How Coding Can Improve Math Performance
The conventional belief has always been that kids interested in coding should develop strong math skills. However, it turns out the reverse may also be true: coding can help children build math skills and make learning math more engaging and fun.
In the three years that Casita Center, a magnet elementary school in Southern California, has been teaching coding with Tynker, they’ve seen considerable improvements in their students’ math scores, outperforming virtually all California schools with similar demographics. Jenny Anderson, the school’s STEM specialist, believes this improvement is due to the effectiveness of their CS program. When kids learn to code, they develop key skills like problem solving and practice algorithmic and computational thinking – and when they learn to code with Tynker, they have fun at the same time, so they’re more likely to stay engaged with the material. These broad skill sets and ways of breaking down and analyzing problems translate across the curriculum and are particularly helpful when it comes to math.
Whether kids are learning to code at school or at home, you may just see an impact on their overall academic performance! Here are a few ways that coding helps kids learn math:
Coding helps kids visualize abstract concepts
Grasping 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.
“One of the most common cross curricular benefits of computer programming is that the kids have an easier time learning math skills,” says Michelle Lagos, a computer science teacher who uses Tynker in elementary classes at the American School in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. “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 she has “seen kids in many grades improve their math skills” by using Tynker to learn coding.
Jesse Thorstad, Technology Coordinator for the Fergus Falls Public Schools district in Minnesota, has had a similar experience. “Tynker provides kids with a concrete example of the power of decimal places,” he says. “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
Repairing spaceships or saving puppies with Tynker is a great way for a child to see concrete applications of math strategies. Tynker parent Sri Ramakrishnan 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
Kids who use Tynker 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. Kids can also complete activities like Pattern Maker and Spin Draw to learn how to create art with coding and math!
Coding teaches problem-solving skills
Coding 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. Teachers can assign activities like Multiplication Escape or Analog Clock and encourage students to find solutions with math.
Coding makes math more fun
“My kids ask to program with Tynker because they enjoy it,” says Jennifer Apy, the 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.”
“If kids realize they are using math when programming Tynker games,” Apy says, “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?