Using Real Execution Timings to Enliven a Data Structures Class

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Conference Proceeding

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Which is faster, an array list or a linked list? In our data structures course we increase the engagement of our students by asking them to predict the outcome of a future race between competing data structures. We record their predictions for future validation, and subsequently as we analyze the data structures, students are more engaged in the analysis because it either lends credence or doubt towards the accuracy of their predictions. Some of their expectations get radically broken by the analysis, and in the end everyone gets surprised by the actual runtime results. Everyone benefits because the class is more engaging and the results are more memorable


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