[Edu-sig] python and math skills

Joseph Ehlers ehlersjp at msn.com
Mon Mar 19 01:01:35 CET 2007

I posted a question a few years back dealing with 'first languages'.  This community was tremendously helpful and because of your help my school now teaches Python and students enjoy the language.  Among the most notable outcomes I have noticed is that students are engaged in their learning, they think through their problems and they help each other solve problems (teamwork).  My department, Business Education, has no state standards for learning in which students are tested on for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) testing, therefore, I am trying to show how my lessons support, or reinforce, other core academic standards, most notably mathematics.  My school is on the NCLB academic watch list and needs to help better develop student's math skills.  All departments outside of the core academic departments have been asked by administration to reinforce pre-algebra skills for all students as this is a common skill set among all departments and a tested skill set on NCLB testing.  This Python course does reinforce pre-algebra skills, and algebra and some geometry as well as reinforces several Illinois state math standards.  In the future I would like to work closely with our math department to try to mirror my Python curriculum with the pre-algebra and algebra 1 classes, this should further help students by reinforcing topics in a timely manner.  Currently, the Python curriculum is very introductory, there is no math prerequisite for the course and even special education students take the course and seem to be showing progress in their problem solving and critical thinking skills.

I would like to make a recommendation to our administration and counselors that the Python course be 'strongly recommended' for all students.  Here is my situation however:  my school district recently went to data driven decision-making and all decisions must answer the question, "How will this action impact student achievement?" and they must be backed up with data.  Once again, I am asking this community for help.  

Can anyone point me to data that shows a positive relationship between Python, or programming in general, and increased math skills among students, or increased student achievement on standardized tests?  I have found some research that shows a positive correlation between algebra knowledge and a higher success in programming, but does the opposite exist, does programming knowledge help math skills?

I have been so pleased with student's eagerness and engagement in the class.  The course is basically all math up and down the curriculum but I don't think the students realize that, they view it as electronic puzzle solving.  I'm not doing anything out of the ordinary, I'm simply using two books (Computer Programming Is Fun by David Handy and Python Programming for the Absolute Beginner by Michael Dawson) and the students are engaged.  If Python is making math fun and engaging then I have to think that students who have some knowledge of Python must be improving their math skills.  I will track this data at my school but any other data to support this feeling would be greatly appreciated.  

Thank you for your help.
Joe Ehlers
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