Ask students to describe in their own words how the =, equal sign character, in assignment statements is different from = in math to gauge their understanding of variable assignment.

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  • Asking students this question forces them to explicitly think about the differences between the mathematical = symbol (equivalence symbol) and the computer science = symbol (assignment operator).
  • Encourage group discussions so students can also receive peer feedback.
    • Have groups come to a consensus and present their explanation about the differences between these single equals signs to the class.
  • Once the discussion has concluded, make sure to explain to students that = in an assignment statement can be read as “is set to the value of” and should be called the assignment operator.
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Interview with Helen Hu.

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