Did I respond appropriately?

I had two odd mentoring requests on the 8th track. The students had not demonstrated any attempt to solve the tasks they had selected.

The first said,

teach me how to program the easy and hard

I responded with,

The mentoring system isn’t here to teach you how to program. It’s assumed that you already have some grounding in basic programming practices.

Were we an athletics club and you joined up to be a sprinter, I wouldn’t be expected to teach you how to run. It’d be expected that you already knew how to run and that my job was to make you run better.

So are you learning how to program having never programmed before, or do you have other programming skills and you’ve never programmed a FORTH?

The second student wrote

i don’t know how to program

To which I responded with

Ah well, that’s a problem. Exercism starts of by assuming that you know the basics of programming. Are you saying that you don’t know how to program AT ALL or just that you don’t know how to program in this dialect of FORTH?

I haven’t heard back from either student.


I don’t think you were out of line. Sometimes I get mentoring requests on the Python track where the student doesn’t know the basics. I usually point them to this forum topic where I asked for learning resources. Or, I’ll point them to one of iHiD’s posts where he explains that Exercism is set up to help people improve their skills but not designed to teach programming.


This seems perfectly acceptable as a response. I used to tutor in undergrad and I would refuse to help until they’d taken an initial attempt, no matter how trivial.

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Personally i would just ignore what they said and get straight to the point by listing resources that would help them to get started. This provides immediate help and at the same time I’m implying that it’s their responsibility to read the basics.


I use this from my not_for_noobs.txt file:

Exercism is best suited for students who already know one programming language and are trying to learn it better, or are trying to learn another. Exercism is working on a platform to teach programming to those who’ve never programmed before, but it may not be ready until sometime later this year.

This is from one of the founders of Exercism

If you’re totally new to programming, then Exercism will be too hard for you. Our tracks are designed for people who can code (at least a little bit) to work through and improve their skills in a language or learn a new language. We’ll be launching a full Learn to Code platform this year.

If you use something like CodeAcademy to get the basics down…, then you can work through our track to upskill…

Sorry to disappoint!