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CT in Preschool Profile

Integrating Computational Thinking into Mathematics Instruction in Rural and Urban Preschools


The STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) program seeks to advance multidisciplinary integration of computing in STEM teaching and learning through applied research and development across one or more domains. This project will conduct exploratory research to better understand how preschool learning and instructional environments can be designed to support the integration of computational thinking (CT) with mathematics for children ages 4-5. Although recent research suggests that young children can master computational thinking concepts such as sequencing, repeat loops, and setting parameters, there is limited research about how this understanding could intersect with other STEM disciplines such as science, engineering, and mathematics. This project will investigate children's CT learning and teachers' understanding of CT as they engage with playful prototypes of hands-on activities and digital tablet apps that align with preschool math instruction. The development of preschool CT learning models and CT learning tasks will be used to assess children's CT thinking and will contribute to an understanding around how CT skills may develop in young children.
Working in close collaboration with 16 preschool educators and 100-120 diverse rural and urban children in four public preschools in eastern Kentucky, Boston, and New York, learning researchers and media designers will explore how young children make sense of computational thinking (CT) practices in the context of mathematics instruction. This two-year research and development process will be modeled on Clements's (2007) Curriculum Research Framework and will: 1) explore foundational research in early childhood math and CT, consult with expert advisors, and conduct stakeholder interviews with teachers working in under-served urban and rural preschool settings to understand the learning opportunities that could arise when CT is infused into existing preschool mathematical practice; 2) draft preschool CT learning models that will inform development of CT activity prototypes and a playful set of CT learning tasks to explore preschoolers' CT learning; 3) conduct a formative research process to explore children's CT learning and teachers' CT understanding as they engage with prototype hands-on activities and digital tablet apps aligned with concepts taught in the NSF-funded Building Blocks preschool math curriculum, and; 4) evaluate preschool children's learning using the Research-Based Early Math Assessment to understand how their performance on the CT learning tasks corresponds to their learning of mathematics. In future, these preschool resources could be further developed and contribute to the need for high-quality, research-based approaches to preschool instruction and learning.