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Abstract

This article presents an investigation that has measured the causal impact of an intervention carried out within the School of Computational Thinking project framework, launched by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Vocational Training in the 2018-2019 academic year. Specifically, it studies whether it is possible to improve the development of mathematical competence through programming activities in 5th grade of Primary Education. The research design is based on the lessons learned from the ScratchMaths project developed by the University College London in the United Kingdom. Two groups of non-equivalent students have been used, the experimental group and the control group, without random assignment, with pre-test and post-test measurement on the mathematical competence variable. More than 3,700 students participated in the investigation. The results show that students in the experimental group developed this competence to a greater extent than students in the control group, with a significant and positive impact. Being the intervention effect size d=0.449, it can be stated that the project achieved the intended effect on mathematical competence. The generalization of computational thinking experiences in the curriculum can guarantee the improvement of the quality of the educational processes.
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: Implementation of
the ScratchMaths project in Spain
Programar para aprender Matemáticas en 5º de Educación Primaria:
implementación del proyecto ScratchMaths en España
Jesús Moreno-León
Programamos. Sevilla, España.
jesus.moreno@programamos.es
Marcos Román-González
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED). Madrid, Spain.
mroman@edu.uned.es
Ramón García-Perales
Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. Albacete, Spain.
ramon.garciaperales@uclm.es
Gregorio Robles
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. Madrid, Spain.
grex@gsyc.urjc.es
Abstract
This article presents an investigation that has measured the causal impact of an
intervention carried out within the School of Computational Thinking project
framework, launched by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Vocational Training
in the 2018-2019 academic year. Specifically, it studies whether it is possible to
improve the development of mathematical competence through programming
activities in 5th grade of Primary Education. The research design is based on the
lessons learned from the ScratchMaths project developed by the University College
London in the United Kingdom. Two groups of non-equivalent students have been
used, the experimental group and the control group, without random assignment,
with pre-test and post-test measurement on the mathematical competence variable.
More than 3,700 students participated in the investigation. The results show that
students in the experimental group developed this competence to a greater extent
than students in the control group, with a significant and positive impact. Being the
intervention effect size d=0.449, it can be stated that the project achieved the
intended effect on mathematical competence. The generalization of computational
thinking experiences in the curriculum can guarantee the improvement of the quality
of the educational processes.
Keywords: computational thinking, programming language, technology,
mathematics, basic education, computer-assisted learning.
Resumen
Este artículo presenta una investigación que ha medido el impacto causal de la
intervención realizada en el marco del proyecto Escuela de Pensamiento
Computacional, que el Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional de España
inició en el curso académico 2018-2019. En concreto, se estudia si es posible mejorar
el desarrollo de la competencia matemática a través de actividades de programación
en 5º de Educación Primaria. El diseño de la investigación está basado en las
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 2 of 18.
lecciones aprendidas del proyecto ScratchMaths desarrollado por la University
College London en Reino Unido. Se han usado dos grupos de estudiantes no
equivalentes, grupo experimental y grupo de control, sin asignación aleatoria, con
medición pre-test y post-test sobre la variable competencia matemática. Para ello, se
ha contado con la participación de más de 3.700 estudiantes. Los resultados muestran
que el alumnado del grupo experimental desarrolló en mayor medida esta
competencia que el alumnado del grupo de control, apreciándose un impacto
significativo y positivo. Con un tamaño del efecto de la intervención d=0,449 puede
afirmarse que el proyecto logró el efecto pretendido sobre la competencia
matemática. La generalización de experiencias de pensamiento computacional en el
currículum podrá garantizar la mejora de la calidad de los procesos educativos.
Palabras clave: pensamiento computacional, lenguaje de programación, tecnología,
matemáticas, educación básica, aprendizaje asistido por ordenador.
Introduction
During the 2018-2019 school year, the Spanish Ministry of Education and Professional
Training, through the Spanish National Institute of Educational Technologies and
Teacher Training, launched the School of Computational Thinking project in Spain. Its
objective is to “offer open educational resources, training and technological solutions that
support Spanish teachers in incorporating this skill into their teaching practice through
programming and robotics activities with the greatest guarantees.” (INTEF, 2019, p. 16).
Based on the definitions of computational thinking proposed by Seymour Papert in his
Mindstorms book (Papert, 1980), by Jeannette Wing in her seminal article on
Computational Thinking (Wing, 2006), and taking into account the latest research in this
field (Moreno-León, Robles, Román-González, & Rodríguez, 2019), within the School
of Computational Thinking framework, this skill is understood as “the ability to solve
problems and communicate ideas taking advantage of the power of computers” (INTEF,
2019, p. 11).
For the Primary Education level, the School of Computational Thinking trained more than
200 teachers from 18 regions (out of the 19 regions in Spain). Participating educators
learnt how to teach the 5th Grade Primary Mathematics curriculum through programming
activities with the Scratch language (Maloney, Resnick, Rusk, Silverman, & Eastmond,
2010). In addition, it provided a set of open educational resources
1
that teachers could use
in their lessons. These resources are programming activities designed in a way that
encourage interaction with different math concepts from the 5th grade curriculum. The
objective is that while students develop their computational thinking, they also improve
the development of mathematical competence. All this work is based on the ScratchMaths
research project (Boylan, Demack, Wolstenholme, Reidy, & Reaney, 2018) --
implemented in the United Kingdom by the University College London with funding
from the Education Endowment Foundation--, which shared the lessons learned and the
educational resources prepared with the Spanish Ministry of Education and Vocational
Training.
1
http://code.intef.es/aprende-matematicas-y-otras-cosas-con-scratch-3-0/
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 3 of 18.
The phase of implementation in the classroom of the School of Computational Thinking,
in which more than 3,700 students participated, was studied by an independent research
group. This article presents the conclusions of this study, which tried to answer the
following question: Is it possible to improve the development of students' mathematical
competence through programming activities with the Scratch programming language in
5th grade of Primary Education?
Background
The use of computer programming as a tool at the service of learning is not a new idea.
As early as the 1960s, the Logo language was created, designed to offer an environment
in which learners could set a problem they want to solve, experiment, try out several
solutions, and build on what they know (Watt, 1982). The goal of this language, therefore,
was not only to introduce children to the use of computers from an early age, but to also
learn about other disciplines and improve their creativity (Papert & Solomon, 1972).
The scientific community investigated the impact of Logo programming on student
learning in different areas, and Mathematics was the subject in which most of the research
was carried out. Improvements were found in the classification of geometric figures
(Battista & Clements, 1988), geometric thinking (Johnson-Gentile, Clements, & Battista,
1994), working with angles (Clements & Battista, 1989) and improvements in linear
measurement (Campbell, 1987). Other investigations, on the contrary, did not find
improvements in student learning when using Logo in Mathematics lessons (Hamada,
1986; Olive, 1991).
In recent years, programming languages with block-based editors have become popular.
These visual languages are designed to take advantage of all the possibilities of traditional
(text-based) languages, but also to learn from their limitations when used in education
(Weintrop & Wilensky, 2015). Among these languages Scratch stands out, being the most
used in the world with more than 62 million registered users, many of them young people
of school age. And with this boom in programming in the educational field, new research
is being carried out, aiming to find out more about how programming at an early age
affects the learning of other subjects (Fagerlund, Häkkinen, Vesisenaho, & Viiri, 2020;
Moreno-León, Robles & Román-González, 2016).
Even though the conclusions of the interventions that have been carried out on the use of
Scratch as an educational tool offer a very interesting panorama (Moreno-León & Robles,
2016), some of these works do not follow basic recommendations for the development of
research in the educational field (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007) and most have been
done with very small student samples.
For this reason, in 2015 the University College London launched the ScratchMaths
project with the fundamental objective of testing whether it is possible to improve the
learning of Mathematics through programming with Scratch in 5th and 6th grades of
Primary Education (Benton, Hoyles, Kalas, & Noss, 2016). For the design of the project,
success stories of works that follow this same approach were taken into account, as well
as the limitations that had been previously found (Clements, 1999; Voogt et al., 2015).
An intervention was carried out in 110 schools in which more than 5,000 students
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 4 of 18.
participated.
The main conclusions of the project were the following (Boylan et al., 2018): i) there is
no evidence that the intervention had a positive impact on the academic results in
Mathematics; ii) there was an improvement in the development of computational thinking
in 5th grade; iii) many schools did not implement the project in its entirety, especially in
6th grade; iv) the participating teachers highlighted the high quality of the teaching
materials that were made available to them. The training that the participating teachers
received consisted of two and a half days -about 20 hours-, and the final report of the
project also highlights that the implementation improved in those schools that offered
teachers time to work on the materials.
Taking these results into account, those responsible for the School of Computational
Thinking at the Spanish Ministry of Education and Professional Training decided to
implement ScratchMaths in Spain, but focusing on 5th grade of Primary Education and
extending the training period for participating teachers.
Method
The study was designed as an empirical intervention in which two groups of non-
equivalent students have participated, one as the experimental group -which studied the
Mathematics curriculum through programming activities with Scratch according to the
guidelines of the project- and another as the control group -which continued working on
this subject as it had been doing to date, following their textbook for the area, and using
other types of activities and resources other than programming with Scratch. The
assignment of students to each of the groups was not random, since we worked with entire
classes of students already formed by the educational centers. A measurement prior to the
intervention was carried out on the variable mathematical competence, the pre-test, and
another measurement after the intervention, the post-test, which made it possible to
estimate the causal impact of the project.
Sample
The total sample was made up of 3,795 5th grade students, who carried out at least one
application of the mathematical competence assessment test. However, as detailed in
Table 1, only those students who met the following conditions were considered as valid
cases for the study: i) having completed the pre-test and post-test of the instrument; and
ii) at least 60 days have elapsed between both tests. According to these two requirements,
the final valid sample amounts to 2,178 subjects, with a survival rate of 57.39%.
Regarding the valid sample, Figure 1 shows its distribution by gender, while Figure 2
presents its distribution by Spanish regions, key variables to understand the scope of the
research and the characterization of the participating sample. As can be seen, the
percentage of boys and girls is very balanced. In addition, there is a geographically
distributed sample throughout much of the country, since it is made up of students from
all the regions of Spain except Galicia, whose Department of Education declined to
participate in the research. The sample is also balanced according to the number of 5th
grade units of Primary Education and type of educational centers, public or private
ownership and urban or rural environment.
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 5 of 18.
Table 1
Summary of case processing
Group
Total participants
Valid subjects
Survival rate
Experimental
3,629
2,097
57.78%
Control
166
81
48.79%
Total
3,795
2,178
57.39%
Fig. 1. Distribution by sex of the valid sample.
Fig. 2. Distribution by Spanish regions of the valid sample.
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 6 of 18.
Instruments
The acquisition of learning for mathematical competence is characterized by its
generalization to the contexts that surround the student, and by its interdisciplinarity in
relation to educational achievement for the rest of the areas of the curriculum, aspects that
reinforce its transversal and instrumental character. Its integration into the teaching and
learning processes allows the cognitive development of students, its approach from
education is decisive for well-being and sustainability (Santillán, Cadena, & Cadena,
2019). Specifically, this competence could be defined as “the ability of students to
formulate, apply and interpret mathematics in different contexts. It includes reasoning
mathematically and using mathematical concepts, procedures, facts and tools to describe,
explain and predict phenomena of various kinds” (Spanish Ministry of Education and
Professional Training, 2019, p. 17). In this way, its evaluation is key in order to analyze
the degree of achievement of the mathematical learning, always taking into consideration
its importance for the description, interpretation and prediction of contextual phenomena
(Alsina, García, & Torrent, 2019).
In this research, the evaluation of the development of mathematical competence has been
carried out using the Battery for the Evaluation of Mathematical Competence, BECOMA
(García-Perales, 2014) instrument, which was precisely designed for the 5th year of
Primary Education. It is an instrument made up of 30 items distributed among 7 subtests
called: Mathematical interpretation (5 items), Mental calculation (6 items), Geometric
properties (2 items), Numerical logical series (6 items), Discovering algorithms (2
items), Conventional units (6 items) and Logical series of figures (3 items). Each of the
items can take a score of 0, 1 or 2 (incorrect, partially correct and correct), with the total
score ranging between 0 and 60. The instrument is applied electronically, its application
time is 41 minutes, and it contains instructions and examples before the start of each of
the subtests.
Regarding its statistical validation, it shows high reliability with Cronbach's Alpha indices
between .73 and .90. On the other hand, in terms of their validity (content, criteria and
construct), the calculated indices range between .80 and .89 (García-Perales, 2014). There
are scientific publications prior to its validation (Jiménez & García-Perales, 2013) and
later (García-Perales & Jiménez, 2016; García-Perales, Jiménez, & Palomares, 2020),
which offer theoretical and empirical support to this evaluation instrument.
Procedure
Before starting the intervention, participating teachers received a 30-hour online training,
over three months, in which they became familiar with the didactic materials that they
would later use with their students during the next phase, including instructions and
pertinent indications for the application of the test. Only those teachers who passed this
training were allowed to continue in the project with their students, which consisted of
the pre-test, the implementation in the classroom following the instructions and
methodology of the project, and the post-test.
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 7 of 18.
The programming activities developed in the Mathematics classes with the students of
the experimental group are based on the curriculum proposed by the ScratchMaths
project, which was adapted, updated and translated into Spanish by the Spanish Ministry
of Education and Professional Training. These activities are divided into three modules.
The first one, “Tiling patterns, is focused on repeating patterns, such as those found in
Islamic art or Gothic stained glass, but also in nature, such as snowflakes. With the
activities in this module, students take the first steps in the world of computer
programming, become familiar with the Scratch programming environment, and learn to
move, rotate and seal objects on the screen; control the flow of programs by repeating
instructions; as well as defining their own blocks. The mathematical concepts studied
with these activities include: patterns, rotation, angles, coordinates, symmetry,
multiplication, translation, transformation, and positive and negative numbers. Figure 3
shows one of the activities, in which the students experiment with the parameters of the
“repeat” and “turn” blocks to create different patterns.
Fig. 3. One of the activities carried out by the students of the experimental group.
Source: INTEF, available with a free license at http://code.intef.es/aprende-
matematicas-y-otras-cosas-con-scratch-3-0/
Module 2, Beetle geometry”, is centered in the development of programs in which the
characters make use of the instructions in the Scratch extension “pencil” to draw different
figures and landscapes on the screen. This module also incorporates activities that allow
students to learn to debug projects with errors and to predict the result of the execution of
different types of programs. Some of the mathematical concepts covered in this module
are: perimeter, Roman numerals, regular and irregular polygons, and random numbers.
Finally, the “Interacting sprites” module includes activities designed to show how to use
conditional instructions and send and receive messages to synchronize the behavior of the
characters in a project, making them interact and react to different events, so that the
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 8 of 18.
students learn to create different types of interactive narratives. These activities help to
deal with mathematical concepts such as factors, rotation, reflection or ordinality.
This phase of implementation in the classroom took place over three months, with an
estimated dedication of 40 hours. The following sections describe the analysis performed
on the pre- and post-tests and the results obtained.
Data analysis
Prior to the analysis of the results achieved with BECOMA, the internal consistency of
the measurements made was assessed by calculating the reliability using Cronbach's
Alpha statistic. Afterwards, the descriptive statistics of the data obtained for both
moments of the investigation is presented. Finally, in order to assess the existence of
statistically significant differences between groups, experimental and control, and thus
know the impact of intervention, an analysis of covariance was carried out and the size
of the effect of the measurements was calculated. The research team has been in charge
of reviewing the data obtained at each moment of the research. All the statistical treatment
has been carried out using the SPSS program (version 26.0).
Results
Reliability of measurements
Table 2 presents the reliability of the BECOMA battery, which amounts to α = 0.83. This
value is considered 'good' as it is an instrument specifically designed for 5th grade (García-
Perales, 2014).
Table 2
Summary of the reliability (as internal consistency) of the BECOMA battery
No. of items
Valid sample
size
Cronbach's alpha
Average reliability
Pre-test
Post-test
30
2,178
0.814
0.837
0.83
Descriptive results
Table 3 presents a summary of the descriptive statistics in relation to the score obtained
by all the students considered as a valid sample in the BECOMA battery in the two
measurements.
Table 3
Summary of descriptive statistics related to the total score in the BECOMA battery
Statistics
Pre-test
Post-test
N
Valid
2,178
2,178
Missing
0
0
Mean
36.08
38.79
Median
36.00
39.00
Mode
35
41
Standard deviation
9.273
9.591
Variance
85.982
91.980
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 9 of 18.
Skewness
-.032
-.092
Kurtosis
-.296
-.539
Minimum
3
11
Maximum
59
60
Percentiles
10
24.00
26.00
20
28.00
30.00
25
30.00
32.00
30
31.00
33.00
40
33.00
36.00
50
36.00
39.00
60
39.00
41.40
70
41.00
44.00
75
43.00
46.00
80
44.00
47.00
90
48.00
52.00
Figure 4 is a box plot that presents the total scores of the entire valid sample in BECOMA,
which can be used to compare the distribution of scores before and after the intervention.
In the pre-test, the mean score is 36.08 (SD = 9.273), while in the post-test it is 38.79 (SD
= 9.591). The median between moments also varies, from 36.00 to 39.00. With these first
results and their graphic visualization, the existence of impact of the introduction of the
programming can be glimpsed, which justifies continuing with the analysis of the data in
order to study the possible existence of statistical differentiation between the
experimental and the control groups.
Fig. 4. Box plots on the total score in the BECOMA battery for the whole valid sample
(pre-test vs. post-test).
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 10 of 18.
Impact of the intervention
To measure the impact of the intervention, an Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was
performed on the total score of the BECOMA battery in post-test, taking the condition
experimental group vs control group as a fixed factor and the total score in the pre-test as
a covariate. As can be seen in Table 4, the ANCOVA shows a statistically significant
difference (F= 17.758; p = .000), from which it is concluded that the intervention had a
significant and positive impact on the development of the mathematical competence of
the students who participated in the project.
Table 4
ANCOVA on the total score of the BECOMA (post-test), taking the “Condition”
(“Experimental” vs. “Control”) as a fixed factor and the total score in the BECOMA
battery (pre-test) as a covariate.
Dependent variable: total BECOMA score (post-test)
Source
Type III Sum of Squares
df
Mean Square
F
Sig.
Corrected model
95314.507a
2
47657.253
987.892
.000
Intercept
12279.675
1
12279.675
254.547
.000
BECOMA (pre-test)
95197.329
1
95197.329
1973.355
.000
Condition
856.685
1
856.685
17.758
.000
Error
104924.931
2175
48.241
Total
3476574.000
2178
Corrected total
200239.438
2177
a. R squared= .476 (Adjusted R squared = .476)
Figure 5 is a graphical representation of the error bars with the 95% confidence intervals
on the mean of the BECOMA for the control and experimental groups both in the pre-test
as in the post-test, and can illustrate the change produced in each of the groups between
the measurement before the intervention and the measurement after it.
Fig. 5. 95% error bars on the mean of the BECOMA for the Control and Experimental
groups in the pre-test and the post-test.
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 11 of 18.
To calculate the magnitude of the impact of the intervention on the mathematical
competence, the “effect size” (d) (Morris, 2007) has been calculated, as detailed in Table
5. The calculated effect size is d=0.449. Although this value indicates a moderate effect
(Cohen, 1988), in the context of an educational intervention a value greater than d=0.4
indicates that the desired effect has been achieved, according to the influence barometer
of Hattie (2009).
Table 5
Calculation of the effect size (d) of the intervention on mathematical competence.
Control group
Experimental group
N
81
2,097
Time
Pre-test
Post-test
Pre-test
Post-test
Mean
38.90
37.60
35.97
38.83
Standard deviation
9.193
9.650
9.261
9.588
Effect size (d)
0.449
Discussion
Since this study is an implementation of the ScratchMaths project, previously conducted
in the United Kingdom, it is necessary to discuss the differences in the results between
both implementations. What could be the reasons that in the original implementation no
evidence of a positive impact on the mathematical competence of the participating
students was found, but has been detected in this study?
In the first place, it must be taken into consideration that the implementation carried out
in Spain took place after the British one (Boylan et al., 2018; Noss, Hoyles, Saunders,
Clark-Wilson, Benton & Kalas, 2020), which allowed us to know what had worked and
where there was room for improvement. This is an example of why it is valuable that
negative results are also published, as in recent times these have been disappearing from
the scientific literature (Fanelli, 2012). Our work is thus a modified replication, which
aims to find scientific evidence of positive effects through slightly different procedures
(Hayes, Young, Matchett, McCaffrey, & Cochran, 2020).
In this regard, the original ScratchMaths project was conducted over two academic years,
and improvement in mathematical proficiency was measured at the end of the second
year. But the results report explains that, especially during the second year, many schools
did not implement the project correctly, probably due to the pressure that 6th grade
students suffer with the SATs (Boylan et al., 2018). That is why in the Spanish
implementation it was decided to limit the study to a school level, 5th year of Primary
Education. Therefore, improvement in mathematical competence was measured with a
test specifically developed for this educational grade.
On the other hand, the original report also shows that the implementation improved in
those schools where teachers had time to work on the proposed teaching materials, and
that this occurred more clearly with teachers who had less previous familiarity with
Scratch (Boylan et al., 2018). That is why for the Spanish implementation, it was decided
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 12 of 18.
to expand the training received by participating teachers, going from 2 and a half days -
around 20 hours- to a 30-hour course developed over three months.
The results achieved, therefore, are in line with previous research on the use of
programming with Scratch as an educational resource (Briceño, Duarte, & Fernández,
2019; Durango-Warnes & Ravelo-Méndez, 2020), which detect differences in student
learning outcomes based on teachers' programming knowledge and experience
(Meerbaum-Salant, Armoni, & Ben-Ari, 2013; Moreno-León & Robles, 2015). In this
sense, teacher training on knowledge, methodologies, tools and strategies that favor
computer science education with their students is essential (Malott, 2020; Sierra-
Rodríguez & García-Peñalvo, 2015).
Limitations
There are several limitations in this study that have to be considered. On the one hand,
the difference in the number of students who are part of the experimental group and the
control group is large, since after the adjustments and checks carried out the number of
valid subjects in the control group was limited to 81. Consequently, in future
implementations of the study, it would be advisable to have a larger control group. In this
line, it should also be noted the low survival rate of the sample between moments of the
research for both groups of students, derived from the demanding conditions established
for an adequate development of the research according to the proposed objectives.
On the other hand, although the large number of students participating in the experimental
group -who belonged to 200 schools spread over 18 regions- is one of the strengths of the
work, it also had a negative consequence, as it prevented researchers from personally
visiting the classrooms to supervise the performance of the tests. Although written
information was sent to the participating schools in different communications with
precise explanations that guided the procedure step by step, the truth is that there is no
certainty that teachers and students have respected all the instructions. For example, it
could be that in some classrooms students have been allowed to take the tests for a longer
time than in others. However, both those responsible for the project in the Spanish
Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and the researchers themselves carried
out telematic monitoring to solve all the doubts that arose during the project and tried to
make the implementation as uniform as possible.
Finally, there is no precise information on the number of activities of the proposed
curriculum that each teacher carried out with their students. In the satisfaction surveys
that the Spanish Ministry of Education and Vocational Training sent to the participating
teachers, they asked about this, and the responses offered a heterogeneous panorama.
Thus, taking into account that the activities were divided into three modules, the surveys
indicate that around 50% of the schools stayed in module 1, close to the other half reached
module 2, and very few schools reached the third module. However, not knowing how
many specific activities of each module had been developed in each center, it was decided
not to take this factor into consideration, even though it is clear that it can have an impact
on student learning.
In sum, it seems obvious that in future interventions it would be desirable for researchers
to have greater control over the performance of the tests in the classrooms, as well as over
the degree of implementation of the activities of the proposed learning itinerary.
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 13 of 18.
Conclusions
The results obtained indicate that it is possible to improve the development of students'
mathematical competence through computer programming activities with the Scratch
language in the 5th year of Primary Education. The students of the experimental group,
who worked on Mathematics programming with Scratch, improved the development of
their mathematical competence to a greater degree than the students of the control group,
who worked on this competence by making use of common resources in this area that are
not related to computer programming.
In a context in which computational thinking is considered a fundamental skill for life in
the 21st century (Li et al., 2020; Mohaghegh & McCauley, 2016; Bocconi et al., 2016),
and steps are being taken throughout Europe to incorporate this ability to the curricula of
Primary Education (Bocconi, Chioccariello, Dettori, Ferrari & Engelhardt, 2016), the
results of this work offer evidence of the effectiveness of developing computational
thinking through computer programming activities as an educational tool at the service
of learning Mathematics. This approach in which programming and computational
thinking become educational resources and are integrated into existing subjects, is being
implemented in various European countries (Bocconi, Chioccariello & Earp, 2018) and
Spanish regions (INTEF, 2018). These are fundamental learning contents to take into
consideration in the digital escalation that is taking place in educational centers (Van Dijk,
2020).
Likewise, it is considered appropriate to highlight that these results may be of great
interest to the international educational community in view of the next test of the Program
for International Student Assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development, which in 2021 will focus on the evaluation of mathematical competence as
the main subject and will also measure the computational thinking of the students. Thus,
the framework for the test explains that “students must have and be able to demonstrate
computational thinking skills while applying mathematics as part of their problem-
solving practice” (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2018, p 5),
an approach that we consider to be a perfect fit with the intervention presented in this
work.
Received: June, 28, 2021
Accepted: November, 03, 2021
Published: November 30, 2021
Moreno-León, J., Román-González, M., García-Perales, R., & Robles, G. (2021).
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths
project in Spain. RED. Revista Educación a Distancia, 21(68).
http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia. Núm. 68, Vol. 21. Artíc. 4(eng), 30-Nov-2021
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/red.485441
Coding to learn Mathematics in 5th grade: implementation of the ScratchMaths project in Spain.
Jesús Moreno-León, Marcos Román-González, Ramón García-Perales and Gregorio Robles.
Page 14 of 18.
Funding
This work has received public funding within the framework of the collaboration signed
between the National Institute of Educational Technologies and Teacher Training
(INTEF) of the Ministry of Education and Professional Training, and the National
University of Distance Education (UNED), through Teacher Marcos Román, for the
concept "Research and report on the results obtained by the students of the School of
Computational Thinking (Primary and ESO levels)". Furthermore, this work has been
funded by the Regional Government of Madrid (eMadrid P2018 / TCS4307, co-funded
by the European Structural Funds -FSE- and FEDER).
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6
Technical Report
La Escuela de Pensamiento Computacional e Inteligencia Artificial (EPCIA) es un proyecto del Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional, que se desarrolla en colaboración con las Consejerías y Departamentos de Educación de las comunidades y ciudades autónomas. El objetivo del proyecto es ofrecer recursos educativos abiertos, formación, acompañamiento y evidencias de impacto en las prácticas educativas y en el aprendizaje del alumnado, a fin de impulsar la incorporación del pensamiento computacional en la práctica docente a través de actividades de programación y robótica. Este proyecto, que está dirigido a docentes de todas las etapas educativas no universitarias y de cualquier materia o especialidad, lanzó su primera edición en el curso 18/19 en la que se inscribieron más de 700 docentes y durante el curso 19/20 en la que se inscribieron más de un millar de docentes de la práctica totalidad del país para participar en el proyecto. En este caso, la temática se centró en la Inteligencia Artificial. Uno de los objetivos de este proyecto es que la formación de los docentes se traslade a las aulas. Por ello, las tareas prácticas con las que el profesorado participante se familiarizó durante la fase de formación estaban diseñadas para ser utilizadas directamente en el aula. De este modo, los docentes de esta edición de la EPCIA han llevado a la práctica, con su alumnado, al menos 5 sesiones de trabajo relacionado con el pensamiento computacional y la Inteligencia Artificial. Por último, y en paralelo con la Fase 2, de puesta en práctica, se realizó una investigación para medir el impacto del proyecto en el aprendizaje y en la práctica docente. Esta investigación se ha desarrollado de forma independiente, pero coordinada, en las tres propuestas de la EPCIA: las actividades desconectadas, la programación con bloques (Scratch) y el desarrollo de apps con App Inventor, estas dos últimas combinadas con Machine Learning for Kids. Son los resultados de esta investigación los que se presentan en este informe.
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The Logo work of 30 ninth-grade students was analyzed from three theoretical perspectives: the van Hiele levels of thinking, the SOLO taxonomy, and Skemp's model of mathematical understanding. Using computer dribble files of the students' Logo work, summary analyses across four tasks examined the Logo programming aspects and the geometric aspects of the tasks. Relationships among the three theoretical models and between Logo programming and geometric understanding emerged from the summary analyses. SOLO learning cycles in which students achieve relating level responses to a task are more likely to result in relational understanding of the task when students are able to approach the task with at least a transition towards descriptive level thought. Success in Logo programming appears to be necessary but not sufficient for success with the geometric aspects of the tasks. The results suggest the possibility of constructing an integrated model of teaching and learning based on the three theoretical perspectives.
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El presente estudio tiene como finalidad realizar un seguimiento de veintidós estudiantes diagnosticados como de alta capacidad matemática en el curso 2011/2012 cuando estudiaban 5º de Educación Primaria. Forman el grupo situado en el nivel superior de la Batería de Evaluación de la Competencia Matemática (BECOMA, García-Perales, 2014), instrumento utilizado para decidir el grado de capacidad matemática de los estudiantes evaluados. En el curso 2017/2018 se han recogido nuevos datos sobre los veintidós estudiantes a fin de analizar sus trayectorias personales y académicas y comprobar el grado de estabilidad del diagnóstico realizado. Se trata de un estudio ex post facto, descriptivo y de corte cuantitativo. Los resultados indican que el grupo mantiene la alta capacidad matemática seis años después lo que viene a confirmar la validez diagnóstica de la BECOMA si bien la tendencia observada en los datos originales es un ligero descenso en los resultados en 2017/2018. No hay diferencias estadísticamente significativas entre alumnas y alumnos. La trayectoria escolar es importante también en estos escolares y su atención educativa debería ser más visible. The purpose of this study is to monitor twenty-two students diagnosed as having high mathematical ability in the 2011/2012 academic year, when they were studying 5th year of Primary Education. They form the group positioned at the highest level of the Mathematical Competence Assessment Battery (BECOMA, García-Perales, 2014), an instrument used to decide the degree of mathematical ability of the students evaluated. In the 2017/2018 academic year, new data about the twenty-two students were collected in order to analyze their personal and academic trajectories and verify the degree of stability of the diagnosis made. It is an ex post facto, descriptive and quantitative study. The results indicate that the group maintains the high mathematical capacity six years later, which confirms the diagnostic validity of the BECOMA although the observed empirical trend is a slight decline in the results in 2017/2018. There are no statistically significant differences between male and female students. The school trajectory is also important in these students, and their educational attention should be more visible.