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Developing the Next Generation of Problem Solvers: Investigating the Integration of Computational Thinking into Preschool Mathematics and Science


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. Not too long ago, the goal of teaching computational thinking (CT) in preschool would have seemed unachievable, but recent advances in our understanding of the building blocks of CT and of the capabilities of young learners makes this an area ripe for further exploration. This project will investigate the integration of CT with mathematics and science with the goal of informing the development of new resources that provide preschool children with rich learning experiences that promote critical thinking and problem solving skills crucial for later school success. Project activities will include: 1) the development of research-based learning blueprints that delineate learning goals that integrate CT with mathematics and science; 2) the design and iterative testing of complementary hands-on and digital activities that address these learning goals, capture young children's interest, and also yield learning; and 3) the identification of design principles that guide the design of activity formats that can be used by educators and caregivers at school and at home.
The multidisciplinary project team will develop learning blueprints to serve as anchor documents, guiding the design of activities and research instrumentation. Furthermore, the team will engage in Design-Based Research and use a co-design approach in which multiple stakeholder, including preschool teachers, parents, children, and advisors, are directly and actively involved in the development and iterative pilot testing of digital and hands-on activities. This will ensure that design decisions link home and school learning, take into account the interests of young children, and address the needs and strengths of preschool programs and culturally diverse families. Researchers will conduct observations and interviews and make assessments of children's learning using evidence centered design learning tasks developed as part of this study and conduct mixed method analyses. The results of this investigation could inform future research and practice seeking to integrate CT with early childhood science and mathematics. Likewise, the co-design process used here could inform other efforts that seek to include diverse stakeholders in design based research.