[Haskell-cafe] RE: Haskell as a first language?

J.N. Oliveira jno at di.uminho.pt
Sat Nov 7 12:27:36 EST 2009

Duncan Coutts wrote:

>On Tue, 2009-07-14 at 03:01 -0700, Michael Vanier wrote:
>>Haskell is a wonderful language (my favorite language by far) but it is 
>>pretty difficult for a beginner.  In fact, it is pretty difficult for 
>>anyone to learn in my experience, because it has so many advanced 
>>concepts that simply don't exist in other languages, and trying to 
>>absorb them all at once will likely be overwhelming.
>As a contrary data-point, at Oxford we teach functional programming
>(using Haskell) as the first course at the very beginning of the
>computer science degree. I know several other universities also use FP
>and Haskell very early on in their CS courses.
At Minho we've been using Haskell as first programming course in CS 
degrees since 1997-98. Such a 'functional first' approach is the natural 
way to start a background on programming. Look at the hardware side, for 
instance: which of the following kinds of digital system is taught 
first: combinatorial (eg. nand, nor gates) or sequential (eg. 
flip-flops)? The first, of course, because such circuits are functional 
(no state, no feedback).

More recently I had a go at teaching Haskell to beginners in a non CS 
context (to arts students studying musicology, actually). If you are 
interested, have a look at the slides available from the course's URL:


(Under Acrobat some scores will start playing music once you click the 
"pin" symbol on the  right.)

All comments, suggestions etc are welcome.


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