Draft "cover sheet" for tasks

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Gordon V. Cormack

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Jul 29, 2010, 1:40:36 PM7/29/10
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To avoid unnecessary repetition in the task statements, we
are drafting a 'cover sheet' that can be given to
participants before competition day.

Here is the current draft. I don't expect major changes.

http://plg1.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~gvcormac/cover/

Tsuyoshi Ito

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Jul 30, 2010, 10:10:09 AM7/30/10
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Dear Professor Cormack,

May I ask you to reconsider the following nonstandard conventions in
the current draft of the cover sheet?

> * Unless otherwise stated, the word /number/ means /non-negative
> integer/.
> * Unless otherwise stated, numbers will not exceed 1,000,000,000.
> That is, they may be represented easily as the type int (C/C++) or
> longint (Pascal).
> * The phrase /between N and M/ shall be interpreted to mean /all
> numbers not less than N and not greater than M/.

I guess that this is part of the efforts to make the tasks readable,
especially to the novice. However, I do not think that the items
quoted above are the right approach. We should stick to the standard
terminology and we should not introduce IOI-specific jargons for well-
established mathematical concepts.

For the third bullet I quoted above, I suggest to change the phrase to
“between N and M, inclusive.” Moreover, whether you change the phrase
or not, please use the phrase only when the inequality N≤M is
guaranteed elsewhere; otherwise it would be very confusing.

Best regards,
Tsuyoshi

Gordon V. Cormack

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Jul 30, 2010, 11:16:39 AM7/30/10
to Tsuyoshi Ito
Tsuyoshi Ito wrote:

> I guess that this is part of the efforts to make the tasks readable,
> especially to the novice. However, I do not think that the items
> quoted above are the right approach. We should stick to the standard
> terminology and we should not introduce IOI-specific jargons for well-
> established mathematical concepts.

I am willing to hear others' opinions on this matter.

It seems to me that "inclusive" is jargon within a
fairly narrow community, and that most of the time
when people ask, "do you mean inclusive" they are
merely asserting that they are members of that
community, rather than expressing any genuine
uncertainty.

My argument is that we are removing, not
inventing, jargon.

I argue that there is no ambiguity whatsoever
in the plain language meaning of "Jill is thinking
of a number between 1 and 10." But just in case
there is doubt, we'll put it in the cover sheet.
I see inserting the words "inclusive" and
"positive integer" and "less than or equal
to 1 billion" as pedantic and, as you note,
confusing to a general audience.

I don't think I've seen a case yet of somebody
misinterpreting the demo tasks, even without
the clarifying document.

When I was in school, the in-terms were "natural
number" and "whole number." I have found since
that, notwithstanding what my teachers said,
people don't understand what I mean when
I use those terms.

Also when I was in school, know-it-alls were
fond of saying "do you mean 'inclusive or'
or 'exclusive or'" when the plain language
meaning was clear.

> For the third bullet I quoted above, I suggest to change the phrase to
> “between N and M, inclusive.” Moreover, whether you change the phrase
> or not, please use the phrase only when the inequality N≤M is
> guaranteed elsewhere; otherwise it would be very confusing.

We intend to use the phrase only when it is
obviously the case that N<=M.

(For years, the ACM finals practice problem has
used wording like this to trap contestants. Our
intent is to avoid such traps.)

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