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Bootstrapping algebra

Algebra is an educational benchmark. It is the boundary between an elementary education and a high school education. I have always thought that programming computers was more a matter of implementing algebra than it was of learning some ‘computer language.’ AVC suggests that maybe this can be turned around. Using Coding To Teach Algebra suggests that programming computers can be a way to make algebra more concrete and act as a stepping stone to understanding algebraic concepts.

Algebra is a turning point for many students. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and solving equations makes sense to most students because they come across these notions in their every day life. But functions are something completely different. It’s the first abstraction most students come across in their study of math.

In Bootstrap, students use code to make a simple videogame which they really enjoy doing. But they are also learning functions in the course of coding up their game. Once they understand how functions work in code, Bootstrap makes the leap to algebraic functions. And students get it. Because it is tangible to them instead of being this abstract concept they just don’t grok.

coding is an important intervention device into a student’s learning. Just like writing an essay or doing a workbook is an important intervention. Coding unlocks comprehension and understanding of certain hard to understand concepts in a fun and tangible way.

In other words, instead of teaching programming as a vocational skill, use it as an educational tool to develop understanding of mathematical concepts. This is already being done with simulation games and some other software but using it much like writing essays in an English class is a bit of a paradigm shift. It is also a learn by doing method for Algebra rather than a learn Algebra as a programmed step-by-step process one must memorize. 

Things can change in unexpected ways!