Witch 99: PseudoPseudoCode

And one more step into Exam 2. To be honest, we couldn’t give a stuff about this garbage topic, other than to note that introducing it into VCE is complete madness. But, clearly some people feel there are specifics to hammer. So, hammer away. (Hammerers may wish to refer to this or this or this or this (Word, idiots), all courtesy of VCAA.)

UPDATE (28/02/23)

This is just an update to indicate that there will be no update; the intrinsic obscenity of the topic suffices for us. We’ll just note Simon’s specific comments below, and also aps’s comment on the VCAA New Stuff post, suggesting that pseudocode conventions in MM and SM will differ. And, everyone should be reminded of this.

30 Replies to “Witch 99: PseudoPseudoCode”

  1. I will be doing no hammering, not even a bit of gentle tapping. This is a supreme WTF moment. Propriety prevents me from uttering my true feelings. All I will say is that I’m glad we had none of this when I was doing school mathematics.

    (The hanging’s too good for them.)

    1. Pretty much my thoughts. I’d go for whipping, but I’m a softy.

      I look back at the beautiful, rich mathematics I was able to do at high school, and I simply want to cry. These people are barbarians.

  2. A couple of early thoughts having not quite finished working through this paper yet:

    1. This question seems to have been written to be easy. You could answer it without having any clue as to what is meant by pseudocode.

    2. If this was not a multiple choice question, asking for the output might be (relative to other examples from VCAA) a fair question. Asking students to write pseudocode on an exam though? That is not within my definition of “fair”.

    3. The whole concept of pseudocode in Methods and Specialist fails to make proper sense to me from any angle. If VCAA mandates a pseudocode question in SACs (now that SACs are not allowed to have any technology-free components at all)… who knows!

    The PD gravy train has added Pseudocode Station to the list of stops. All aboard!

  3. Don’t they already have Algorithmics in VCE?

    I suspect that most teachers are going to teach students how to program the CAS, so they can directly get the output of questions like these accurately without having to work them out manually, or actually think. This will probably be more relevant for more complicated pseudocode questions. Or perhaps this was the plan all along, so that students have “programming” skills which are surely applicable in the real world.

    1. And wasn’t part of their reason for cutting mechanics because it overlapped too much with the physics curriculum? Swapping an overlap with one subject for another 🤦‍♂️

      1. Mechanics as in Specialist Mathematics was better than it was in Physics. They have not gotten Physics to match what was previously in Specialist, so essentially we lost something along the way. Pseudocode in VCE had always been badly done, but in maths is perhaps even worse.
        “Reason”. If only.

        1. I came to the conclusion that C was the intended answer. Whether or not that is “correct” I have no idea. Pseudocode is still out of my intellectual reach for the moment.

  4. Think of all the beautiful maths that’s been removed from the syllabus to make room for this – code a Year 7 student could be taught how to read.

  5. It is a strange and seemingly pointless example. Here are the comments I made in my solutions:

    This does not follow the pseudocode rules outlined in the VCAA resources.
    The use of declare and set … to …, the repeat loop, the lack of bold keywords and most importantly the use of = instead of ← for assignment, all not part of the VCAA specified pseudocode. At least it has indentation…

    I also don’t understand why t1 and n are variables, or why have both f and t2 in the code when they serve the same purpose. The code is just an obfuscated first order difference equation: t(n+1)=2+2t(n), t(0)=3.

    Not a great example of applying computational thinking to mathematics.

    1. I guess interpreting bad code in a different “programming language” is an important skill to have. Not a problem itself, just not mathematics. If it was VCAA’s intention to test this, that makes it worse in a way, otherwise the writers were even more incompetent.

      1. Yes! Tracing a badly written algorithm is not only a practical (non-mathematical) skill, but also a good assessment tool as it separates those who can actually see what the code does instead of assume what it should do. However, some attempt should be made to connect it to the mathematics curriculum in a maths exam! [And they should follow their own pseudocode rules!]

  6. At least the ‘pseudo’ prefix is honest. Maybe they should extend that honesty and call the subject Pseudomathematics.

      1. Thanks for sharing the video – I do enjoy listening to Leslie Lamport – but I have to admit failing to learn much TLA+ when I tried last year!

  7. Hi,

    Why not just teach basic programming skills in any modern language instead to those who are interested as an option?
    C, C++, Java ,Python,….

    In the 90s C was standard in most first year undergraduate classes

    eg List the first 10 integers in a for loop in C

    int main(){
    int i=0;
    printf("%d \n",i);
    return 0;

    steve r

      1. Marty – don’t forget Hanlon’s razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

        VCAA is not a monolithic entity and I’m sure that the exam question writers and curriculum managers don’t “hate” mathematics. Even if some do have a different idea about what mathematics and mathematics education is / should be…

  8. I’m not sure if this is relevant, but is there a reason this is WiTCH 98 and not 99? The number 97 seems to have been used twice.

    1. Hi Marty, sorry to be a bit late with this comment on pseudocode as I have just started to take a closer look at it. On the VCAA site they give 6 sample questions from the areas of study where pseudocode can be used.
      Two comments: example 4 should have stated that the algorithm generates the sample space for the TOTAL SCORE when rolling 3 standard 6 sided dice.
      More important perhaps is the absurdity of example 6, where effectively, we are asked to design an open box with a specified volume V and MAXIMUM surface area! Surely, they meant to say MINIMUM? Do we really want to consider a 1 X 1 X V shaped box?

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