Understanding the complexity of programming exercises

23. July 2008 08:58 by CarlosLoria in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)
As anyone attempts to support migration, refactoring or related automated software transformation tasks, some level of understanding of programs is required, as we might be expecting. The more complex the transformation is the deeper such an understanding could turn to be. Tools like standard compilers stay at the language level; for instance, to translate an “if” statement into alternate sequences of low-level code, independently of what functionality it represents at the application domain. However some migration related tasks usually demand a deeper understanding, for instance when one has to decide that some path of an “if” has to be abstracted as a method for some special domain specific related reason. Thus, a regular compiler translate from a higher into a lower level of semantics, migration tools might also require the opposite direction, in addition. Hence, a measure of understanding capability (complexity) is involved when dealing with software manipulation.

Naturally, the same is true for human beings, programmers, in usual maintenance labor or more specifically when beginners learn to program. In this last case, some kind of programming exercises help to determine how much understanding the student possesses about the language, an algorithm and its implementation. We might ask ourselves in such a scenario, how complex an exercise could be, how much effort, knowledge and tasks the exercise might involve: A not so easy question that we want to start to investigate, initially in terms of an e-learning situation for pragmatic reasons. For such a purpose, we have prepared a technical report explaining in more detail the context and some interesting angles of the problem. We invite the interested reader to take a look at the report.