Teaching math in an elementary classroom sounds as easy as herding cats while you teach them to sing on key. Essential to both processes are patience, engaging your audience, and a secret weapon. Yours? Teaching math through coding.
Every teacher is constantly trying to find new, engaging ways to teach math to their students with mixed degrees of success. Best practice tells us that a structure in which the content is placed is key to learning acquisition. STEM offers a framework to bring context to abstract concepts to life in a way that students as young as third grade can understand. This approach offers students practical tools and ways to use science, technology, engineering, and math, but this last field has always been a bit more difficult to fit into the engaging world of rockets and vast bridges. How do we bring maths to life in an exciting and applicable context? Coding.
Math and coding are deeply related, and when teaching your students how to code, you are simultaneously delivering math and computational thinking that they can use in any field they pursue. Better still? It’s fun!
Coding can help your students love math
Believe it or not, coding is full of math. When your students work through a coding program, they are applying principles that belong to mathematics and developing strong mathematical thinking that will help them in many areas of their academic and personal life.
At the end of the day, the secret ingredient of the engaging formula is to make math a field that is closer to your student’s interests and goals, and to show them -hands-on- how can these curricula be applied in reality. Abstract thinking that is often required of math is difficult for students younger than 16. Providing a framework and concrete situations to apply their skills makes it real and makes it fun.
Math in a gamified format
Incorporating gamified elements into the classroom has proven itself to work fantastically well. In educational systems like Montessori, students who learn the required subjects in a hands-on learning format and with gamified, engaging elements perform better in applying those same skills to other situations.
It is exactly because of these reasons that coding and programming appear to be a phenomenal way to deliver math knowledge to students. Imagine teaching fractions, derivatives, or simple equations in a normal classroom and using the same whiteboard your parents used, and now compare it to teaching the same content while your students are coding their very own app, or when they are programming a virtual robot to navigate a challenge.
Virtual robots and cyber robotics are an amazing way to teach STEM and math, it can help close the gender gap in STEM education, it can show some reluctant students that math can be learned (and applied) in a different way, and it can help them understand that mathematics is much broader than baffling word problems in which people are buying two hundred eggs at the grocery store.
Coding is math. Math is coding.
The most important reason to study math is that the study of mathematics builds problem-solving skills. All humans need to know how to reason and analytically think through a problem. The habits of mind associated with learning mathematics train our brains to seek solutions in a logical way. At its root, this is coding.
Coding, at the bottom line, is math. In order to write a line of code that works well, coders need to strengthen their algorithmic thinking and computational thinking. At the end of the day, if you want your students to learn a great programming language for kids, their mathematical thinking should be strong enough for them to succeed.
The good news is: Your students can strengthen their mathematical thinking the opposite way around. They don’t have to begin with math to progress to coding; they can actually start coding and, in the way, get way better in math. Implementing math evaluations via coding is a great way to get authentic assessments that your students may not even realize are tests.
Start offering your students a new way of thinking. Let them experience math in an engaging format, and be amazed by the results you’ll see in your class.
Problem Solving in Your Classroom
Need some ideas to bring problem-solving to your elementary classroom? Check below!
ScratchJr is an app version of the popular Scratch site that’s aimed at beginners. It’s a drag-and-drop coding language. With this system, users snap together colorful blocks on the screen to make their own programs. Telling an interactive story about something they’re learning is a great application. Get your kids interested in programming without needing to navigate programming terms.
Tynker Junior is a picture-based coding app that piques early learners’ interest. With this tool, you can introduce analytical thinking early on.
Codeable Crafts is an app that lets students K-3 animate stories with accessible drawing tools and coding blocks
Cork the Volcano – Puzzlets is a programming app that combines engaging physical puzzle tiles with digital gameplay for grades K-5.