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High School AP CS A Exam Takers Struggled Again With Java Array Question

Published by Slashdot on Wed, 03 Jul 2024

theodp writes: As with last year," tweeted College Board's AP Program Chief Trevor Packer, "the most challenging free-response question on this year's AP Computer Science A exam was Q4 on 2D Array." While it takes six pages of the AP CS A exam document [PDF] to ask question 4 (of 4), the ask of students essentially boils down to using Java to move from the current location in a 2-D grid to either immediately below or to the right of that location based on which neighbor contains the lesser value, and adding the value at that location to a total (suggested Java solution, alternative Excel VBA solution). Much like rules of the children's game Pop-O-Matic Trouble, moves are subject to the constraint that you cannot move to the right or ahead if it takes you to an invalid position (beyond the grid dimensions). Ironically, many of the AP CS A students who struggled with the grid coding problem were likely exposed by their schools from kindergarten on to more than a decade's worth of annual Hour of Code tutorials that focused on the concepts of using code to move about in 2-D grids. The move-up-down-left-right tutorials promoted by schools came from tech-backed nonprofit Code.org and its tech giant partners and have been taught over the years by the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and President Obama, as well as characters from Star Wars, Disney Princess movies, and Microsoft Minecraft. The news of American high school students struggling again with fairly straightforward coding problems after a year-long course of instruction comes not only as tech companies and tech-tied nonprofits lobby state lawmakers to pass bills making CS a high school graduation requirement in the US, but also as a new report from King's College urges lawmakers and educators to address a stark decline in the number of UK students studying computing at secondary school, which is blamed on the replacement of more approachable ICT (Information and Communications Technology) courses with more rigorous computer science courses in 2013 (a switch pushed by Google and Microsoft), which it notes students have perceived as too difficult and avoided taking.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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