Teaching Kids Perl

Interesting thread on the Perl Mongers list related to a prior post of mine that I came across and thought I’d share.

http://osdir.com/ml/lang.perl.perl-mongers.boston/2006-12/msg00000.html

First, the question:

Hi all,
So… say you were going to teach a child (or several children) of about ten, reasonable technical aptitude, to program using Perl. How would you go about it? I’m doing some lessons for my daughter and her friends for the spring,and need some further input.They’re not quite of an age where handing them the camel book and saying “go for it” is realistic, but they’re pretty self-motivated.

Some interesting comments:

I thought that too, but I’ve been showing my daughter and bit and she seems to grok it; I think that not having to worry overmuch about data types and preciseness will help them learn concepts without stressing.

Hey! My first language was BASIC, when I was 11.

And then I didn’t program again for many, many years.

Hmmm, you may have a point ;)

I think Perl is probably a nice language to learn as a kid, because you don’t have to worry about things like strict typing or memory allocation.

Perl has at least one advantage over other languages — it is easy to see variables, because they start with a dollar sign (or other sigil). In my brief experience teaching programming to children this has proven to be helpful, because getting the difference between a variable and a string is important.

One of the resources listed among the posts was MIT’s How to Design Programs, which looks like a very comprehensive resource for teaching programming theory in upper elementary/high school grades.

As for books, I personally think that Randall Schwartz’s Learning Perl is terrific. For younger students the material there will obviously need modification, but then we need to leave something for the professional primary and secondary educators to do…