The conventional belief has always been that kids interested in programming should develop strong math skills. But it might actually be the other way around. Educators and parents are talking about how computer programming can help children build math skills and make math learning more fun.
Michelle Lagos, a computer science teacher at the American school in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, observes, “One of the most common cross curricular benefits of computer programming is that the kids have an easier time learning math skills.” She uses Tynker in elementary classes and adds, “When they have to work on long division, it is easier for them to visualize the numbers now instead of counting with their fingers. They visualize the equation and think of the best way to solve it.” Lagos reports that, as a result of using Tynker, she has “seen kids in many grades improve their math skills.”
These are a few ways that programming helps kids learn math:
Programming helps kids visualize abstract concepts
Abstract math concepts can be a challenge to many kids and put them off the subject entirely. Parents, teachers, and technology specialists are using Tynker to help children visualize abstract math concepts.
Jesse Thorstad, Technology coordinator for the Fergus Falls Public Schools district in Minnesota, says, “Tynker provides kids with a concrete example of the power of decimal places. When studying decimals in math, the students experience a heartwarming ‘Ah-ha!’ moment when they see how moving a decimal block of code can affect the objects on the screen tenfold.”
Kids explore the real-world applications of math concepts
Creating spaceships or saving puppies with Tynker is a great way for a child to see the application of math strategies. Sri Ramakrishnan of Tynker points out that kids develop stronger math skills when applying concepts in a real-world context: “The computational thinking involved in computer programming involves logic, organizing and analyzing data, and breaking a problem into smaller and more manageable parts. Much of this is also required when solving math problems!”
Math can be used in creative coding projects
Tynkering kids see how math is inherently creative. Here is an example of math art that kids can create with Tynker:
10-year-old Jacob Myers, a big math buff who regularly competes in math contests, uses Tynker to make math art with spirals and triangles.
Coding teaches problem-solving skills
Programming is a real-world way to teach mathematical thinking. When students create or debug a program, they practice solving problems. Math teachers find that Tynker’s beginning lessons are a great way to teach pattern identification as well.
Programming makes math more fun
“My kids ask to program with Tynker because they enjoy it,” says Jennifer Apy, parent of a 15-year-old, an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old. “Without realizing it, my kids are identifying attributes and grouping variables, applying conditional logic, developing algorithmic functions, and calculating angles within geometric shapes. But most of all, they are patiently articulating hypotheses to solve problems, and boldly applying trial-and-error experimentation, strategies required by any field of study. And this is in addition to some of the coding that requires real math – to correctly calculate wait times, set score counters, calculate points, and time interactions between characters in their games.”
Says Apy, “If kids realize they are using math when programming Tynker games, it could actually build their confidence with math, and show them that mathematical thinking can be cool.”
Math is cool? What could be better than that?