AP Class Reviews

Computer Science taught by Cynthia Lang

by Students and Parents

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Computer Science-- DO IT! posted by Blake Baer on May 18 2012 at 23:42:04

Dear Prospective Student,

I'll begin by saying this right up front. This was a very difficult course. I found myself spending up to 6 hours a day on the assignments for this. Despite the daunting difficulty, this was an incredibly rewarding and valuable opportunity and one that I would really suggest trying out. Allow me to explain.

I came into the course with absolutely no background in Computer Science. While I knew a thing or two regarding computers in general, I knew nothing regarding programming. In the beginning of the year, I had lots of software difficulties with Java, Alice, and NetBeans. I got behind due to these difficulties, so it was discouraging to see my class-mates go speeding off into the sunset. These difficulties got to the point where I considered dropping out of the class with the partial refund. However, Mrs. Lang helped me through the difficulty and encouraged me to stay in the class. I definitely do not regret it. After the software difficulties, the assignments soon became quite difficult also. Each week became a burden and a struggle to complete the assignments, especially since I was already behind. However, due to Mrs. Lang's help, and my own determination, I soon powered my way through the troubles and finished the fall semester with a respectable grade.

Spring semester started and I was out of the blocks much quicker than the fall semester. This good start really helped me to focus in and understand the stuff that I was programming. In the fall semester, I would sometimes just go through the actions, and not really apply myself to understanding the code. Spring semester, with most of the difficulties out of the way, I found myself really enjoying the material. I would sometimes even create a program just because I wanted to, and not because it was an assignment. While the work load was still really hard, I didn't care because I was really really really beginning to enjoy the stuff I was doing. When the exam came into view ahead, I began to study and try practice exams. My first couple practices, I got close to 60% on the multiple choice questions. That wasn't good enough in my opinion, so once again, I set my hand to the grind stone and studied daily, for hours at a time. I would even have a Java textbook for "light" nighttime reading. I took another practice exam, and got a 35 out of 36 on the Free Response questions. By the time the exam came, I was bursting with confidence, in no small part due to my studying and the guidance of Mrs. Lang.

So, was Computer Science worth the hard work? Answer: Yes! 

Despite the furthering of knowledge in Computer Science, I felt that this course really enforced a discipline that would otherwise be lost on us homeschoolers. It helped me become independent and disciplined, which are two brilliantly valuable attributes in college preparation. When I finished, I gained a real amount of confidence by looking back on the year and remembering all the difficulties I went through. The hard work required throughout the year really payed off, and helped me see just what I am capable of. Aside from general programming knowledge, the assignments also improve math, logic, and problem-related thinking. I can't overstress how much I enjoyed this course. I consider myself in a much better light having completed something as challenging and rewarding as this was.

And finally, the teacher. Mrs. Lang is incredible. It was only through her encouragement and guidance that I managed finish the fall semester, and then to excel in the spring semester. I found her to be easily approachable, very encouraging, kind, and patient. On top of those character qualities, she also has a supreme understanding of the material that she teaches. If I ever had a question, I would just drop her a line and she would kindly respond in a very encouraging and informative email. A class is only as good as the teacher. I think this is an good example of an excellent class being led by an excellent teacher. 

 

Q: Did you feel the course prepared you for the AP exam?

A: I walked into the exam room with 100% confidence that I could perform well. Like all exams, Computer Science requires hours of study and hard work in preparation of the exam. However, I felt the class did a fantastic job in helping you prepare for the exam, either through practice tests or simple tips from the wonderful teacher, Mrs. Lang. This course covers everything (and more!) that is featured on the exam, so there were no "surprises" in the material of the exam. 

Q: How many hours of work per day or per week did you generally put into the course?

A: On average I would do close to 1-2 hours per day. However, when the assignments got tougher, I found myself spending as much as 6 a day. Typically, I would do close to 7-10 hours on a normal week. I found out quite quickly that I was a rather slow programmer, so these numbers might not reflect the time you will spend. 

Q: Are there any particularly favorite assignments that you found especially valuable?

A: I thoroughly enjoyed working through Boolean problems. I found that Computer Science in general really improved my logical skill set, but Boolean in particular really honed my logical thinking function.

Q: Did the course enhance your interest in the subject?

A: Of course! Like all subjects, the more you learn about it, the more interesting it becomes. While I didn't have much experience in the beginning, my interest grew throughout the class. I don't necessarily see myself pursuing a career in computer science, but it is a very valuable and, in most cases, applicable skill set to have.

Q: Did you find your communications with other students to be interesting or valuable?

A: While the interactions were, for the most part, limited to asssignments and meetings in the chats, I did find that the classmates played a large part in encouraging and inspiring me to perform better. All were very friendly, quite happy to answer my questions, and easy and fun to work with.

Q: What sort of student would do well in this course? Would you recommend this course to other students (if they are willing to work hard!)?

A: I found that Java programming requires a logical mind. Solving Boolean problems really strengthened my thought process and logical understandings, which is a very valuable skill to have, even if you don't enter the Computer Science field. If you are a hard working student, then you will do very well in this class. If you aren't a hardworking student, then you should still do this class because it will turn you into one (quite quickly, I found out!). Any student with any background of Computer Science can succeed in this class, depending on whether you apply yourself and work hard.

If you have any qualms about your lack of experience or knowledge, I was in the same place. This course is designed for people like you. Do it! I guarantee you won't regret it. 

-Blake Baer

 


TAKE TAKE TAKE THIS CLASS!!!! posted by Tynan Stewart on June 07 2011 at 15:51:27

Hey prospective Compsci student!

 

Well, what can I say?  The title says it all.  TAKE THIS CLASS!  Mrs. Lang is an awesome teacher and Computer Science is an amazing, fun and, if sometimes challenging, thoroughly worthwhile course.  Let me say right here, even if you’re not a computer whiz, or (like me before this class) know next to nothing about programming, you should still take this class.  In fact, you should definitely take this class!  I distinctly remember my stomach plummeting when I looked at my classmates bios and reading about how some had built computers from scratch, etc.  My reaction was something along the lines of “……uh-oh, what have I gotten myself into now?.....”   But that brings me to the first question that you, the prospective AP CS student, probably have:

Put simply, I walked into that AP test room with a 110% assurance that I knew the material.  And by “knew” I don’t mean memorized or something paltry like that.  I mean “knew” as in I understood it, could apply it and could absolutely, positively ace the exam.  As far as feelings before tests go, I felt that I went into the AP CS with the most focused, most prepared and most confident mindset I’d ever had up to that point.  Truly.

Hmm, this is always a tricky question to answer.  I want to say that I put in about 7-8 hours a week as an average; however, I most definitely put in more time at the beginning of the year (when I was still getting my feet wet I suppose) and somewhere in the middle (when the assignments and material got tougher).

Well, to me, most all the assignments were valuable, but I did particularly enjoy the assignments that were given when we started really moving into object design and implementation.  Also, programing and animating in Alice was always a treat!

Absolutely!  It was really (aside from a little previous dabbling in Python) my first exposure to real Computer Science.  And I loved it! 

Honestly, apart from the weekly chat and several paired programming assignments, I didn’t have too much interaction with my classmates.  However the people I did get to know were always funny and smart—a perfect combination for classmates, in my opinion!

As I said (or maybe I didn’t; but now I am!), I would recommend this class to any student, even if they are inexperienced in the ways of computers or computer programming!  Be warned—this is not an easy course.  But Mrs. Lang structures the schedule at a perfect pace to learn and is always there with a helping hand or word, should you need it.  All in all, if you’re on the fence about this course, I hope this review has helped you decided in favor of adding AP COMPUTER SCIENCE WITH MRS. LANG to your courses for next year!

Viva la Homeschool Hackers 2011 and beyond!!!


Excellent posted by Matthew Kilgore on June 01 2011 at 23:51:41

Prospective Student,

public static ArrayList<Integer> selectionSort(ArrayList<Integer> arr);
Can you understand the above code snippet?  If not, then do I have the class for you!
*puts on salesman outfit; starts shouting*
Hi--I'm a  parody of TV salesmen, and I'm here to show you AP COMPUTER SCIENCE A!  Why take CS at a regular vendor, when you could take it through PA Homschoolers?  It's fun; it's thought-provoking!!  Just look at what our customers are saying:
"I truly incinerated the exam.  It was cake--passing with no tension whatsoever!" -Matt

"The heart of this course was a series of real-time chats, held weekly.  These chats were engaging, and inspired great discussions.  I always looked forwards to them!" -Matt

"Prior to taking this class, I was able to program--barely.  At the time, I thought my issue was lack of experience.  However, as I took this course, I soon realized my issue was lack of understanding.  I would spend hours debugging because I did not realize how a function worked!  AP CS taught me this." -Matt

BUT WAIT--THERE'S MORE!!

Sign-up now and we'll throw in a great teacher!  Look at our customers again:

"Mrs. Lang was fabulous--she was well-organized and moderated the chats perfectly!" -Matt

HURRY--THIS IS A LIMITED-TIME OFFER!


Enjoyable, engaging, and excellent, but also difficult posted by Zerek Dodson on May 26 2011 at 14:55:11

I would have to say that AP Computer Science was undeniably my absolute favorite course this year.  Mrs. Lang was an excellent teacher, consistently prepared for class and eminently knowledgeable on the subject.  Our textbook was a pleasure to read and quite informative, though some of the exercises were graced with ambiguities.  What I learned was fascinating and valuable.  Through the year, my experience with Java and ability to code that I learned has come in handy in countless situations, from automating messy processes that would take me hours to do by hand to running simulations and/or generating data for other classes to just improving my overall faculty of analytic thinking.

As regards preparation for the exam, the class was truly excellent.  My preparation for my other AP tests (done outside PA Homeschoolers) could best be described as a mad, nervous dash to the finish that left me exhausted.  This course was different.  Mrs. Lang really began teaching for the AP exam from day one, and started us reviewing in earnest early and in-depth.  There was no shock or sudden change in the amount of work; the work we were already doing simply merged with review.  I scored very well on practice tests and felt quite confident during the test.

Looking over the other reviews, I see some outrageous (I think) numbers on the amount of work necessary.  Though there was fluctuation, I would say that I typically put in around 6 hours or so a week.  Those 6 hours, however, were intensely concentrated periods; I wasn't talking with friends or even listening to music.  I was focused on my code.

Before this course, I suppose I would say my interest in computer science was somewhat blasé.  My father is a software engineer, and I've played around with Ruby and GNU Octave and the like.  However, I gained quite an appreciation for the subject, and far more techniques of coding than I'd ever learned by myself.  I am now quite enamored of the subject, and hope to continue study of it in college, perhaps even work toward a minor. 

Social interaction in the class was. . . hmmm.  I should say that I didn't really seek out my classmates, so I'm not sure what other's experiences were.  

Our AIM meetings were weekly, although the class was so big and schedules so conflicting that we had three class incarnations each week, and hence never had the whole class together.  The meetings themselves were quite businesslike; Mrs. Lang presented the material and we asked questions.  Our social board (a student-led forum) had some activity, though it was dominated by two or three individuals and mainly discussed issues relevant to the class.  Mrs. Lang attempted to get us together by assigning some paired programming exercises near the beginning of the course, but apparently those didn't work out.

However, one of our last activities, a computer ethics mock trial, involved substantial collaboration.  I was quite involved with it, and I found that many of my classmates were extremely intelligent, sophisticated, and motivated.  I'm sort of sad that I didn't take greater advantage of my connections with them.  We had people from various locations around the world, and it was quite interesting figuring out the time differences.

I won't sugar-coat it: this is not an easy course.  You must be dedicated and perseverant to succeed; coding assignments can be highly frustrating.  You must be willing to spend substantial time to make sure things are "just right".  Academically, a strong foundation in both Algebra and logical thinking is essential.  I studied categorical and syllogistic logic previous to the course, and I found that programming had the same "flavor".  My knowledge of logic was eminently useful; boolean operations are really bits of symbolic logic, and were straightforward for me. 

To conclude, to any student who has the background in Algebra, the commitment to quality, and the passion for logical puzzles—I would recommend this course without reservation.  


The Best Class of All Time posted by Michael Thompson on May 23 2011 at 16:36:10

This was truly the best class I have ever taken. I had so much fun learning about Java and writing programs about whatever I wanted to write about. I wish I could have worked on this class all day. Mrs. Lang is also amazing, she was always extremely accessible, and answered all of my questions very quickly. Here are my answers to the questions asked about this course:

Did you feel the course prepared you for the AP exam?

Absolutely, this was the only AP class I have taken where I scored well on practice tests from the very beginning. The way Mrs. Lang teaches the material is perfect for the AP exam, and pretty much any other application. 

How many hours of work per day or per week did you generally put into the course?

The actual class work didn't take me that long, maybe 3-5 hours a week. I also wrote a lot of programs that were just for fun, and that probably took an extra 2 hours a week. 

Are there any particularly favorite assignments that you found especially valuable?

Towards the beginning of the year, a couple of the students had a contest to see who could write the fastest program to print out prime numbers, and that was really fun, and I am still improving my prime numbers program today. 

Did the course enhance your interest in the subject?

This was my first exposure to computer science, and I loved it, so yes, absolutely. I was to planning study computer science or electrical engineering in college before this class, and this class made me want to study that even more. 

Did you find your communications with other students to be interesting or valuable?

Yes, there were a lot of really smart kids in the class, and that made this class even more fun. 

What sort of student would do well in this course? Would you recommend this course to other students (if they are willing to work hard!)?

Someone who is gifted in math and science would have a ton of fun in this course, but someone who is more gifted in other areas might have a difficult time. But, anyone could do this course if they work hard enough. And I would highly recommend this course!!! 

I really have no complaints, this class was excellent.


AP Computer Science Class Review posted by Dakotah Chmiel on May 22 2010 at 13:18:55

      I took this class because I have been interested in computers and programming for a long time, and enjoyed it very much (it was one of my favorite classes in the year, for sure). At times it could be tedious or frustrating, but always rewarding when you figured things out, and had a working program. I did feel quite prepared for the AP exam, as well. The course usually required about 1 to 2 hours per day of work on the projects. In taking this class I learned not only about Java, but a lot about programming and computers in general as well. I think I was lucky to have such great classmates, and a great teacher (Mrs. Lang) as well, and it was a lot of fun working with them. If you are willing to put in the work and time, are interested in computer programming, and have analytical thinking skills and patience, you would do well in this class, I'm sure.


A class for Nerds posted by Matthew Westendorf on May 21 2010 at 11:41:45

This class was excellent.  The teaching was good.  The format with online meetings needs some work.  The class would tend to go way off topic and lose focus.  However, Mrs. Lang was good at bring the group back on topic.  I found this to a difficult class, and on average I would spent over 12 hours a week on the exercises.  This was easily one of my favorite classes for the year, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to get a good base in programing, even if they do not want to learn JAVA.


Hard work, but worth the effort. posted by Andrew Parrish on May 20 2010 at 09:19:15

The AP Computer Science A class is probably one of the most difficult courses I have ever taken. It is the first AP class I've ever been in, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

The class definitely prepared me well for the exam. Everything I needed to know was covered in depth by the online textbook we used. I was nervous but fairly confident on the day of the exam, and I feel that, due to the extensive background familiarity with the subject material (we'd been using all this stuff in programming all year), I did well on it.

This class will take a LOT of time. I think I put in 18 hours a week on average. Coding problems require a great deal of abstract thought and an open, problem-solving mentality. Some of the hardest ones WILL result in banging one's head against the keyboard in an effort to shake loose a critical inspiration.

I have always had some interest in computer programming, reading books out of the library on the subject, but I'd never taken any kind of course on the subject. It was not quite what I expected it to be, but it is definitely an interesting and unique field and I enjoy programming a lot. Taking a course like this was the difference between reading books written in Chinese and actually being able to understand Chinese. I couldn't program before, and I can now, and the skill I gained in this course will definitely be one that I hang on to, in college and elsewhere.

Any kind of student would do well in this course, provided they are willing to put a whole lot of work into it. A natural talent for problem solving or looking at a problem from a different perspective is useful, but not necessary. The only requirement I can think of would be a decent grade in Algebra, I or II, because most of computer science is based on algebra, and the rest just is algebra. The nice thing about this class is it really forces you to pick up logical and clear thinking, even if you didn't have this skill before (which I didn't). You will come away from the class having been given an entirely new outlook on solving problems. From coding in Java, which requires you to solve a large range of exercises with a limited set of tools, you will now automatically respond to any problem by assembling your resources methodically, carefully considering the scope of the problem, and reaching an understanding of small parts of it until a solution becomes clear. I would wholeheartedly recommend this course to other students, especially if they already have interest in the subject material.


posted by Theresa%20Marlin on May 10 2010 at 06:46:48


worth it posted by Theresa Marlin on May 07 2010 at 09:10:50

This class is very difficult, but in my opinion, worth it. It takes a very dedicated and motivated student to excel in Computer Science, due largely to it's meticulous and repetitive nature. There are times when you will honestly never want to see another line of code again, but in the end, it's all worth it.

The course was definitely good preparation, perhaps the most frustrating part was not in the actual course, but in the prep work. With AP CS A being one of the least popular AP exams, there are hardly any resources. While my sister had three-four prep books per AP course, I started with one and after much searching managed to find another one.

During the actual course, I put in around an hour or so of work per day. However, as the course progressed and we got more into review, I was reviewing up to five hours a day, taking full length practice tests 4 times a week.

Having a live session every week, we were able to talk with each other live more than other classes do, but our WWW board was pitiful and our social board was even worse. We might have had a total of 3 threads on the social board the entire year. However, we all had each other's AIM addresses, so we were able to chat if we found an assignment difficult and needed an extremely smart fellow student coder. *cough cough*

A student who would do well in this course needs to be, as I said before, extremely dedicated. They also need to be at least semi-good at math. In addition, they need to be willing to spend great amounts of time debugging their code, searching for logic errors, compile-time errors, and runtime errors, and have incredible amounts of patience. Finally, they also can not be prone to beating their computer screen up, otherwise their computer screen will look like a meteor shower hit it by the end of the class.


Fun class, and one that will get you a great grade on the AP posted by Toyam Cox on May 04 2010 at 17:17:46

Q: Did you feel the course prepared you for the AP exam?

A: Yes, very much so. I was a programmer before taking this class, but this class taught me more material, and prepared me for the exam.

Q: How many hours of work per day or per week did you generally put into the course?

A: About 5 hours a week; to really do well in a program, one can not do it it in short bursts, one needs to do it in consecutive hours, if I had broken it up over many days I would have been spending a little more time.

Q: Are there any particularly favorite assignments that you found especially valuable?

A: Not really, the homework assignments were most of it, they were very valuable for understanding how to code, but the most useful assignment were the practice tests.

Q: Did the course enhance your interest in the subject?'

A: Yes. As I have said, I was a programmer before this, but this class got me to understand much more about this language.

Q: Did you find your communications with other students to be interesting or valuable?

A: Yes, as it made working out kinks in code easier, and it was easier to find hints. Most of this conversation came though AIM, the WWWBoard is not used very much in this class, but that does not mean that there is no communications between students.

Q: What sort of student would do well in this course? Would you recommend this course to other students (if they are willing to work hard!)?

A: Almost all students, preferably those who can understand how to program, can trace a program, and those who can learn a couple of rules for how to write a program, such as what goes where, and rules like that.

Q: Any other thoughts, questions or comments?

A: Yes: Why is the Computer Science test given on pen and paper?

Toyam Cox


Fun class, and one that will get you a great grade on the AP posted by Toyam Cox on May 04 2010 at 17:17:39

Q: Did you feel the course prepared you for the AP exam?

A: Yes, very much so. I was a programmer before taking this class, but this class taught me more material, and prepared me for the exam.

Q: How many hours of work per day or per week did you generally put into the course?

A: About 5 hours a week; to really do well in a program, one can not do it it in short bursts, one needs to do it in consecutive hours, if I had broken it up over many days I would have been spending a little more time.

Q: Are there any particularly favorite assignments that you found especially valuable?

A: Not really, the homework assignments were most of it, they were very valuable for understanding how to code, but the most useful assignment were the practice tests.

Q: Did the course enhance your interest in the subject?'

A: Yes. As I have said, I was a programmer before this, but this class got me to understand much more about this language.

Q: Did you find your communications with other students to be interesting or valuable?

A: Yes, as it made working out kinks in code easier, and it was easier to find hints. Most of this conversation came though AIM, the WWWBoard is not used very much in this class, but that does not mean that there is no communications between students.

Q: What sort of student would do well in this course? Would you recommend this course to other students (if they are willing to work hard!)?

A: Almost all students, preferably those who can understand how to program, can trace a program, and those who can learn a couple of rules for how to write a program, such as what goes where, and rules like that.

Q: Any other thoughts, questions or comments?

A: Yes: Why is the Computer Science test given on pen and paper?

Toyam Cox


Fun class, and one that will get you a great grade on the AP posted by Toyam Cox on May 04 2010 at 17:17:28

Q: Did you feel the course prepared you for the AP exam?

A: Yes, very much so. I was a programmer before taking this class, but this class taught me more material, and prepared me for the exam.

Q: How many hours of work per day or per week did you generally put into the course?

A: About 5 hours a week; to really do well in a program, one can not do it it in short bursts, one needs to do it in consecutive hours, if I had broken it up over many days I would have been spending a little more time.

Q: Are there any particularly favorite assignments that you found especially valuable?

A: Not really, the homework assignments were most of it, they were very valuable for understanding how to code, but the most useful assignment were the practice tests.

Q: Did the course enhance your interest in the subject?'

A: Yes. As I have said, I was a programmer before this, but this class got me to understand much more about this language.

Q: Did you find your communications with other students to be interesting or valuable?

A: Yes, as it made working out kinks in code easier, and it was easier to find hints. Most of this conversation came though AIM, the WWWBoard is not used very much in this class, but that does not mean that there is no communications between students.

Q: What sort of student would do well in this course? Would you recommend this course to other students (if they are willing to work hard!)?

A: Almost all students, preferably those who can understand how to program, can trace a program, and those who can learn a couple of rules for how to write a program, such as what goes where, and rules like that.

Q: Any other thoughts, questions or comments?

A: Yes: Why is the Computer Science test given on pen and paper?

Toyam Cox