NSF Awards: 1742466
2018 (see original presentation & discussion)
Grades K-6
This video highlights a collaborative NSF STEM+C project between the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, UChicago STEM Center, and the University of Illinois-Chicago. The projects seeks to understand how to integrate computational thinking into elementary mathematics. It highlights the Learning Trajectories for Everyday Computing-2 (LTEC2) NSF project. This work involves the development and evaluation of integrated elementary mathematics and computer science/computational thinking lessons that align with learning trajectories for elementary computational thinking. LTEC2 research attempts to understand how students understanding of fractions is influenced by experiences with integrated lessons that combine mathematics with computational thinking.
Maya Israel
Associate professor
We are excited to share our LTEC2 video with all of you. We would love to engage in conversation about learning trajectories and learning progressions in elementary computer science/computational thinking.
Michael Belcher
Hi Maya, great work on your video! I wonder if you could talk some about your integrated math/computer science activities. How do you ensure that each discipline is given adequate treatment within a single activity or across a set of activities? Are you using/referencing LTs from math in conjunction with your computer science/computational thinking LTs? Also, can you talk about your experiences working with teachers? You said in your video that not enough time is spent on computer science/computational thinking in elementary school. Does this pose a challenge for you in either getting buy-in from teachers or supporting teachers to develop the capacity to teach computer science/computational thinking?
Thanks and Great Work!
Maya Israel
Associate professor
Hi Michael. The issue of instructional time is a real challenge. Because teachers are responsible for covering their district-mandated curriculum and for the assessments that follow, so finding time for anything new is difficult. That's one of the reasons that we are focused on integration. We are also mindful of how much time the CS/CT activities take and are doing our best to offer ways of keeping within the designated times of the traditional math curriculum. We definitely haven't come up with a perfect solution, but our pilot testing next year will hopefully help us better understand the time/instructional rigor/balance of math and CSCT issues.
Diana Franklin
Director of Computer Science Education, Research Associate Professor
We are using a combination of mathematics LTs and Computational Thinking LTs. We look at the Everyday Mathematics lessons for the core concept they are teaching with mathematics, look at the places we need to go in computing, and fine places where these activities can support learning in both. At this point, we are assuming that the mathematics still gets taught - Everyday Mathematics has four lessons, not five, every week. Most integrated lessons are either multi-disciplinary (using new computational thinking concepts to explore deeply the mathematics concepts) or inter-disciplinary (students learn mathematics or computational thinking in the context of the opposite subject - mathematics or CT), again making sure both are aligned with where the students are in the trajectories. Very few activities are solely CT with superficial mathematics, but we need a few in order to get students started.
At this point, we have a very modest curriculum, only containing approximately 12 activities across the school year, so the buy-in is not as challenging as it would be for a fully integrated curriculum.
Nadine Bonda
Assistant Professor
This is an exciting project. I am wondering what teachers' reactions are to this program. Do they feel that it is yet one more thing to teach, or have you seen that they are open to learning a new way of teaching? What pre-work did you have to do with teachers to get them interested? Have you worked with any reluctant teachers and, if so, were you successful in changing their attitudes toward integration of CT with several subjects?
Maya Israel
Associate professor
Hi Nadine. This is a really important question regarding teacher buy-in. In this stage of our project, we are working with teachers who opt into the project so that we can answer questions regarding integration and student learning broadly. I can tell you, however, that many of the teachers who we approach are quite excited about the project and the possibilities of computational thinking enhancing learning and engagement for all their learners. Pre-work typically involves a great deal of relationship and trust building. We meet with the teachers and administrators, answer questions, offer to help, etc. We have worked with reluctant teachers, but that reluctance is often concern about expertise, resources, etc. For example, some of the reluctant teachers that we started working with in 2012 are some of our teacher leaders at this point. These are the teachers that we have learned the most from because the capacity building that occurs with them can translate into our professional development and resources.
Karen Economopoulos
Co-Director, Investigations Center for Curriculum and Professional Development
Interesting work! How do you select the topics around which to base your CT lessons on? Do you find that some math concepts lend themselves more easily to CT activities/lessons? If so which concepts and topics and why?
Maya Israel
Associate professor
Thanks Karen. We picked fractions as the focus of this project for a couple of reasons: (1) We wanted to have a narrow enough focus to be able to measure differences in student learning, and (2) fractions are really difficult for many students. In terms of which CT practices work best with which math content, this is part of the intellectual work of this project. In our exploratory project, we did a great deal of looking at the literature to try to develop learning trajectories for CT. Now, in the context of math instruction, we are having to re-evaluate those progressions because they are not always a natural fit. For example, in our meeting with our advisory board this week, we talked about how in Scratch, negative numbers and variables can be used fairly naturally by young learners, but these are addressed much later in the math standards. We are documenting these "fit" issues along the way and are hoping to share them once we gain a better understanding through both continued discussions with our advisors as well as small micr-studies.
Nancy McGowan
Math Instructional Coach
Your video and information were very informative.
Maya Israel
Associate professor
Thanks for these great questiions. (1) For this study, we are focusing on the 3rd-5th grade fractions progression. We are currently working heavily on content for 3rd and 4th grades. (2) All of our current learning trajectories and sample lessons are on our website in the resource tab: http://everydaycomputing.org/public/resource/. (3) I wish we were looking at longitudinal data across years, but in 2019-2020, we will have a pre/post with control study looking at math performance tied to fractions as that is the area of instruction we are focused on. We are not yet at the point where we think we will move the needle on a broad, standardized assessment given the narrow scope of the study. However, we are working closely with the assessment experts on our team (Jim Pellegrino and Brian Gane) who are helping us develop and use valid measures of student learning. Assessment is a huge area of focus for our project. We will share these assessment practices as the project progresses.
Ronald Greenberg
Great to know you are working with people at Loyola University Chicago, my institution. Let me know who you are working with, and we may be able to make some more connections with other activities in Chicago. My email is rig@cs.luc.edu.
Shari Metcalf
Really interesting work! Are the teachers you're working with specifically math teachers or do they have one class and they teach their students math, english, social studies, science? You mentioned that you're working at this point with opt-in teachers - are the ones who opt in primarily teachers with some computational background themselves, or ones who may have specialized in mathematics in their educational preparation?
I'm also wondering how you and they handle the additional time to integrate computational activities, and in particular, how to support the needs of students who are different levels in their mathematics understanding.
Diana Franklin
Director of Computer Science Education, Research Associate Professor
The effort in Champaign is a combination of math coaches and multi-subject teachers. Maya can better talk about the background of those teachers. In Champaign, they've reached critical mass such that many of the teachers are interested at a particular school. So I think you have to play the long game - get the very excited ones first, make sure your PD is very accessible to teacher with no experience, have a set of projects that are engaging and clearly math-oriented but don't have strict assessments that the teachers worry about on the CT side, then build up that exploratory, supportive atmosphere. As teachers gain more experience and confidence in themselves, then you can gradually improve the quality of the instruction and the percentage of teachers participating. It's a tough problem, though!
In Chicago, we're finding a wide variety of interest levels. I have several projects going, and teachers appear to be most interested in the CS-only activities, followed by CS+Math, followed by instructional strategies that can be integrated into everything. So I think the math is a little intimidating, but we think our activities are structured really well to be accessible - we'll find out in PD!
Meetal Shah
Maya and Diana,
Thank you or sharing your project overview with us. So exciting to see that coding and computational thinking is accessible by all students within their school setting. I am really interested in what sorts of outcome measures you will be (or are thinking of) using to carry out the pre- and posttest study you mentioned in the video. Also, would you be able speak more about the validity evidence you may have collected to support your LTs and what frameworks you may have employed in doing so?
Diana Franklin
Director of Computer Science Education, Research Associate Professor
On the mathematics side, we will be drawing form Everyday Mathematics unit tests on fractions, though we may modify those a little bit (because some of them are designed to identify students who are very behind rather than elucidate the depth of learning for students who are on track). On the computational thinking side, we have teamed up with Jim Pellegrino and Brian Gane at UIC to design CT assessments. They are designed to target the elements of the Computational Thinking learning trajectories that we're covering and be similar in nature to the activities the children will do.
You can read about the development of our LTs in our paper, including both the sources and the theoretical frameworks we used:
https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3106166
And here's more about the literature from which we drew for the LTs:
https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3017772
Jillian Orr
This is really exciting! It's fabulous that you've shared your resources and learning trajectories with the public. Excited to see what more you learn as the project continues!
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