Tuesday, April 19, 2005

An Introduction to Recursion

Moebius Stripper has a fabulous post describing her first experience with runaway recursion. It made my day last week when everything else seemed to be going wrong. If you haven't read it already, check it out (and while you're at it, check her blog more often).

Tall, Dark and Mysterious also has a discussion of grading. I'd like to write on the subject, but I really have to get to work on my Operating Systems assignment. I'll update this post soon.

UPDATE: After every CS 225 mid-term, I dread the mind-numbing chore of grading over 200 exams. It has its moments, though, perhaps because American students seem to be much less repressed than their Indian counterparts. Every few exams, you'll find someone who was inspired to deliberately add a relevant joke for the graders benefit. I'm always tempted to go a little easy on someone who's made me laugh. (Perhaps we should have a policy of extra credit for humour, so we can reward them!) I was thinking of posting some examples here for my readers to enjoy, but decided against it after talking to Jason (who I TA for). You'll just have to take my word for it that they're hilarious.

Unforunately, the smiles don't last for long because some answers make you contemplate tearing your hair out. You occasionally wonder if you've been a complete failure as a TA... if you couldn't even communicate the key ideas to the one-third of your class that actually showed up at discussion. Grading a previous exam, I was sinking deep into depression when 6 students in a row couldn't correctly write a simple 5-line recursive function (Forget correctness; they weren't even close!). I almost gave up when I noticed that the next exam belonged to a student I'll call X. X had been struggling with the material all semester, largely because her understanding of the pre-requisites was weak. She worked extremely hard to catch up, though; I spent hours with her every week, helping her review her notes and debug programs. Still, she had not done well on the previous mid-term, and in no mood for further reminders of my failures, I was not looking forward to grading her exam. Five minutes later, I was in shock: X had perfect scores on every question I graded.

Moments like that make it all worthwhile.

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