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Integrating STEM and Computer Science in Algebra: Teachers' Computational Thinking Dispostions

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 3

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Paper Authors


Bailey Braaten The Ohio State University

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Bailey Braaten is currently a doctoral student at the Ohio State University, where she is in her second year of the STEM education PhD program. She is a graduate research assistant on the STEM+C NSF funded project, looking at integrating computer science and engineering concepts into algebra classrooms. Bailey received her BS in mechanical engineering from Ohio Northern University and her M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from University of Cincinnati. Her research area of interest is creating a more equitable learning environment for underrepresented populations of students in the STEM fields.

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Arnulfo Perez The Ohio State University

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Arnulfo Pérez earned his PhD in curriculum and instruction at Indiana University. Prior to that, he received his BS in applied mathematics and his MA in mathematics. He also taught high school mathematics for three years. He has contributed to multiple projects focused on the teaching and learning of mathematics and the use of reform-based practices in urban settings.

Pérez works with data from large-scale assessments to explore the relationship between students’ performance on function concepts and factors such as access to technology, attendance, and school course pathways. His work also seeks to translate insights from large-scale assessments into potential reforms to curriculum and classroom practice with a focus on opportunities that broaden access to STEM for students from all backgrounds. His current NSF-funded study, “Assessing the Impact of Computer Modeling and Programing in Secondary Algebra,” examines the effectiveness of integrating computer programming and modeling into an Algebra unit on linear functions.

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In a world where computing and computing technologies are growing at an ever-increasing rate, students need meaningfully situated opportunities to learn how to think computationally. Defined as a creative way to approach tasks or problems using concepts, practices, and perspectives from computer science, computational thinking holds promise for all levels of education, especially K-12 classrooms (Wing, 2008). Efforts to advance computational thinking in education include increased attention to the dispositions and practices that people display when engaging in computational thinking (e.g., Weintrop et al., 2015). The study described in this paper extends these efforts by examining the impact of a summer professional development institute on teachers’ computational thinking dispositions. As part of a larger NSF-funded STEM + Computing project, 18 teachers explored a pilot unit that uses engineering and computer science to infuse computational thinking into the teaching of linear functions in secondary algebra. Using a design-based research framework that intertwines innovative learning environments and the development of theories of learning, the research team engaged teachers as learners, classroom leaders, and collaborators in inquiry (Cobb, 2001; DBRC, 2003). This collaborative approach heightens the relevance of the designed intervention to teachers’ practice while also yielding key insights for research. In the case of the teacher institute, focusing on dispositions provided an anchor that helped teachers navigate the ambiguity of the inquiry-based experience. Consequently, for this study, the research team examined the institute data with a focus on five computational thinking dispositions that were highly salient in teachers’ engagement with the unit: collaboration, persistence, resourcefulness, tolerance for ambiguity, and confidence (Barr, Harrison, & Conery, 2011). After building a conceptual framework and coding scheme for each disposition, the team analyzed video data, teacher reflections, and written work from the institute. An analysis of the data showed significant shifts in teachers’ display of the target dispositions and their estimation of the value of these dispositions to their students’ success in mathematics. Further, the study found that cultivation of the target dispositions corresponded to increases in teacher investment in the unit, both as learners exploring the materials and as educators preparing to implement the approach with their own students.

Braaten, B., & Perez, A. (2017, June), Integrating STEM and Computer Science in Algebra: Teachers' Computational Thinking Dispostions Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28559

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