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Publication Detail
Beyond jam sandwiches and cups of tea: An exploration of primary pupils' algorithm‐evaluation strategies
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Benton L, Kalas I, Saunders P, Hoyles C, Noss R
  • Publisher:
    Blackwell Publishing
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Journal of Computer Assisted Learning
  • Print ISSN:
  • Keywords:
    children's programming, computing education, mathematics, algorithm, Scratch
The long-standing debate into the potential benefit of developing mathematical thinking skills through learning to program has been reignited with the widespread introduction of programming in schools across many countries, including England where it is a statutory requirement for all pupils to be taught programming from five years old. Algorithm is introduced early in the English computing curriculum, yet, there is limited knowledge of how young pupils view this concept. This paper explores pupils’ (aged 10-11) understandings of algorithm following their engagement with one year of ScratchMaths (SM), a curriculum designed to develop computational and mathematical thinking skills through learning to program. 181 pupils from six schools undertook a set of written tasks to assess their interpretations and evaluations of different algorithms that solve the same problem, with a subset of these pupils subsequently interviewed to probe their understandings in greater depth. We discuss the different approaches identified, the evaluation criteria they used and the aspects of the concept that pupils found intuitive or challenging, such as simplification and abstraction. The paper ends with some reflections on the implications of the research, concluding with a set of recommendations for pedagogy in developing primary pupils’ algorithmic thinking.
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