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Assessing the Impact of Computer Modeling and Programing in Secondary Algebra

Overview:

Research shows that meeting current and future demands for professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers in the U.S. will require major shifts in education, particularly in terms of classroom learning in K-12 settings. Computing has become an integral part of the practice of modern science, mathematics, and engineering. As a result, the STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) program seeks to integrate the use of computation approaches in K-12 STEM teaching and learning. The Assessing the Impact of Computer Modeling and Programing in Secondary Algebra project will examine the impact of modeling and computer programming opportunities on students' understanding of linear functions and their engagement in practices associated with STEM+C success. Through its focus on algebra -- the most widely taken high school mathematics course -- Computer Modeling in Algebra will pilot an approach that has the potential to put computer science squarely in the path of virtually every high school student. This project will combine the pedagogical content knowledge of researchers in STEM education and the computational prowess of computer scientists to infuse programming and computer modeling into a project-based algebra unit on linear functions taught to students from a range of backgrounds. Teachers and students will develop an understanding of computational thinking as a way of creatively approaching tasks using fundamental concepts from computer science.


Computer Modeling in Algebra will develop accessible yet relevant approaches to integrate modeling and computer programming experiences into algebra and to transform the mathematical understanding, problem-solving practices, and STEM+C investment of teachers and students alike. The project will pursue four main goals: (1) to effectively integrate modeling and computer programming into a project-based learning (PBL) unit on linear functions, (2) to prepare teachers to implement this unit -- and computer modeling and programming more broadly -- as part of their regular teaching in a classroom setting, (3) to assess the effect of the PBL unit on learners' understanding of functions, persistence and confidence in problem-solving, and willingness to tackle open-ended tasks, and (4) to enhance students' engagement in mathematics, computer science, and related fields, particularly among students from groups underrepresented in STEM and computer science. The project will use modeling-centered inquiry and project-based approaches in the study that reflect current research on the development of computational thinking and the incorporation of programming in K-12. The professional development experiences at the heart of the initiative will follow a participatory approach that engages teachers as partners in research, expands their understanding of pedagogical approaches that lead to success for all students (and especially low-income and minority students), and positions them to transform their teaching of linear functions by infusing computer modeling and programming into their algebra curriculum. The initiative will produce data on how integration of modeling and computer programming in mathematics can improve student understanding of functions and contribute to greater investment in, preparation for, and access to STEM+C fields. Through strategic curricular design, transformative teacher training, and close attention to student experiences and learning outcomes in traditional classroom settings, the study will pave the way for further integration of computer science into secondary mathematics to broaden the pipeline of students prepared for STEM+C careers.