It is now almost a quarter century since Allen Downey first released his textbook, How to think like a computer scientist, under the GNU General Public License, providing me with a resource I could use to teach Python to my high school computer science students at a time when no textbook existed for teaching introductory computer science with Python.

Twenty-four years later I am once again working on a re-mix of the book, this time to develop it into a C++ textbook for use in two dual-enrolled courses at the Arlington Career Center that are part of the Virginia Community College System’s new computer science sequence, Object-Oriented Programming and Data Structures and Analysis of Algorithms.

This effort began with a trip down memory lane, when I found a pdf on the Universidade Federal do Paraná website of a version of the book that two of my high school seniors, Paul Bui and Jonah Cohen, worked on back in 2001 as a resource for our AP Computer Science AB course at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia. Paul has now been a computer science colleague with me in Arlington Public Schools for more than 15 years, and kindly offered to contribute the Forward to this new edition of our book.

I can’t begin to communicate how much fun it has been for me personally to work on this. As I learned so many years ago now, the best way to learn a new computer programming language is to use it to write a new remix of Allen Downey’s wonderful book!

My main motivation for this effort is the desire to switch from Java to C++ as the “other programming language” in our Associate Degree in Computer Science program at Arlington Tech. There are two main reasons I wanted to do this now:

  • I want demystifying the computer to be one of the overarching goals of our program. I want students to have to do some memory management, to use pointers explicitly, and to be allowed to “shoot themselves in the foot” along their journey learning to program. C++ (and C, which we will be learning in our Computer Systems class) will enable them to do all that.

  • With the growing interest in microprocessors for uses like TinyML, C and C++ make more sense again.

It is my goal to create OER for all of the courses in our computer science sequence. This book will fullfil that goal for two of our courses. It is such a pleasure to be able to teach a course with just the book you always wanted. By having my own book to change and adapt along with my students, I can get just that.

Jeffrey Elkner
Arlington Career Center
Arlington, Virginia
12 May 2023