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Variables: Coordinating research with elementary classroom realities

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We will discuss our process for developing instruction about the computer science topic of ‘variables’ for 4th grade students (ages 9–10). Drawn from theory about learning trajectories, the concept of ‘levels of thinking’ about variables serves as a flexible framework for synthesising existing computing education research while leaving room for adaptability of instruction to the elementary context — specifically, to 4th grade computer science instruction integrated with mathematics. We will discuss how we incorporated attention to classroom realities, such as teachers’ and students’ existing knowledge about variables (in mathematics or science), instructional time constraints, and nuanced differences in language, into our instructional materials. We will also share a set of lessons learned from the pilots of our instructional materials.


Dr Katie Rich is a Senior Researcher at the American Institutes for Research in Chicago, IL. She works on a variety of projects related to K–5 mathematics and computer science education. She is experienced in curriculum development, teacher professional development, and research aimed at understanding how teachers implement instructional materials. She is passionate about supporting teachers and helping all students feel empowered as capable mathematicians, computer scientists, and problem solvers.

Carla Strickland is the Digital Development Manager at UChicago STEM Education. As an expert in digitally enhanced STEM curricula, teaching, and learning, she works with elementary teachers and administrators to integrate computer science into their existing STEM instruction, with a particular focus on culturally responsive pedagogy and curricula. Carla brings an Afro-Caribbean perspective and a passion for equitable, high-quality instruction to her work in education.

This talk is part of the Computing Education Research series.

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