Much research has been done on how kids develop mathematical skills and, for a long time, conventional ideology leaned toward the notion that, in order to learn how to program, students had to excel at math. However, over the past decade, research has shown that, in fact, the opposite may be true.
Current educational theory argues that teaching kids programming skills may be the best way to help them improve their mastery of mathematical concepts.
Educational experts and educators point to the number of ways in which students demonstrate an enhanced ability to visualize abstract concepts, an increased interest in exploring real-world application of math-based theories, and an overall improvement in problem solving abilities – all through the process of learning how to code. Additionally, the skills students learn while coding are aligned with the Standards for Mathematical Practice as defined by the Common Core Curriculum.
For example, building a simple game in which a cartoon cat dodges falling mice requires students to do a great deal of problem solving (e.g. How will they make the cat move? How will they make the mice fall? How will the computer know that the player won or lost? ). Creating games pushes students to “make sense of problems and persevere in solving them (MP1),” “use appropriate tools strategically (MP2),” “look for and make use of structure (MP7),” and “look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning (MP8).” Additionally, while working in groups, students will need to “construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others (MP3)” to create animations or develop 3D designs.
Hands-on coding lessons provide students with an opportunity to see the real-life application of math strategies as they create games and objects that interest them. Suddenly identifying attributes and group variables, applying conditional logic, developing algorithmic functions and calculating angles within geometric shapes become exciting tools as students bring new ideas to life rather than simply being exercises in rote memory or problem solving drudgery.
Whether students utilize Minecraft, Blockly, Scratch or any number of coding programs, learning how to code gives students the opportunity to develop the essential tools they need in order to master math skills!