Integrating computational thinking and mathematics: a pilot study for the professional development of primary school teachers.

Year: 2017

Author: Prieto, Elena, Holmes, Kathryn, Berger, Nathan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract:
Computational thinking is argued to be a skill we should add to every child's analytical ability alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic (Wing, 2008). This sentiment is reflected in the new Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies (ACARA, 2015), however, there is widespread concern about how teachers can be adequately prepared to teach computational thinking and to what extent these new skills can be taught in an integrated way with other disciplines (VCAA, 2016). The Digital Technologies curriculum provides a context for the application and development of the process strands of the primary mathematics curriculum: understanding, fluency, problem-solving and reasoning. In particular, computational thinking is linked with mathematics as it can be used to enhance students' abilities to analyse patterns and trends, and to develop logical reasoning to support the design and understanding of algorithms.

This paper reports on a pilot study of a research-informed approach to teacher professional development in computational thinking, aligned with the Digital Technologies and Mathematics curricula, and explores its implementation with a sample of primary school teachers in New South Wales (n = 15). The study draws on materials developed in the UK as part of the ScratchMaths project and utilises the 5Es framework to guide the development of the professional learning (Benton, Hoyles, Kalas & Noss, 2017). The study employed pre- and post- intervention surveys for teachers and semi-structured interviews. This paper will report on the efficacy of our approach for integrating mathematics and computational thinking through an analysis of the perceptions, experiences and insights of the participating teachers. Discussion will include implications for curriculum design and the value of teaching across STEM discipline boundaries.

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