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How to Design Programs: An Introduction to Programming and Computing [Hardcover]

by Matthias Felleisen, Robert Bruce Findler, Matthew Flatt, Shriram Krishnamurthi
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 12, 2001 0262062186 978-0262062183

This introduction to programming places computer science in the core of a liberal arts education. Unlike other introductory books, it focuses on the program design process. This approach fosters a variety of skills--critical reading, analytical thinking, creative synthesis, and attention to detail--that are important for everyone, not just future computer programmers.The book exposes readers to two fundamentally new ideas. First, it presents program design guidelines that show the reader how to analyze a problem statement; how to formulate concise goals; how to make up examples; how to develop an outline of the solution, based on the analysis; how to finish the program; and how to test. Each step produces a well-defined intermediate product. Second, the book comes with a novel programming environment, the first one explicitly designed for beginners. The environment grows with the readers as they master the material in the book until it supports a full-fledged language for the whole spectrum of programming tasks.All the book's support materials are available for free on the Web. The Web site includes the environment, teacher guides, exercises for all levels, solutions, and additional projects.


Frequently Bought Together

How to Design Programs: An Introduction to Programming and Computing + Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - 2nd Edition (MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) + The Little Schemer - 4th Edition
Price for all three: $144.43

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Matthias Felleisen is Trustee Professor of Computer Science at Northeastern University, recipient of the Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award, and co-author (with Daniel Friedman) of The Little Schemer and three other "Little" books published by the MIT Press.

Robert Bruce Findler is Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern University.

Matthew Flatt is Associate Professor in the School of Computing at the University of Utah.

Shriram Krishnamurthi is Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Brown University.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (February 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262062186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262062183
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 8.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matthias Felleisen grew up in Germany and came to the United States at the age of 21.

In 1987, he received his doctorate from Daniel P. Friedman, with whom he had also rewritten The Little Lisper, his first book. At this point, The Little Lisper has been in print for nearly 35 years, an incredible age in the fast-lived world of programming and programming languages. The book covers the fundamental topic of recursive programming in an entertaining dialog style. While the book summarizes the high level ideas as a collection of ten commandments, the reader must work through the material and formulate lessons on his or her own.

Felleisen spent from 1987 through 2001 at Rice University in Houston, Texas, a bustling, always growing city of friendly people. He conducted research on every kind of topic in programming languages; data structures and algorithms for the translation process; the mathematical theory of behavioral equality; and the design of large systems. Many of his ideas came to him while he swam his daily miles in the pool of West University Place, a small town within Houston.

One particularly important idea is due to Carrie, the baby sitter that he and his wife Helga used to hire. The sitter would often work on her high school math problems while Felleisen and his wife would go to the symphony or the theatre. One evening Felleisen noticed that the baby sitter had not made any progress on her homework while they had been out for three hours. He showed the baby sitter how to solve her problems, using the ideas in The Little Lisper. The success was surprising and wonderful. The baby sitter's grades jumped dramatically, and Felleisen and his research team started work on a curriculum that synthesizes computer science and mathematics for novice programmers. Felleisen and his doctoral students wrote a book on this idea, How to Design Programs, and spent the last fifteen years educating teachers and faculty colleagues about it. For this work, Felleisen received the Karl Karlstrom Award in 2009, the major recognition by the professional computer science organization (ACM) for individuals who make critical contributions to the field.

Felleisen and his wife now live in Maine and Massachusetts. He teaches at Northeastern University in Boston and continues to conduct research in programming languages and train PhD students in this central field of computer science.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
69 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Recipe for Programming July 5, 2006
Format:Hardcover
This book opened my eyes. I'd finished a Ph.D. in computer science, and had a decent exposure to quite a few programming languages and paradigms, before coming across this book. I was surprised to start working through this introductory book, and find myself learning new things! The book transformed my approach to programming.

From page one, HtDP starts talking about good program design, and gives a methodical approach. Until this, I'd always thought programming books were "here are ten small example programs; go write ten more." That's hardly teaching. But HtDP builds up a straightforward design recipe, to guide programs along. If I get stuck or have a mistake in my program, 90% of the time I realize it's because I strayed from the book's recipe. The approach is language-independent, although some programming environments make it much easier to implement the design recipe; the book provides links to a good (free) Scheme environment, which it uses for its code examples too. (I've come to use that environment day-to-day). My code--in any language--has become much more robust, and when I do have a bug I usually locate it early, thanks to this book.

In addition, HtDP made me think about things I'd taken for granted: How is assignment to a variable fundamentally different than assignment to a structure's field? Even, *why* do I use assignment statements in certain situations, instead of choosing a functional approach? How often do my programs actually need the efficiency of imprecise floating-point arithmetic, vs using bignums which totally liberate me from numerical inaccuracy?

Although the text is available on line, I cherish my hardcopy. This is a book to first learn programming from, and one to revisit every five years.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is "the book" on programming April 28, 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book is going to be a classic. Unlike other introductory books on programming, it focuses on ideas not examples. It teaches students to organize their thoughts. It emphasizes thinking through problems. It pushes students to formulate concise comments, illustrate them with concrete examples, and test their programs systematically and automatically. I have not seen anything like this before. If you want to know the "why" and not just play with examples, buy this book! Note: It uses Scheme, which isn't widely used in industry (yet?) but don't let this deter you. The language is free, and it is very simple.
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87 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be read by Everyone who wants to program. September 27, 2001
Format:Hardcover
Have you ever looked at other people's codes and said to yourself something like "No... this isn't the way it should be written!". Or, worst yet, have you ever been asked by someone who wants you to read his/her codes and tell him/her what does it do?
Both things happened quite often, though.
The problems are mainly because they don't know how to "design" their programs properly. Being able to progam doesn't mean being to design/organize a good code at all. And being good at finding/inventing algorithms for problem solving doesn't mean that either.
One another thing, I (maybe just only me, I don't know) think that C shouldn't be taught as the first language (at least, not anymore). This is mainly because, in C, you can hardly express yourself. Also, C codes look cryptic to those new to programming. And you must know a lot, and practice a lot, (that takes a lot of time, friend) to be able to express what you want.
And also, several times, I saw many people just playing around with the * and & (well, the pointer-dereferencing, and address-taking symbol in C/C++), adding one more, deleting one off, to see which will make their programs work. (Sometime, it just works by miracle...)
This book, using Scheme (a modern dialect of Lisp) as the language of choice. I, personally, agree of choosing it. Scheme was designed in the way such that programmers can focus on what they want to express, rather than imprementation details. From my own experience, I became a better programmer after learning it. (I was already a C++ programmer by that time. I just have to use Lisp on my study/research).
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Eric Raymond writes in "How to be a hacker" that learning Lisp will make you a better programmer for the rest of your days. And this book shows why. With Lisp (actually Scheme, but never mind that), your programs match your problem statement. Programming is no longer a mystical experience where "it suddenly works". With this book (and Scheme) you understand *why* it works. In this day and age, it is exactly the book that freshmen should see .. especially those who think they already know how to program. Thanks for writing this book. It will make my teaching easier.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book for Rookies and Veterans December 25, 2006
By J. Choe
Format:Hardcover
I have been professionally developing software for about 5 years. I found this book to be one of the most useful and helpful books to help my coding skills. Even though I have been programming professionally for a few years and have a computer science degree, I learned a lot of new neat concepts from this book. It also helped to me to remind me of all the basic good practices that I have forgotten.

It is also an excellent book for beginners. The books doesn't use a popular programming language like Java to accomplish its goals. Instead, it uses Scheme so the student can focus on the concepts rather than syntax. It also teaches great concepts and breaks the problem down on how to solve various problems. Also it isn't "hardcore" like SICP-- it is very friendly to non-MIT level people.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good
The book is actually very new without any markings in the book. There is only a small problem with the cover.
Published 13 days ago by Lin Wandi
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazon Keep up the good work
I found these products very informative. the product lived up to its advertised purpose and the cost was very affordable.
Published 7 months ago by Vincent Butler
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for Self study, NOT Outdated by a long shot...
There is a very recent book called software and mind (Software and Mind: The Mechanistic Myth and Its Consequences) which lashes out for nearly 1,000 pages at current software and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Let's Compare Options
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for Beginners and Doesn't Live up to the Hype
I thought "How to Design Programs" would be a good way to learn programming, but the book has too much math for a beginner to understand. Read more
Published 16 months ago by DogsRGreat
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Programming book ever
This is the best book on programming that i have ever read. Though it is centered around the language scheme, it actually explains how any programming language works. Read more
Published 19 months ago by annjeff
2.0 out of 5 stars No Thanks
I am a professional programmer, and avid reader of technical books. I have a particular interest in books on design, so imagine what I felt when I was directed towards this book... Read more
Published on December 13, 2011 by Michael
4.0 out of 5 stars A landmark textbook
In the hands of the right teacher, this textbook is the best introduction to computer science, bar none. Read more
Published on March 31, 2011 by Mark E.
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Pro: a really good book for beginners.

Con: do NOT buy this book. There's a FREE edition online!
Published on November 26, 2010 by NkiT
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't try to use this as an intro to Scheme/LISP
While this is intended as an intro programming textbook, I suspect more people here will be considering it as an intro to Scheme/LISP than as beginning programming text. Read more
Published on March 9, 2009 by Mr. E. Mann
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should learn to design programs
As a programming do-it-yourselfer I've had many conflicting responses to this text -- it's didactic style, its attention to detail, its sometimes patronizing tone, its rigor and... Read more
Published on June 3, 2004 by Thomas Rivas
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Answers only available to instructors?
Hi Eric --

I also picked up HtDP (as it's popularly known) as a first time programmer learning on my own. It took me over two years to complete the exercises, but was well worth the effort.

There are two Google group resources you may avail yourself of in the course of your studies:... Read more
Mar 25, 2010 by D. Yrueta |  See all 2 posts
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