« It's a Rosie the Riveter Moment! | Main | Writing Apps to Empower Girls and Help the World »

Computer Science as a Teaching Strategy

Recently one of my Facebook friends, Rebecca Dovi, computer science teacher in Virginia, posted an article from Education News, Julia Steiny: Promote Algebra by Teaching Basic Software Programming. The article was a reaction to an opinion piece from the New York Times by Professor Andrew Hacker titled "Is Algebra Necessary?"

Ms. Steiny recounts her experience serving as a member of a school board and mandating that students take pre-Algebra in the sixth grade and for the students that progressed successfully they would finish Geometry by the 8th grade. Those that didn't were remediated and the failure rates for Algebra I was lower. She also states that only about one-third of the students learn out of context and that "Fully two-thirds needed to see the problem and think it through to grasp the abstract concept embedded in the answer." That is where computer science comes in. She says that her two grown sons state that computer science is "algebra, only infinitely more fun and interesting.

Ms. Steiny gives an example of where this is happening now, Advanced Academy of Math and Science in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Students from grades 6 through 11 take computer science in conjunction with math and science so they see the application. She states that the students' tests scores are "off the map."

I am not only a computer science teacher but I also teach advanced math classes. Every day, in my math classes I see how students just don't remember the basics such as calculations with fractions and factoring trinomials. They need to see the application to remember how to do the math. My computer science students see this when they are writing a programs. Recently when the students were writing a method to reflect a digital picture, I pointed out to them that they must see the pattern and translate it into an equation so the computer can repeat the operation many times. They try out their "equation" and can see if their reasoning worked.

She ends her article with "Can we really not see the value of computer science as a compelling teaching strategy? Who are the slow learners here?"

Ms. Steiny has more blog posts related to computer science at www.juliasteiny.com.

What do you think? Can we convince the education reformers that computer science is an important teaching strategy?

Myra Deister
CSTA At-Large Representative

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)