June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Electrical and Computer
22.1159.1 - 22.1159.13
Reinforcing Mathematical Intuition in an Introductory Programming CourseWe report on the content and formal evaluation from two semesters of an introductoryprogramming course titled “Media-Propelled Computational Thinking,” (abbreviated iMPaCT).iMPaCT was initially developed for freshman college entering students program at the Universityof Texas at El Paso, a primarily Hispanic-Serving Institution serving the sister cities of El Pasoand Ciudad Juarez. iMPaCT is intended to provide meaningful experiences of relevance tostudents considering STEM majors including computer science that also fortifies their qualitativeunderstandings of foundational math and physics concepts.Three quarters of college students intending to study both STEM and non-STEM disciplineattending iMPaCT report positive attitudes towards its programming and mathematics content,While there is substantial overlap in the math content of iMPaCT and pre-calculus, our evaluationindicates dramatically different engagement. Mathematical problem solving in iMPaCT isgenerally characterized as engaging problem-solving. Intending engineering students in iMPaCThave dramatically increased pass rates for a concurrently attended course in pre-calculus, whichthey characterize as requiring wrote application of memorized concepts.iMPaCT’s activities are intended to provide analytical challenges typical of STEM professionsand to motivate additional inquiry. Students construct dozens of short (typically 4-10 line)programs that directly generate computer graphics in a manner that exposes foundationalmathematical and physical principles describing the evolution of familiar dynamic systems suchas ballistics. Exercises are designed to engage students in synthesis or analysis of techniquesnecessary to master lessons’ challenges. iMPaCT’s activities are designed to be engaging whilestill providing analytical challenges typical of STEM professions.Rather than focusing on the syntax of programming languages, iMPaCT focuses on the use ofprogramming to examine the mathematics of familiar dynamic phenomena. Programming isintroduced in an immersive and conversational manner - students begin by modifying simpleprograms that manipulate raster images.The current design of iMPaCT quickly and disarmingly introduces students to programmingduring their first class session in a manner that focuses their attention towards the mathematics ofsimple iterative algorithms that render lines as a transitive sequence of vectors. Subsequentlessons simultaneously extend these understandings to include translation, rotation, andexamination of rates-of-change while also motivating the introduction of more advancedprogramming constructs such as functions and objects.iMPaCT introduces programming constructs such as for and while loops, if-statements,functions, and objects following a just-in-time strategy similar to conversational introductions toforeign languages. We describe recent refinements to this strategy that reduced studentmisconceptions and dramatically increased the rate that students were able to comprehend thefoundational concepts of programming.Variants of iMPaCT have been implemented as (1) a full-semester programming course for non-STEM students, (2) a brief introduction to programming that accelerates learning within aconventional first course in C or Java, (3) as enrichment activities for math and science coursesthat principally support those course’s original learning outcomes (sometimes usingprogrammable calculators), and (4) as brief “one-shot” introductory experiences in programmingpresented to a variety of audiences including sixth graders and adult learners.
Freudenthal, E. A., & Duval, A., & Hug, S., & Ogrey, A. N., & Lim, K. H., & Tabor, C., & Gonzalez, R. Q., & Siegel, A. (2011, June), Planting the Seeds of Computational Thinking: An Introduction to Programming Suitable for Inclusion in STEM Curricula Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18563
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