Archive for September 2, 2013

Logic error: Assuming that early coding leads to top-coding skills

So, you do a survey of top coders, and find that many of them started coding between 8 and 11 years old.  Does that imply that starting coding between 8 and 11 leads to being a top-coder?  No, because you don’t know how many other kids started coding between 8 and 11 and got totally turned off to programming and are now gardeners.  Yes, the data are consistent with the belief that coding early leads to top-coder status, but there’s not enough there to avoid fallacy.

The argument suggested by the post below  is like the one that we’re trying to make about the role of early computing experience in influencing under-represented minorities.  We found the vast majority of under-represented minorities in CS had early computing experience.  But we also found that it was significantly more under-represented minorities had that experience than majority students in CS.  That strengthens our case that the early computing experience is particularly important for under-represented minorities.  What we haven’t shown yet is that there is a causal relationship.  Is it the case that many under-represented minority students who got early computing experience did NOT go into CS classes?  Until we know that, we can’t make any strong claims.  (I think that the quote below is from the same Neil Fraser who went to Vietnam and came back with a lot of incorrect assumptions about high school CS in the US.)

The article linked below is about teaching kids to program before they learn to read, using ScratchJr.  The article is interesting, and it raises a question well-worth exploring.

Early exposure to programming seems to have helped some of the world’s top coders. Earlier this year, Google engineer Neil Fraser in Mountain View, California, polled over 100 of his co-workers about when they first picked up coding, and then compared that with their performance on a simple test of skills. He found that those who wrote their first code between the ages of roughly 8 and 11 were most likely to develop advanced coding skills.

“We didn’t see an effect before 3rd grade, but certainly earlier is good,” Fraser says.

via Kindergarten coders can program before they can read – 26 July 2013 – New Scientist.

September 2, 2013 at 1:34 am 9 comments


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