Mathematics and programming in schools have a longstanding and intertwined history. Programming in schools has been shown to have the potential to develop higher levels of mathematical thinking in relation to aspects of number and mathematical abstraction as well as problem solving abilities. More recently, attention has been paid to defining ‘computational thinking’ (CT) which could be considered as a specific aspect of mathematics thinking. This relationship helps to explain why programming and computer-based mathematical instruction have been found to have a positive effect on both student attitudes, and on attainment in mathematics, particularly for lower ability students.
The project is a randomised control trial (similar to those used in medicine to test the effectiveness of a new treatment) that will develop and evaluate the effect of learning to program on understanding computational thinking and mathematical thinking. It will compare the performance on selected tasks of students’ mathematical thinking with those who do not engage with the materials and programming activities. At least 100 schools across England will participate for 2 years, with half these schools forming an ‘intervention group’ and following the ScratchMaths curriculum from September 2015, and the other half forming a ‘control group’ and starting the intervention from September 2016. The project will produce materials and offer professional development that is aligned with the Computing Curriculum (Y5) and the Mathematics Curriculum (Ys 5 and 6). It will aim to boost mathematics scores at KS2 by approaching some of the mathematics involved through creative programming in the Scratch online programming environment.
All participating schools will:
- receive two specially designed curriculum-aligned interventions for Ys 5 and 6 in Computational Thinking and Mathematical Thinking, which include free student materials and teacher guidance using MIT’s Scratch software (http://scratch.mit.edu/).
- be invited to participate in an online teacher community for mutual support and advice
- receive free CPD for teachers who will be teaching the interventions (computational thinking in Y5 and ScratchMaths in Y6).
- receive feedback on the outcomes of the study to inform future practice.
At the end of the trial the ScratchMaths materials will be made generally available to all schools who wish to use them.