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6. AWK > Theory and Practice

Theory and Practice

You taught math before joining Bell Labs. Should we teach computer science in the same way we teach math?

Peter: We teach math for a couple of different reasons. One of them is for future mathematicians, which is sort of what I was doing when I was teaching math. One of them is because mathematics is so useful. But it’s a little clearer, I think, what mathematics is than what computer science is.

In computer science there are various kinds of programming and it’s hard to know what to think about that. There’s all those data structures and there’s the sort of algorithms and complexity part. It’s somewhat less clear what different users of computer science need than it is, at least what people think about, what potential users of mathematics need. So when you’re teaching mathematics you know what the engineers need; nowadays I suppose you know what people who will be doing statistics or economics or something need, but I think the problems are somewhat simpler for the mathematicians.


  

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