Researching CT in Math Ed

by Rosa Cendros

Rosa Cendros (rcendros@uwo.ca) is a PhD candidate in Education at Western University, and Project Manager of the ctmath.ca research partnership. Her research interests are in educational technology  and online visual communication.

infograph v2Everyone seems to be talking about the need for students to learn top code. How should this happen? Should coding be its own subject? Should it be integrated with other subjects? Historically (through the work of Seymour Papert and others) and conceptually, coding has strong links to mathematics.

Coding is a form of computational thinking (CT). CT can take a variety of forms: (a) screen-based computer coding; (b) working with programmable digital tangibles, such as robotics or circuits; as well as (c) a more general approach to problem solving that focuses on the design of computational algorithms.

The Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education (ctmath.ca) partnership explores the use of CT in math education, from pre-school to undergraduate mathematics, and in mathematics teacher education.

About the partnership

The CT in Mathematics Education Partnership is a collaboration of researchers from 7 Canadian universities, which grew out of last year’s symposium on Mathematics and Coding at Western University (http://www.researchideas.ca/coding).

Funded through a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, the project researchers are: Chantal Buteau (Brock University), George Gadanidis (Western), Steven Khan (Brock University), Donna Kotsopoulos (Wilfrid Laurier University), Miroslav Lovric (McMaster University), Ami Mamolo (University of Ontario Institute of Technology), Immaculate Namukasa (Western University), Nathalie Sinclair (Simon Fraser University), and Peter Taylor (Queen’s University).

Partner institutions participating in the project are the Centre for Mathematics Education at The Fields Institute and The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences.

Projects

The partnership projects cover all educational levels, as shown below.

Project descriptions

Future teachers’ perception of CT for/in mathematics (learning): Chantal Buteau and Ami Mamolo are doing a study to examine future teachers’ perception of computational thinking for/in mathematics (learning) as they progress through programming-based mathematics activities as part of their required course work.

CT + Math undergraduate course: Chantal Buteau is developing a new computational thinking + math undergraduate course designed for future mathematics teachers and which will build on their compulsory first-year and second-year MICA (Mathematics Integrated with Computers and Applications) courses offered at Brock University.

CT + Assessment (in practice): Chantal Buteau is developing an exploratory case study for the assessment of mathematics in programming-based mathematics tasks and assessment of computational thinking development in programming-based undergraduate mathematics courses.

CT + K-6 Teacher Candidates: George Gadanidis is researching how K-6 preservice teachers engage with mathematics in computational thinking settings.

CT + Young Mathematicians: George Gadanidis is researching how young children engage with mathematics in computational thinking settings.

CT in Kindergarten: Donna Kotsopoulos is exploring CT in young children’s spontaneous play and the pedagogical practices that might advance a child’s CT at the very start of formal school.

Math and Programming at a Tertiary Level: Miroslav Lovric is studying the relationship between mathematical aspects of a problem and the modifications needed so that it can be investigated or solved on a computer in an upper-level undergraduate math problem-solving course. The study will attempt to identify “good” math problems of two kinds: problems that help students learn basic programming skills, and those that naturally invite investigations using programming.

Project Math9-12: Peter Taylor is conducting a research-based study designed to bring new life and sophistication to the high-school mathematics curriculum. The project includes curriculum development through intensive, direct work with students; teacher development with those interested in taking the units into their classrooms; and research of the curriculum once implemented. For more information, visit http://www.mast.queensu.ca/~math9-12/

Project updates and upcoming events will be shared through the website http://ctmath.ca

Next steps

The partnership plans to organize a second symposium on the topic of Math and Coding, to be held at the Fields Institute in Toronto in the Fall of 2017.