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News from Mathnasium of Parker

Coding and Math: The Perfect Pair

Mar 5, 2019

Technology is a way of the world these days. Whether it’s a phone, tablet, computer, television, or gaming device, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that didn’t spend some time per day using technology. The amount of time kids spend with technology is something that’s continuing to be studied and analyzed and most studies are in favor of limiting time spent using technology, but there is actually use for math in some forms of technology. Coding, being one of the most notable. 

Coding and math go hand in hand and it’s a great outlet for many students who connect well with technology because it’s a great way to apply and deeply engage in math concepts. Not only does it involve using many mathematical practices, it’s a great way to make something that rewards you when your work is done in the form of websites, games, apps etc. Here are six ways that coding uses math in a very practical way:

Problem Solving

Imagine building a car and all the parts of a car by scratch. Step by step, you slowly build, place and tighten one piece at a time until the car is completed. Coding is sort of like this. To build a complicated, multi-page website is like one giant problem with lots of little problems to solve within it with steps to follow to help you make the project you’re working on successful. Some of these steps include reading the problem multiple times before changing anything, working through problems with multiple sets of data, organizing steps, simplifying code, all which are ways you would problem solve word and algebra problems. 

Abstract Reasoning 

In abstract reasoning, you must make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. Have you ever seen piece of code? In coding, abstract situations are presented all the time. Symbols, numbers and letters and words are used to represent functions that happen in whatever is being programmed. Those abstract situations also must be tested so that their relationship with each other makes sense and can represent whatever is being programmed correctly. Using abstract reasoning is how something like this:

turns into an old school computer game similar to Frogger. 

Creating Structure

Looking closely to see if patterns exist is something that is useful in a lot of areas of life and coding is not left out of that. Finding patterns in numbers and shapes eventually leads to more abstract concepts like algebra and coding. Most coding patterns are actually inspired by traditional architecture patterns. In architecture they allow buildings to stay upright, sturdy and be visually pleasing. In coding, understanding patterns is necessary for problem solving. Understand patterns in coding, means you understand solutions to problems that are common in software engineering and can then be solved. 

Constructing Arguments

At some point, in our lives, we all have to present our case to people we’re trying to convince. Math is something that helps us rationalize and construct arguments. By hypothesizing, we give our opinions based on logical conclusions and a lot of those times those conclusions are based on data and math that we’ve analyzed. Coding is great for practicing this! “Arguments” in coding are a little different than in math, but they still seek to find the best expression and function of whatever is being worked on. They also use logic to justify their purpose. 

Using Tools Strategically

Can you imagine trying to use a hammer to replace a battery pack that needs screw driver? Chances are, it wouldn’t go so well. Considering the available tools you have to work with in your home is just as important as considering the right tools for math problems, and coding helps put this into practice. Everything from figuring out what you want to write code for (HTML, Ruby on Rails, PHP, JavaScript etc.) to analyzing code to figure out errors requires the proper set of tools and understanding how to implement them. 

Modeling Using Mathematics

This one seems super obvious, but, it is probably the biggest way that coding and math are connected. Modeling consists of solving problems that arise in everyday tasks using math and making assumptions and approximations to make complicated things more simple. Taking longer, complex notions and making them into bit sized pieces that everyone can enjoy. That’s pretty much what coding is – it’s a complex solution behind something pretty and simple. Routinely interpreting math and being able to turn it into something with context, like a website, is a great example of modeling mathematics.

Coding can be such a fun way to learn and develop math skills. Many teachers nationwide are introducing coding in secondary and sometimes even primary education, some of which can be taken as electives for students and some of which are just part of computer labs classes. There are also teachers who are integrating coding into everyday math class as part of curriculums, There’s also room to further classroom efforts at home! Resources from https://code.org or https://scratch.mit.edu are good places to get ideas and tutorials for coding basics and how-tos for teaching it. Happy coding!