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C'est la Z

Advent of Code 2020

Tomorrow, or more practically, tonight at Midnight, Eric Wastl will once again launch the Advent of Code. As I've written before, it's a month long event where each day a new programming problem is released. The problems range in difficulty and complexity. Some are very approachable to beginners and some are crazy challenging. I've written a bunch about AOC in past years:

and a few more not listed.

If you haven't heard of AOC, at the stroke of midnight (Eastern), a new problem is released. From there you can read the problem, get the input and figure out a solution, usually by writing a program. You then type in your answer and if it's correct you get part 2 - usually a creative spin on part one. Usually you'll write a program to solve the problems but sometimes you'll write code just to explore and come up with an answer.

Even though there's a leader board and people can set up their own private leader boards, I describe AOC as an event not as a competition. I've had former students up near the top but a getting there requires a lot more than just problem solving. First, you have to be up when the problem is released, then you have to shortcut scan what the question is asking. Having a library of pre-written utility routines is a big help as is using a language that has a lot of interactive scripty functionality like Python. It also assumes that even if you do all that is needed, that life doesn't get in the way. This means that to get to the top of the leader board, like in most competitions you have to train and prepare to do just that and training for that doesn't really translate to the rest of life's challenges.

Solving the problems, though, can translate to other challenges you might face so I look at AOC as an opportunity to explore some interesting problems.

I've never finished all of them and that's okay. Here's my star count for each of the years. You get one star for each part of each question so that's 50 total.


I've never gotten more than 40. I typically wake up and read the question and see if I can solve it either then or over the course of the day. Sometimes I'll come back to a problem but usually not. Last year, many problems were based on earlier ones. I had an issue in one of those earlier solutions so never completed the later ones.

Maybe I'll go back and finish more, maybe I won't.

None of this matters.

I had fun, learned a lot and as an added bonus, each problem gives me an opportunity to reflect on how I might teach it or teach concepts related to it.

It all starts in a few hours so if you're already planning on participating, have a blast. If you haven't, check it out.

Advent of code can be found here:

And, the AOC subreddit, which is great for problem discussions can be found here:


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