The process of coding, and more importantly computational thinking, leads students down paths of discovery that can not only help them acquire new technology skills, but also leads to:
• improved problem-solving skills
• development of a growth mindset
• engagement with rich mathematics
So, it’s no surprise that more curricular objectives and standards are being revised to include coding in math class. But, for many educators who may not be familiar with coding and computer programming, the idea of introducing it into their lesson plans and the perceived learning curve can be intimidating.
The question then becomes how can we make coding more accessible to teachers and learners? This challenge is particularly interesting to me and has inspired me and my team at Zorbit’s to dream up novel ways to tap into the same computational thinking and sequential reasoning inherent in coding exercises – without the use of any devices or programming software.
Coding activities become a little more accessible when they are presented through the context of math talks and collaborative offline activities. This “Hello World…Hello Math!” Coding Activities for K-3 bundle contains a few classroom-tested ideas for you to try with your K-3 coders.
Designing a set of instructions that guide an object from point A to point B or that guide a partner through the process of drawing a picture, for example, engages students in mathematical discourse that gets them thinking about precision, sequence, efficiency, and more. These activities are analogous to programming but do not require sophisticated technology or coding software.
As students engage in computational thinking activities, they learn to be flexible in how they approach problems and gain an appreciation for the fact that there are various ways to solve the same problem. You can see light bulbs turning on for learners when we engage them in activities that focus on the process of problem-solving rather than the solution!
When students start to realize that there is more than one way to solve a problem, their confidence in their ability to find a path to a solution grows. Trial and error in these types of activities is akin to finding bugs in one’s code and trying different things to fix them. This idea of iterating on a process fosters a growth mindset and actually celebrates mistakes as a necessary and important part of learning.
A problem that asks how far away something is can get students estimating, measuring, using operations, and more – but what if we reframed that exercise by challenging students to guide a “robot” around the room, for example? This not only gets students playfully immersed in the problem but also allows them to explore what assumptions they need to make and what information they need to collect along the way. The beauty of opening up the problem in this context is that it provides multiple points of entry for students – regardless of where students are in their numeracy development, they are able to participate and contribute in a way that is meaningful to them.
Aside from these cognitive processes that students are developing while engaged with these types of activities, there are specific math concepts being addressed as well. For example, the math talks and activities included in the bundle linked below can be used to spark discussions about patterns, length, measurement, distance, counting and more. All the while, students are having fun, collaborating, celebrating mistakes, hunting for solutions and deepening their understanding of mathematics.
If you’d like to learn more strategies for introducing coding to your math class, you can watch a recording of my NCTM 2020 presentation. I’d also love you to download the package linked below – let me know what you think. You can find me @bishopfam on Twitter.
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WRITTEN BY: ADAM BISHOP
Math teacher, coach and educational designer at Zorbit’s Math Adventure. Excited by challenging students and teachers to try new things in the math classroom. My belief is that math can be playful and accessible to all. Digital and blended tools paired with teacher supports results in lessons that deliver the playfulness kids crave and amazing math learning. Everyone is a math person, just not everyone knows it yet.