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Experiences with learning OCaml?
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Date: 2004-11-26 (03:01)
From: SooHyoung Oh <shoh@c...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Experiences with learning OCaml?

I agree with you that the Ocaml is too complicated for a novice.
We don't have to adhere to full set of Ocaml to introduce how to program, do
For HTDP, I'm planning to reduce the syntax of Ocaml,
and one example is the match-expression WITHOUT a guard.

In HTDP, chapter 4 "Conditioal expressions and Functions" seems to be a part
to teach boolean expressions and cond-expressions,
As you know, match-expressions are widly used in ocaml,
so, I think this chpater can be rewritten
to introduce booleans and subset of match-expressions.
This is why I said I need new examples.
(What about section 4.3 "Pattern-matching: Introduction",
and section 4.4 "Designing Pattern-matching Functions"?)

What I want is not to teach the syntax and semantics of one programming
but to teach how to find solutions from problems and how to describe them
using a progamming language.
In my thought, Ocaml is good for such purpose
because it is a *functional* language ("functional" includes many things),
it has modern features such as
- simple syntax :)
- type system including polymorphism,
- module system,
- and OOP

In conclusion, I don't try to teach all functionality of Ocaml for beginners
but I'd like to show how to desing program using subset of Ocaml
from which I wish they would get some inspiration.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Vanier" <mvanier@cs.caltech.edu>
To: <shoh@compiler.kaist.ac.kr>
Cc: <caml-list@inria.fr>
Sent: Friday, November 26, 2004 10:46 AM
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Experiences with learning OCaml?

> > From: "SooHyoung Oh" <shoh@compiler.kaist.ac.kr>
> > Date: Fri, 26 Nov 2004 09:47:06 +0900
> >
> > Anyway, in my experience, the difficult parts to convert are
> > 1. cond-expression -> should be rewritten using pattern-matching; need
> > examples
> cond is very often used for the equivalent of pattern matching in scheme.
> If you need more flexibility you can always use pattern matching with a
> when clause e.g.
> let n = 10 in
>   match n with
>   | m when m < 0 -> -1
>   | m when m = 0 -> 0
>   | m -> 1;;
> > 2. symbol information -> decide which one is better? strings or varient
> > types?
> Symbols per se don't exist in ocaml (at least without using camlp4), and
> the whole notion of code-as-data is foreign to the ocaml world (again, not
> counting things like camlp4 and metaocaml), so some examples are going to
> be pretty hard to translate.  Still, you can learn a lot by translating
> like this.  I went through part 3.5 of SICP and translated the examples
> into ocaml; the results were very interesting, though haskell would have
> been more elegant for those examples because they all involved lazy
> evaluation.
> I'm not sure how appropriate ocaml is as a beginner's language.  I teach
> both scheme and ocaml now, and ocaml is very well-liked by advanced
> programmers (one of whom came up to me raving about his "programming
> epiphany" after learning ocaml), but I think it would overwhelm beginners.
> The syntax is pretty involved, for one thing, and there are just a lot of
> concepts to learn.  Cousineau and Mauny's book _The Functional Approach to
> Programming_ is a good attempt to teach functional programming and ocaml
> (actually caml-light, but it's basically the same) to a fairly naive
> audience.
> Mike