I almost decided not to send this to the class, but on the off chance that
there are some who are dismissing a lack of real understanding with "I only
made simple syntax errors," I decided to share this with you all.

A student writes:

        Dr Patt,

        Having received my second programming assignment grade via email, I am
        concerned. Both programming assignments have been absolute disasters 
        for me, with simple errors riddling my programs. Should I be worried 
        about this? Its not as though I don't understand the concepts behind 
        the programs, because the programming logic is correct, I just haven't 
        been getting the syntax of the LC3 assembly language correct, or I've 
        been making a simple mistake with my numbers. Is syntax just as 
        important as the concepts behind it? Should I be worried, or should I 
        be content that I understand the concepts and have just made stupid 

        <<name withheld to protect one who understands everything, ...except>>

Of course, concepts are far more important than syntax.  You should first
check with your TA to be sure that what you are talking about are simple
syntax errors, and not errors in concept.  I have found many times that
the student "thinks" he has the concept and really doesn't.  It is too easy
to dismiss an error as a simple mistake, and declare, "I really understand what
is going on."  Please do not fall into that trap.  Self-delusion is a great
impediment to making progress in understanding.

If they are in fact simple syntax errors, then I need to understand better 
why one who understands the concepts is having a problem with syntax.  Syntax 
is not rocket science.  

I can think of several reasons why you could be having trouble with
simple syntax, but I prefer not to guess without talking to you. 

Meanwhile, some information about you would be useful.  How did you do on
the midterm?  Who is your TA?  Are you coming to class?  Discussion section?

It is true that you need to pay attention to syntax, or it can bite you in
the butt downstream.  Like driving on the correct side of the road, or using
the men's room, not ladies' room, etc.

Feel free to drop by my office and we will talk about it.

Yale Patt

ps. I just noticed that I used "he" throughout this response.  That's
because I lifted the message from my original response to the student,
who is male.  (It is also often the case that this whole line of "concepts
vs simple careless mistakes" is usually a guy thing, ...although that is
a whole different discussion.)