience so establishing a base line from scratch is clearly a challenge, especially when there is no way for printed copy to determine our level of comprehension. C++ All-In-One For Dummies tends to offer too much explanation for even the simplest of concepts – almost to the point of creating confusion.
C++, like C, allows comments to be inserted throughout the code to help the developer and others understand the code in real English. I question why the authors of C++ All-In-One For Dummies chose to formally introduce comments in Chapter 8: Using Advanced C++ Features. Introducing comments earlier in the book would’ve allowed the authors to use comments to explain the code as part of the program listings rather than resorting to a drawn out line by line explanation in the text.
The presentation of material in Sams Teach Yourself C++ in One Hour a Day tends to be more thorough and the progression of topics from one chapter to the next is not as aggressive. Though analogies are used, the introduction of concepts is seemingly more structured – concepts are followed by relevant program listings and analysis. Each chapter concludes with a Summary, Q&A, and a Workshop comprised of a quiz and exercises to reinforce the concepts presented.
Goldilocks reminds us that we should present content that is “just right” – not too much, not too little – and in the right context. Suffice it to say that analogies are an effective tool for teaching abstract concepts, especially when it comes to learning a new language.
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