How Coding Can Be a Learning Tool for Mathematics
Carlo Poggi, Digital Learning Coach at H-FARM International School
Our early years and elementary students are always encouraged to think in a range of different ways as part of the learning process. That’s why our young learners don’t learn one subject at a time, but rather through transdisciplinary units that provide opportunities for our students to develop conceptual understandings through the exploration of a range of content. For example, at H-FARM International School, computational thinking and design thinking have been integrated into the PYP curriculum through a co-teaching model.
Teachers plan together with the Digital Learning Coach to integrate coding, tinkering and maker activities into the classroom curriculum so students transfer their skills and abilities with computational and design thinking across the different disciplines. Just this past year, the PYP5 students learned how to code drones as part of a series of transdisciplinary learning experiences which included learning about the Solar System and creating physical models of the planets.
Students used block coding to fly the drones in a 3D space and they were exposed to many new concepts in an engaging and visual way. While coding they used coordinates XYZ in a 3D space using both positive and negative numbers. By controlling real machines, not just objects on a screen, students were able to grasp complex geometric concepts that are beyond their grade level while also having fun!
Students also discovered and experienced what happens in the real world in comparison with pure maths where a number or a measurement is absolute and without error. Students quickly experience that in the real world there is not such an exact number or measurement but every device and tool we use has errors. Through practice they learn a very difficult concept for their age: the ability to make approximations using scientific criteria and logic.
I witnessed our students develop perseverance as they tested their code and made adjustments as needed. They repeated the process again and again to perfect their code. The PYP concepts of function, causation, connection and change feature heavily in these learning experiences as students explore the connections between different maths ideas and apply their learning to computational thinking challenges. The transfer of learning is increased by real world applicability, useful purpose and challenges that students enjoy.
The role of the Digital Learning Coach (DLC) is to facilitate the use of technology in the classrooms so that it becomes a tool for learning and to help students in their understanding of the digital world. So a drone is not just a fun tech toy. It helps young learners broaden their understanding of the world, consider other perspectives, and develop abilities that will allow them to conquer the very complex future.
Carlo has been working at H-FARM International School since 2018 as a Digital Learning Coach. His previous teaching experience was in Tanzania, teaching Middle School students and in Rome as a Technology Integration Specialist in the primary school. His previous career was as an Environmental Engineer. Carlo is passionate about technology and is constantly amazed at students’ responses when they are engaged with technology. He enjoys travelling, exploring remote areas, especially deserts and African countries. Carlo also enjoys good food.