Important paper at SIGCSE 2015: Transferring Skills at Solving Word Problems from Computing to Algebra Through Bootstrap
I was surprised that this paper didn’t get more attention at SIGCSE 2015. The Bootstrap folks are seeing evidence of transfer from the computing and programming activities into mathematics performance. There are caveats on the result, so these are only suggestive results at this time.
What I’d like to see in follow-up studies is more analysis of the students. The paper cited below describes the design of Bootstrap and why they predict impact on mathematics learning, and describes the pre-test/post-test evidence of impact on mathematics. When Sharon Carver showed impact of programming on problem-solving performance (mentioned here), she looked at what the students did — she showed that her predictions were met. Lauren Margulieux did think-aloud protocols to show that students were really saying subgoal labels to themselves when transferring knowledge (see subgoal labeling post). When Pea & Kurland looked for transfer, they found that students didn’t really learn CS well enough to expect anything to transfer — so we need to demonstrate that they learned the CS, too.
Most significant bit: Really cool that we have new work showing potential transfer from CS learning into other disciplines.
Many educators have tried to leverage computing or programming to help improve students’ achievement in mathematics. However, several hopes of performance gains—particularly in algebra—have come up short. In part, these efforts fail to align the computing and mathematical concepts at the level of detail typically required to achieve transfer of learning. This paper describes Bootstrap, an early-programming curriculum that is designed to teach key algebra topics as students build their own videogames. We discuss the curriculum, explain how it aligns with algebra, and present initial data showing student performance gains on standard algebra problems after completing Bootstrap.