A student writes:

     Dear Dr. Patt,

     I need help. I know it is really late to be asking for help
     but I can at least try. I have basically finished my program,
     and IT IS A TREMENDOUS FEELING after not doing so well on the
     first test and not understanding the last programming
     assignment very well. The only thing that my program does not
     have is the "Not a triangle" part. I don't completely understand
     what you mean by not being a triangle. I thought that you could
     make a triangle with any side, I mean unless they are 0. I guess
     what I am really asking is how you determine if it is not a
     triangle by the sides. It has really boggled my mind, and as I said
     before I am done with everything except for that. Thank you for
     your time.

     << name withheld to protect the triangle-maker >>

Two comments seem appropriate:

1. I did not think this would be a problem, and I would be interested in knowing if anyone else had a problem with this. I will (privately) ask him about his math background, and what math course he is taking at UT now.

2. Step 1 in solving any problem in this course is to read the problem. Very hard to solve the problem without first reading it.

Did you read COMPLETELY the statement of the programming assignment? Look again at Example 1. What are a, b, and c? Are any = 0? Since you undoubtedly studied plane geometry at some point, I assume you know how to draw a triangle, given the three sides. For sides 6,7,8, using a compass and a ruler, draw the triangle. Now, for sides 1,5,4, using a compass and a ruler, draw the triangle. Surprise!

If anyone else is having trouble with this, please see me or one of the TAs.

Yale Patt