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Think Math + C: Integrating Programming Into a Comprehensive K-5 Mathematics Curriculum


As computing has become integral to the practice of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the STEM + Computing Program seeks to study and advance the applied integration of computational thinking and computing activities within disciplinary STEM teaching and learning in early childhood education through high school (preK-12). The Education Development Center's exploratory project, Think Math+C: Integrating Programming into a Comprehensive K-5 Mathematics Curriculum, will investigate how integrating programming into a comprehensive elementary mathematics curriculum can support students' mathematical understanding and computational thinking. Programming is a computational language through which students can express their mathematical ideas and computational thinking precisely. Where mathematical notation on paper just sits there, programming is active and students can engage in it and judge the correctness of a problem by processing it. This can potentially be transformative in a mathematics classroom, making mental acts, such as decomposing problems, hiding irrelevant detail, and generalizing from specific instances visible to students and their teachers in ways that other media do not accomplish as well, and allowing students to examine and debug their own thinking. The three-year project will build a coherent progression of programming ideas and skills naturally into a mathematics curriculum across the elementary grades, allowing computational thinking and mathematical reasoning to grow in developmentally appropriate ways that complement each other. High-quality instructional materials developed in this project will support teachers and students in programming activities that can strengthen both mathematical and computational thinking, giving a much wider range of students a greater opportunity learning and academic advancement.
The Think Math+C three-year project will work closely with elementary teachers and students to develop a scope and sequence for a K-5 mathematics curriculum that fully integrates programming, and to design and implement instructional activities with grade 2 teachers and students. To build this fully integrated elementary mathematics and programming curriculum, the project team will use as a base, Think Math, an existing comprehensive and coherent K-5 mathematics curriculum developed at the Education Development Center with prior support from NSF. The project team will also examine the impact of those activities on instruction and student thinking, comparing Think Math+C to business-as-usual Think Math classrooms using classroom observations and cognitive interviews. The project will also pilot and refine measures that capture evidence of students' mathematical and computational thinking, which will advance the field with new evidence for the effects of integrated STEM + computing teaching and learning.