Advent of Code is an online Advent calendar where you’ll find new programming puzzles offered each day from December 1st to the 25th. While you can solve the puzzles at any time, the excitement when new puzzles unlock is really something special. You can participate in Advent of Code in any programming language—including Python!
This tutorial will help you get started with solving puzzles and earning your first golden stars.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn:
What an online Advent calendar is
How solving puzzles can advance your programming skills
How you can participate in the Advent of Code
How you can organize your code and tests when solving Advent of Code puzzles
How test-driven development can be used when solving puzzles
Advent of Code puzzles are designed to be approachable by anyone with an interest in problem-solving. You don’t need a heavy computer science background to participate. Instead, Advent of Code is a great arena for learning new skills and testing out new features of Python.
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Working on puzzles may seem like a waste of your available programming time. After all, it seems like you’re not really producing anything useful and you’re not advancing your current projects forward.
However, there are several advantages to taking some time off to practice with programming puzzles:
Programming puzzles are usually better specified and more contained than your regular job tasks. They offer you the chance to practice logical thinking on problems that are less complex than the ones you typically need to handle in your day job.
You can often challenge yourself with several similar puzzles. This allows you to build procedural memory, much like muscle memory, and get experience with structuring certain kinds of code.
Puzzles are often designed with an eye towards a solution. They allow you to learn about and apply algorithms that are tried and tested and are an important part of any programmer’s toolbox.
For some puzzle solutions, even the greatest supercomputers can be too slow if the algorithm is inefficient. You can analyze the performance of your solution and get experience to help you understand when a straightforward method is fast enough and when a more optimized procedure is necessary.
Most programming languages are well-suited for solving programming puzzles. This gives you a great opportunity to compare different programming languages for different tasks. Puzzles are also a great way for getting to know a new programming language or trying out some of the newest features of your favorite language.
On top of all of this, challenging yourself with a programming puzzle is often pretty fun! When you add it all up, setting aside some time for puzzles can be very rewarding.
Luckily, there are many websites where you can find programming puzzles and try to solve them. There are often differences in the kinds of problems these websites present, how you submit your solutions, and what kind of feedback and community the sites can offer. You should therefore take some time to look around and find those that appeal the most to you.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn about Advent of Code, including what kind of puzzles you can find there and which tools and tricks you can employ to solve them. However, there are also other places where you can get started solving programming puzzles:
Exercism has learning tracks in many different programming languages. Each learning track offers small tutorials about different programming concepts, coding challenges, and mentors that give you feedback on your solutions.
Project Euler has been around for a long time. The site offers hundreds of puzzles, usually formulated as math problems. You can solve the problems in any programming language, and once you’ve solved a puzzle, you get access to a community thread where you can discuss your solution with others.
Code Wars offers tons of coding challenges, which they call katas. You can solve puzzles in many different programming languages with their built-in editor and automated tests. Afterward, you can compare your solutions to others’ and discuss strategies in the forums.
HackerRank has great features if you’re looking for a job. They offer certifications in many different skills, including problem-solving and Python programming, as well as a job board that lets you show off your puzzle-solving skills as part of your job applications.
There are many other sites available where you can practice your puzzle-solving skills. In the rest of this tutorial, you’ll focus on what Advent of Code has to offer.
It’s time for Advent of Code! It was started by Eric Wastl in 2015. Since then, a new advent calendar of twenty-five new programming puzzles has been published every December. The puzzles have gotten more and more popular over the years. More than 170,000 people have solved at least one of the puzzles from 2020.
Note: Traditionally, an Advent calendar is a calendar used to count the days of Advent while waiting for Christmas. Over the years, Advent calendars have become more commercial and have lost some of their Christian connection.
Most Advent calendars start on December 1st and end on December 24th, Christmas Eve, or December 25th, Christmas Day. Nowadays, there are all kinds of Advent calendars available, including LEGO calendars, tea calendars, and cosmetics calendars.
In traditional Advent calendars, you open one door every day to reveal what’s inside. Advent of Code mimics this by letting you open one puzzle each day from December 1st to December 25th. For each puzzle you solve, you’ll earn golden stars that are yours to keep.
In this section, you’ll get more familiar with Advent of Code and see a glimpse of your first puzzle. Later, you’ll look at the details of how you can solve these puzzles and practice solving a few of the puzzles yourself.
Advent of Code is an online Advent calendar where a new puzzle is published every day from December 1st to December 25th. Each puzzle becomes available at midnight, US Eastern Time. An Advent of Code puzzle has a few typical characteristics:
Each puzzle consists of two parts, but the second part isn’t revealed until you finish the first part.
You’ll earn one golden star (⭐) for each part that you finish. This means you can earn two stars per day and fifty stars if you solve all the puzzles for one year.
The puzzle is the same for everyone, but you need to solve it based on personalized input that you get from the Advent of Code site. This means that your answer to a puzzle will be different from someone else’s, even if you use the same code to calculate it.
You can participate in a global race to be the first to solve each puzzle. However, this is usually pretty crowded with highly skilled, competitive programmers. Advent of Code is probably going to be more fun if you use it as practice for yourself or if you challenge your friends and coworkers to a small, friendly competition.
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