Math is often a topic that kids, especially younger ones, struggle with. Teaching new concepts can be difficult for teachers, as well, because each student learns differently. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools and programs that can help kids learn math in easy and fun ways, especially when combined with useful applications that allow them to create something while they learn.

Coding, or “computer language,” is just one example of how students can create while strengthening their math skills. Here are 4 ways that coding can benefit students learning math at any level.

1. Coding requires problem-solving (and so does math)

While learning math from a textbook or from a lecture has its place, many more students learn by doing. This can mean working through math problems on a worksheet, but it can also mean offering them real world applications that let students use and strengthen their math skills effortlessly.

Coding, or the creation of instructions that make apps, websites and even games work, is a great way for students to use math while also creating something fun and useful. Codes are essentially “computer language” that tell a program what to do and how to function, and it requires critical thinking[1] and the ability to test different inputs and outputs.

For example, if a student wanted to create a fun game that involved bouncing a ball into a wall of blocks, the student would need to know how to code the size, angle and direction of the ball, as well as the subtraction of blocks and the number of blocks left until a player can complete the level. They will also need to troubleshoot if they don’t get the desired results from their first line of code - which is how coding can improve problem-solving skills.

Of course, there are virtually endless ways to code something and each way involves a level of consideration, but it requires problem-solving and testing different options to get the ideal outcome. This is much like math, where students need to attempt one solution to see if they get the correct answer, and they’ll need to redo their work if they don’t get the desired result.

2. Students need some math skills to code

While computer language may seem like it doesn’t connect to how humans think, coding does require math skills (addition, subtraction, etc.) to create actions or outputs. This is basic math; if you take away or add a line, you get a different end product. To keep with the example above, a student needs to consider how to code the angle of the ball bounce (geometry) to make sure that the computer subtracts 2 blocks (arithmetic) when they get hit. If the ball doesn’t bounce the way they intended it, the student will also need to go back and revise the “equation” in the code until it does what they want it to do. In this way, coding actually helps students revise their own thought process and gives them a highly tangible way to test their work (much like double-checking their math worksheet).

Depending on the software a student is coding, it can require any variety of math skills. Games may require geometry and arithmetic, while websites may require some algebra and multiplication. All coding requires troubleshooting and revision, which is the best way to build patience and perseverance in math.

3. Coding and math require visualization

One skill that is often difficult to teach in regular math classes is “visualization.” When adding large sums that can’t be portrayed with physical things (like counting coins) or when teaching long division or algebra, students have a hard time comprehending. That’s because they can’t physically see the inputs or outputs - but they can with coding. Students who code can see that, when they put in one specific input on their line of code, it leads to one specific outcome within their program. Inputs and outputs help students visualize solutions better, which can then translate to more “high level” math skills down the road. They will be able to see inputs (like large sums) and understand that there is a solid output (the larger total), even if they can’t see them in physical form yet.

4. Coding makes math more fun

Coding is math in action. It lets students use specific math skills they’ve learned in math programs in a way they can see and “touch.” It also gives them a creative outlet, something that many people think is the opposite of math. But coding proves that math and creativity can go hand-in-hand, especially when students are given a chance to use their skills in a productive and unique way. After all, how cool is it to use basic math skills to create a game or website that a student can show off to the class or his/her parents?

And while coding does require a bit more attention than short math problems, it gives kids a chance to build skills that may feel dull and boring in a regular classroom setting. Instead, they can grow their problem-solving abilities and improve their attitude towards correcting their own work, all of which translate to a better relationship with math (and education in general).

Coding classes can help kids in math

Unlike “traditional” math lessons, students who code get a tangible product from their problem-solving and use of standard math principles, whether it’s a website, app, game or even digital art or animations. This builds confidence as well as basic math skills, and can help students feel better about their math classes and homework. Coding programs and classes give students a place to explore their creativity while building skills they can use in school and in the future. Parents and teachers alike are finding that coding classes are a fun way to engage their child’s mind and creativity, while also building skills that they can use for life beyond school.

If you’re looking for coding classes in the Boston area, Coding Butterfly offers a number of classes for students in elementary and middle school.

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