The objective is to get the class to write a Go program to solve simple mathematical problems. The program will only use addition (typed +), subtraction (typed -), multiplication (typed * not ×) and division (typed / not \ or ÷). Creating this program will require the class to use the text editor (either Atom or LiteIDE) to create and save the source code file and the terminal/command line to run their program.

Each subsequent lesson will require the class to use both the text editor and the terminal.

Before you begin

We are aware that Computing has been added to the National Curriculum but that the majority of teachers have no background in Computing. These teacher notes are intended as an addition to any CPD you may have or will be undertaking through your school.

We strongly recommend that you read the lesson material and attempt the exercises for Numbers before you read these notes.

In doing so you may make the same mistakes as your class are likely to make. Solving these problems will provide you with both the confidence and knowledge to help your class with the material.

We will be taking a step by step approach that will build up your knowledge over time.

Learning outcome

The class should be able to:

  • Start their text editor
  • Create a source code file
  • Save a source code file
  • Build and run their program
  • Understand how to type simple mathematics in Go
  • Reason about the result of mathematics in Go.
  • Understand that the program represents a sequence
  • Understand that the sequence executes in order

Teaching prerequisites

The example program is sufficiently simple that little or no additional teaching should be required beforehand. However the class needs to have covered

  • Basic keyboard/typing and mouse skills.
  • The class needs to understand the four basic mathematics operators and how to use them.
  • The class needs to understand numbers and how to read and write them, from units to thousands and ideally tens of thousands.
  • The class need to understand that mathematics can be chained together. So example 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 15

Sequences. The program demonstrates a sequence of instructions that are executed in order to print the results to the terminal window.

There is a direct link to mathematics, both in terms of number theory and simple mathematics.

How Fast are You?

Notes for slide 2

How long the pupils take is not important in this case. The computer would be billions of times faster.

If each sum can be calculated in a single cycle then the total time for all 4 sums is

0.0000000005 * 4 = 0.000000002 seconds

0.0000000005 being the time in seconds for one cycle at 2Ghz.

Assuming there are no errors in the program, the computer will never make a mistake. If there is a mistake in the program that is the fault of the programmer not the computer.

This is why we use computers. They are faster and more reliable than people.

Everything is a Number

Notes for slide 4

Numbers are the most fundamental concept in computer science. Computers can only process numbers. So everything - numbers, letters, pictures, mp3 music files, word processor documents are lists of numbers.

Numbers also indicate the limit of a computer. A computer does not have an infinite range, as the set of natural numbers (ℤ) does. The range of a number is fixed. It depends how many bits are used to represent the number and if the number is also signed (or not). With 5 bits you can count to a maximum of 31. With 10 bits you can count to maximum of 1024. 16 bits gives 65,534.

This helps dispel the notion that computers can do anything. They can’t, there are limits.

The concept of a number range also leads to the concept of a type. Numbers with different ranges are of different types. Integer numbers are a distinct type from natural (or real) numbers. Types are fundamental to Go and all other computer languages at some level. Go makes the type explicit - it is a statically types language. Python by contrast hides or masks the type - it is a dynamically typed language. Both languages have types but they approach the problem differently.

Numbers also have a direct relationship to both the logical as well as the physical structure of a computer’s memory.

The concept of type and range and binary and the link to computer memory will be explored in later lessons.

The rainbow can be represented by numbers if a unique number is assigned to each colour. For example

  • Red = 1
  • Orange = 2
  • Yellow = 3
  • Green = 4
  • Blue = 5
  • Indigo = 6
  • Violet = 7

The sequence

3, 2, 1, 4, 7, 6, 5

would therefore represent the colour sequence

Yellow, Orange, Red, Green, Violet, Indigo, Blue

Go Programs

Notes for Slide 4

Go is just one of about 400 computer languages - 99% of which are textual i.e. the programmer has to type the commands in before the program can be run. Scratch/Kudu/Alice etc are all graphical languages. The programmer connects blocks which represent the logical structure together to create the program. This is not typical.

Go programs are typed into a text editor. Once the commands have been typed in the file needs to be saved. A file that contains the Go instructions is called a source code file. Once the source code file has been saved an attempt can be made to run the program.

Numbers in Go

Notes for slide 5

The numbers are all whole numbers or more correctly integer numbers. There are no fractions or decimals in the list of numbers. For the avoidance of doubt, zero is considered to be in the set of whole numbers.

Go calls integer numbers int for short. The pupils will see this in subsequent lessons

Sums in Go

Notes for slide 6

Maths in Go is the same as maths anywhere else. The language of maths is universal. The normal rules of maths therefore apply.

The only unusual point is that × is replaced with * for multiplication and ÷ is replaced by / for division.

The answer is 7. 1 + 2 * 3 is 1 + 6 which is 7. Multiplication is done before addition as per normal algerbra.

How to Create a Go Program

Notes for slide 7

The pupils have to use a terminal window to make a new directory, and to run the Go program.

The pupils use a text editor to type in the program, and save it, before it can be run. The pupils are creating the source code file.

A Go source code file should be saved with a .go file extension.

How the pupils open a command prompt or terminal window varies with the operating system. See the Windows, MacOS X, Linux or Raspberry Pi install guides for the instructions

We are going to put each Go program in its own directory. This is the recommended practice for Go programs.

In your terminal you need to change to the location of your Go Workspace. To do this type

On Linux, Raspberry Pi and Mac OS X

cd $GOPATH/src/

On Windows

cd %GOPATH%\src\

Now you need to make a new directory. We need to call this numbers after the program we will write. Then we need to change directory into the new numbers directory.

mkdir numbers
cd numbers

Now you need to start you editor, either Atom or LiteIDE

On Linux, Windows and MacOS X

atom numbers.go

On Raspberry Pi

liteide numbers.go

You must make sure that the source code file is saved as numbers.go in the numbers directory in the Go workspace.

To run the program the pupils need to use the terminal window and type:

go run numbers.go

Where numbers.go is the name of the source code file. The command must be run from the numbers directory.

The pupils will need to repeat this process in each lesson, so they will quickly become used to it.

The numbers.go Program

Notes for slide 8

Let’s look at the numbers.go program in more detail. Here it is again.

 1package main
 3import "fmt"
 5func main() {
 6	fmt.Println("The numbers program shows you how to add, subtract")
 7	fmt.Println("multiple and divide integer numbers.")
 8	fmt.Println("One plus one is typed: 1+1")
 9	fmt.Print("1+1=")
10	fmt.Println(1 + 1)
12	fmt.Println("Ten subtract three is typed: 10-3")
13	fmt.Print("10-3=")
14	fmt.Println(10 - 3)
16	fmt.Println("Three multiplied by four is typed: 3*4")
17	fmt.Print("3*4=")
18	fmt.Println(3 * 4)
20	fmt.Println("Six divided by two is typed: 6/2")
21	fmt.Print("6/2=")
22	fmt.Println(6 / 2)
Fig-1. The numbers.go code


Firstly, the line numbers are shown for illustration only. These are never typed into a Go program. They simply provide an easy mechanism to discuss specific parts of the program.

Secondly, the colours are also there for illustration only and again you should not try to match the colours. This is an example of syntax highlighting. If you have used either the Atom or LiteIDE editors in the Numbers exercise you will have seen the editor automatically colour the programs our source code as you typed it. Possibly with different colours.

Syntax highlighting

Syntax is the form of a computer program. It is the collection of rules that define the valid combinations of symbols make up a valid i.e. syntactically correct program. The symbols are the letters, numbers and other mathematical symbols that the programmer types. Failure to meet these rules causes a syntax error when you attempt to run the program. This will be the most common type of error that your pupils will make. However a syntactically valid program does not imply that the program is bug free or solves the intended problem. Only that it is valid in terms of the combinations of symbols used. Syntax is to a programming language what spelling is to English. Each programming language has its own syntax rules in the same way that English and French spellings are different. We will explain more about syntax in later lessons.

Syntax highlighting is a way for an editor, or in this case a web page, to make specific parts of a program syntax clearer by using colour and changing the font. It is intended to help a programmer notice syntax mistakes as they type and to help them focus on the key aspects of the program. The syntax highlighting serves no purpose for the computer.


How to Change the Syntax Highlighting

You can change the syntax highlighting if you wish or require to. For anyone that is colour blind this may be a requirement.

To change the syntax colours in the Atom Editor use the keyboard shortcut of CTRL+, or look for Preferences in the Edit menu or Settings in the File menus. The menu varies depending on which operating system you are on.

Once the settings window opens, click on + Install in the left hand panel. Type theme into the search box, and then click Themes on the right. You will not see a list of themes that you can install. Once you see a theme you think you like, just clink the Install button to download and install it.

Once the new theme has installed, you need to activate it. To do this you need to click on Themes in the left hand panel. When the Theme settings window appears you can change the theme using the “Syntax Theme” drop down menu. Simply select the theme you want to use to activate it.

To change the syntax colours on LiteIDE you need to use the View menu and select Options. Once the options window opens you need to click on LiteEditor on the left hand panel. Having done this you will now see in the right hand panel a drop down menu with the title Editor Color Scheme. Simply select a new colour scheme and click the OK button in the bottom right.


In the case of the web page, language keywords appear like this, package names and operators appear like this, function names like this, and quoted strings like this.

We will explain these terms when we discuss syntax in a later lesson.

Back to the program. The first lines of interest are line 1 and line 5, reproduced below.

package main
func main() {

These come as a pair. The main package on line 1 must contain the main function on line 5. The main function on line 5 is where the program begins execution - not line 1. Program execution then proceeds in sequence from this point onwards i.e. down the screen as you look at it. There must be exactly one main function in any program. There must also be exactly one main package in any program. The package main line must also be the first line in the source code file. No program code can appear before this line.

A function is a way to reuse a small piece of code that serves a very specific and well defined purpose. It is used to avoid needless repetition in the program. The Println function is an example of a function. The program uses the Println function several times for example.

A package is Go’s approach to grouping functions together into a library or as Go calls them packages. The functions in a package are all related to each other. For example all of the shape drawing functions would be in the same package, a drawing package. A package can consist of one or more source code files, provided the package line in each file is the same. This provides the ability to reuse much larger blocks of source code in a structured way. We will see this in the next interesting line, line 3.

import "fmt"

Line 3 is a package import line. Before Go can use a package, it must first import it to make the functions within it available to the program. If the package does not exist when the program is run, then the program will stop at that point. The name of the package that is to be imported must be placed inside double quotes. In this case, the program is importing the fmt package, short for “Format”, which contains the functions such as Println that prints text to the terminal window.

Now we need to look at how the Println function is used in Lines 6 to 9 inclusive.

fmt.Println("The numbers program shows you how to add, subtract")
fmt.Println("multiple and divide integer numbers.")
fmt.Println("One plus one is typed: 1+1")

The first thing to notice is that all of these lines start fmt.. Before you can use a function in another package, you first have to tell Go which package the function is part of. To go this you type the package name, fmt, followed by a period, ., followed by the name of the function you want to use, in this case Println. The name of the package, must match the name of the package that was imported earlier in the program, by an import line. If the function does not exist within the package you specify this is an error and the program will not run.

The second thing to notice is the use of inverted commas. The Println function is defined such that anything that appears between inverted commas, between the brackets or more correctly, parenthesis, will be printed to the screen verbatim.

The Print function in line 9 is identical to the Println function except that it does not take a new line in the terminal automatically when the contents of the inverted commas have been printed.

The other Println and Print lines later in the program serve a similar purpose, only the content that they display is different. We will therefore not explain those lines.

This takes us to line 10; the line that actually does the calculation.

fmt.Println(1 + 1)

Notice that line 10 has a lack of quote marks. The computer cannot print this be verbatim. Instead it must evaluate what is inside the brackets and print the result.

This is exactly what happens. The computer works out the result of 1 + 1, before executing the Println function, with the result. It is as if the line was written like this


Which with a little thought, you can see that this produces the same result as this


1 + 1 is an example of an expression as in a mathematical expression. The expression has to be evaluated by the computer. The computer then replaces the expression with its result before proceeding.

This is an example of a constant expression. It is constant because it does not depend on the use of a variable quality i.e. a variable in programming terms. The expressions result is therefore fixed, 1 + 1 is always 2. The expression will yield the same result every time the program is run. In fact the result of the expression can be calculated, and be known to be correct, before the program is run.


In fact this is exactly what Go does. It works out the result before the program is run. Specifically it works out the result when the program is compiled. We will discuss compiling in a later lesson, so for now this is an additional stage that the program has to go through before it can be run. during this stage Go works out that 1 + 1 is 2 and replaces the 1 + 1 in the expression with 2. This means that when the program run it does not in fact work out the sum. This has already occurred - at compile time. This results in both a program which executes faster. This is known as a optimisation.


Notes for Slide 9

The answers are: 15 - 3 - 10 = 2 20 + 7 - 3 - 8 = 16 3 * 3 * 3 = 27 56 / 7 = 8

(1 + 2) * (9 - 5) = 12

In the last case the pupils may not understand the brackets.


Featured Lesson


What You are Going to Learn?

Computers are used to process data. All data is made up of numbers. Yes, really! Everything is just a bunch of numbers to a computer. These are the only things they understand.

We are going to explain how numbers are used in Go programs. Then we are going to show you how to do type sums in Go.