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Planting the Seeds of Computational Thinking: An Introduction to Programming Suitable for Inclusion in STEM Curricula

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Conference

2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Recruitment, Retention, and First-Year Programs in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count

13

Page Numbers

22.1159.1 - 22.1159.13

DOI

10.18260/1-2--18563

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/18563

Download Count

167

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Paper Authors

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Eric A Freudenthal University of Texas, El Paso

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Dr. Freudenthal is an Associate Professor of computer science at the University of Texas, El Paso.

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Art Duval University of Texas, El Paso

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Art Duval is a Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Texas, El Paso.

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Sarah Hug University of Colorado, Boulder

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Dr. Sarah Hug is Research Associate at the Alliance for Technology, Learning, and Society (ATLAS) Institute, University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Hug earned her PhD in Educational Psychology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research and evaluation efforts focus on learning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, with a special interest in communities of practice, creativity, and experiences of underrepresented groups in these fields across multiple contexts.

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Alexandria Nicole Ogrey

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Kien H. Lim University of Texas, El Paso

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Kien H. Lim is an assistant professor at the University of Texas, El Paso. He is interested in students’ mathematical thinking and disposition. He enjoys creating problems that can challenge students to think, that deepen their mathematical understanding, and that enhance their problem-solving ability.

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Catherine Tabor El Paso Independent School District

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Catherine Tabor is a high school math and computer science teacher in El Paso, Texas. She holds a B.A. in mathematics, a B.S. in physics, and a M.A. in Science Teaching (emphasis physics).

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Rebeca Q. Gonzalez UTEP-Graduate Student and EPISD-Teacher

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A former Electrical engineering from ITCJ in Mexico currently teaching 9-12 pre-engineering courses and computer science and a master of arts in teaching science graduate student from University of Texas at El Paso.

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Alan Siegel New York University

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Alan Siegel is a professor in the department of computer science and NYU. His research is in the mathematical foundations of computer algorithms, and in the pedagogical approaches used to teach introductory mathematical topics and algorithms in the US and abroad.

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Abstract

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

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015