What is it about coding and robotics that supports struggling math students to succeed?
The Nation's report card shows dismal results in math achievement for the United States. The most recent results show scores of only 40% of fourth graders, 34% of eighth graders, and 25% of twelfth graders testing at or above proficiency (NAEP, 2017). Math 1 is considered to be a "gatekeeper" for higher level Math and Science classes making it an important equity issue for all students to have access to higher level learning.
Julie Lovie The Coding Connection Lovie Home Learn More Standards Inspiration About the Author
Coding to Success
Coding and math use many of the same skills; problem solving, critical thinking, and perseverance. Teaching math with coding provides the opportunity for struggling math students to experience success while learning valuable computer science skills critical to compete in the ever changing job market. This site will provide information demonstrating how teaching math with coding and robotics engages struggling math students increasing their ability to experience success in math.
Students who repeat Math 1 deserve a change
The U.S. Department of Education has stated that Math 1/Algebra 1 is a class that is considered to be the “gateway” to higher level math and science classes. The Mathematical Association of America reported 50% of students failed Algebra 1 in May 2016 (Common Vision, MAA, 2016). These are alarming statistics which are limiting the opportunities for many students. Algebra is the first time many students have been presented with abstract thinking and problem solving (Fong Jaquet, Finkelstein, 2014). Reports have shown repeating Math 1/ Algebra 1 may be demoralizing to the student and turn them off the subject (Fong, Jaquet, Finkelstein, 2014). Cost of reteaching, students feeling demoralized, and lack of success repeating Math 1 illustrates there must be a different answer.
Professor Harry Cheng from U.C. Davis created the C-Stem computing and robotics curriculum to address this very issue. Professor Cheng of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering program experienced students who were not succeeding in Algebra 1/Math 1, thus limiting eligibility to his engineering program: “Nearly half of California students retake Algebra 1” ( Cheng, 2016, pg. 1).
How can we continue teaching Math 1 over and over the same way and expect these students to magically succeed ?
This study provides a new approach to teaching Math 1 for student who have previously failed. The new approach involves teaching Math 1 with coding and robotics. Students are presented with a fresh approach to learning Math 1 while also learning new language "programming C++". Students are learning problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking, and developing perseverance while experience success in Math 1. The use of C-Stem Curriculum, innovative education apps, and growth mindset techniques transformed the math class in this study. Students who have failed Math 1 for two or more semesters were finally experiencing success.
Rounds of students centered research in a Math 1 class are the focal point of this Capstone. The students being studied attend a continuation high school in Napa. They enter my Math 1 class after failing two to four semesters. It was clear something needed to be done, so I started my research focusing on developing growth math mindsets. A after attending a Jo Boaler workshop and reading her book, I supported her math revolution movement. After the first trimester, it was clear I had something very interesting occurring in my class that warranted me shifting my research. I had struggling math students experiencing success for the first time through the delivery of Math 1 through coding and robotics. Below you will see my 4 rounds of research.
Round 1 : Growth Mindset
Inspired by the work of Jo Boaler, I used the resources in her book Mathematical Mindset as well as the resources on her youcubed site to transform my teaching to foster the development of growth mindsets. My students watched her inspirations videos, we read articles on mindset research, and we engaged in lessons from the weeks of inspirational math found on youcubed. The results were very positive, and over time my students were gaining confidence as well as embracing the mindset that mistakes grow brain cells. I also saw an increase in students trying, fixing missed problems, and overall grade improvement which was very exciting. It was at this time I also noticed struggling students really engaging with the coding, and so I then changed my focus. I continue to use the mindset practices in my class, but my research focus changed to, "How does coding and robotics support struggling math students to succeed?"
Round 2 : First round of Coding & Robotics
This next round of research ended in March and the focus in class was introductory coding lessons. Students learned important vocabulary and commands which we would be building on. I used Quizizz to teach and review important vocabulary as well as commands. You will find those quizizz on my lesson plan page. Students were learning basic integers, order of operations,solving equations, and introduction to using linkbots. The engagement was close to 100% whenever we did a coding or robotics lesson. I was measuring engagement as well as passing grades since they had all failed Math 1 previously. For this grading period progress report 3 the results were 62% of students had a D+ or higher.
Round 3: Coding & Robotics
Round three had students modeling mathematics equations using real life situations like saving to buy a motorcycle, calculating sales tax, interest, scatter plots, slope intercept, and functions. There was also a robotics challenge, coding their way through a maze, as well as our robotics team prepping for the C-Stem Competition. This final round of research was the end of the year, June, and students were losing focus. Even with the end of the year, I still had close to 100% engagement with students who were in class for assignments that involved coding. For this round there was a 74% passing rate with a D+ or higher. Those students who did not pass with a D+ or higher had poor attendance, which is another serious issue that needs attention.
The other measures that are on my assessment page are Math Inventory Scores for all 3 trimesters tracking growth, students' self assessment of engagement, coding skills gained, and soft skill acquisition. I was very fortunate to ask all the C-Stem teachers and their students to participate in my final survey of the year, so I have over 200 students reporting in on my survey. The Students are from ACHS Middle, ACHS High School, and Valley Oak Math 1 & 2 students.
Round 4 : Summer Coding & Robotics
The final round of research is from the incoming freshman class at New technology High School's Summer College Readiness Academy program. This program started June 17th and ends July 12th. There are results from 3 diagnostic tests as well as self assessment to the same survey the other students took at the end of the year. Students are being prepared to enter Math 1, so they used linkbots to review and visualize integers on a vertical number line. These students have also coded a maze that they will show to their parents at the parent night. The last thing they will explore in this short time is slope and intercept. These results will also be found on my assessment page.
Harry Cheng, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, helps make abstract math concepts come alive for students using computing and robotics. (Credit: UC Davis)
Capstone Video Summary
Please watch this 90 video summary of my capstone.
The opportunity for my students and I to learn coding and robotics would not be possible without the support of NapaLearns. I am so grateful for the financial support that was provided for all the training, all of the equipment, and student support. I would also like to thank NapaLearns for investing in me as an educator supporting the Touro Innovative Masters Program. The knowledge that I have gained being part of this program will directly impact my students to increase engagement, knowledge, confidence, and higher level 21st century skills.
The Touro Innovative Education program was the right choice for my professional growth journey. I am very excited to implement the knowledge and skills I have gained into my classroom. This program will directly impact my students in a positive way. I am very grateful for this experience and the flexibility that it offers working educators.