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AP Test’s Recursion Examples: An Exercise In Awkwardness

theodp writes “Yet another example of how AP exams are loaded with poor coding practices,” quipped Alfred Thompson, referring to a recursive code example that prints the numbers 0 to 6, which was posted to the (closed) AP Computer Science Facebook group. “We are often forced to use code examples that are not ideal coding practice,” Thompson notes. “We do that to make things clear and to demonstrate specific concepts in a sort of isolation that we might not normally use. We seem to do that a lot with recursion because the examples that require recursion tend to be fairly complex.” So, while asking students to use recursion instead of a loop to print ‘0123456’ serves the purpose of teaching recursion, Thompson opines that it’s also a poor example of code practice. “Someone raised on functional programming where recursion is a pretty standard way of doing looping might disagree of course,” he adds. “There is a saying that when all you have is a hammer all your problems look like nails. This seems, in a way, to be the case with recursion and loops. If your first tool of choice (or what you have learned first) for iteration is loops you tend not to think of recursion as a solution. Similarly if you start with recursion (as is common with functional programming) you are a lot more likely to look at recursion as a tool for iteration.” So, do you tend to embrace or eschew recursion in your programming?

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