I'd be interested in knowing about any changes in student retention when
you made the switch from Ada to C++.  When we changed from C++ to Ada, we
retained about 20% more students.  The retention was particularly high with
women.  I attribute that to the lack of freshman who are self taught Ada
"gurus".  We had a lot of self taught C++ "gurus" who intimidated the
newbies.  Most of our women students have little if any programming

Chuck Engle once told me a story of his Department at Florida Institute of
Technology where they taught CS1 for CS majors in Ada and CS1 for
engineering majors in C++.  The instructor who taught the C++ version
always got lower teaching evaluations.    When they swapped instructors the
low evaluations remained with the C++ sections.


At 01:47 PM 10/5/2000 -0400, Brashear, Phil wrote:
>I've been teaching CS2 at the University of Dayton for a number of years.
>Until about 2-3 years ago, both CS1 and CS2 were taught using Ada, with the
>standard CS1 and CS2 content as far as structures and algorithms are
>Then we switched to C++.  It's been much harder work, because students have
>to be taught to apply more self-discipline -- something that's very
>difficult for college freshpersons.  Not only do they have to deal with
>abstractions (that are hard anyway), they also have to deal with the
>"touchiness" of the C family (such things as the "=" vs. "==" that Martin
>mentioned) and the peculiarities of C++ compilers that don't adhere to the
>I think we've been successful in making the switch -- but there's much less
>freedom to explore ideas, since we have to spend so much time on picky
>syntactic details.  I think my students are learning as many techniques
>(abstract and concrete), but they're much more rigid than my Ada students
>were because of the tight focus.
>I've taught this course in Pascal, Ada, and C++ and have absolutely no
>question that C++ is by far the worst of the three.  If anyone wants, I can
>solicit opinions from the other instructors who were on both ends of the
>Philip W. Brashear
>Software Quality Assurance
>EDS Corporation
>[log in to unmask]
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Wisniewski, Joseph (N-COMSYS) [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
>Sent: Thursday, October 05, 2000 11:31 AM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: C++ as a first language
>My wife teaches mostly C++ over at a major community college outside
>of DC. (No it isn't quite as bad as Carville/Matalin at home although
>this morning there was a discussion of "our individual opinions" wrt
>readability of C++   :--)        )
>Anyway, apparently there has been a switch recently from Pascal to
>C++ for the intro class. The intro C++ is being taught without the object
>oriented aspects of the language, so I guess it really becomes a
>"C class using the non-object oriented constructs specific to C++ and
>not in C, and using a C++ compiler",
>from what I can tell.  The professors there are very concerned because their
>students are performing much more poorly than they did with Pascal as an
>intro language.
>Now factoring out issues such as "teaching C++ for the first time" (which
>is more important in all of this than the language) ..... well what are your
>thoughts on this.

John W. McCormick                [log in to unmask]
Computer Science Department      [log in to unmask]
University of Northern Iowa      voice (319) 273-6056
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0507       fax (319) 273-7123