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5 Tips to help you tackle programming 1 by Cay Horstmann First Do It By Hand If you can’t do it by hand, you can’t tell a computer how to do it. Before doing any work on the computer, get some sheets of paper and a pencil. Choose an example of your problem—not too hard, but not trivial either. Solve it by hand. The minutes spent on this step will save you hours later. 1
2 Solve a Simpler Problem First When you face a complex problem, it is easy to get discouraged. A great strategy is to solve a simpler problem first. Ask yourself what is the absolutely simplest part of the task that is helpful for the end result. Start from there. Then add another feature, and another. With some practice, you can design a plan that builds up a complete solution as a manageable sequence of intermediate steps. That way, you will experience sweet success at each step, and you will have the energy to reach a final conclusion. 2
3 Use Physical Objects Sometimes, you are given a problem and have no idea how to solve it. You may know that a loop is required, or that you need to swap elements, but that’s not enough to design a solution. Try acting out your problem with physical objects. Coins, playing cards, scrabble tiles, or tin soldiers work great. Suppose you need to arrange values in a certain way. Try moving the objects around until you discover a systematic way that always achieves the correct result. Then you are ready to write pseudocode and code. 3
4 Try Some Code Your textbook and the library documentation can be confusing at times. A quick way of making sense out of the documentation is to try something out. For example, suppose you suspect that the “replace” function can be useful but you don’t really know what it replaces or how you can get the result. Make a string, replace “i” with “x”, and watch what happens. Many development environments have a way of running quick experiments without writing a full-fledged program. 4
5 Write More Code Programming is not a spectator sport. Understanding the concepts only gets you so far. You need to have your hands on the ball to gain experience. You can start out with worked examples that walk you through a solution, a step at a time. Then set yourself a challenge to push the example a bit further, and implement your enhancement. That way, you build upon something that works, and you gain valuable experience reading and writing code. 5