Brock math students collaborate with local teachers on coding lessons

As they work to become educators themselves, a class of Brock University students recently spent time collaborating with local teachers to add coding to their classrooms.

With the support of a grant from Brock’s Experiential Education office and a team led by Professor Chantal Buteau of the Faculty of Mathematics and Science, the initiative expanded the scope of MATH 3P41 ­— a third-year programming-based math course for future teachers — to include a final project in collaboration with the Niagara Catholic District School Board.

Brock students partnered with Niagara Catholic teachers to design or modify and implement coding-based math activities for students in Grade 5 to 9.

“This coding collaboration surpassed my expectations, which is a testament to the professionalism of the two Brock students with whom I was paired,” said Grade 8 teacher Angela Aston-Willett from Our Lady of Victory Catholic Elementary School.

In total, 36 MATH 3P41 students and 25 Niagara Catholic teachers took part.

“The goal is to expand on experiential learning components and better prepare our future math teachers on how to integrate coding in their classrooms,” said Buteau. “It builds on the long-established MICA (Math Integrated with Computers and Applications) I-II-III courses developed at Brock some 20 years ago, whereby students learn to use programming for pure and applied mathematics investigations.”

The course’s focus on enhancing the teaching of coding skills stems from the Ontario Ministry of Education’s recently revised Grade 1 to 9 math curricula, in which coding was newly integrated as a tool for math.

“It’s now an expected skill our teachers need to possess and need to know how to teach,” said Buteau.

The collaborative project concluded April 18, with the MATH 3P41 students providing short oral presentations reflecting on the implementation of their math and coding activities. Niagara Catholic numeracy consultants Laura Cronshaw and Jefferey Martin attended the event to show their support as community partners in the initiative.

Although the course has now wrapped up, Buteau said there is still work to be done.

“My Niagara Catholic community partners and I, together with my post-doctoral fellow Dr. Laura Broley, will further reflect on this initiative and prepare a professional development webinar to present to Ontario math consultants in mid-June,” she said.  “The aim will be to share what we have learned from our experience on collaboratively preparing and implementing coding-based math activities in school classrooms.”

Carolyn Finlayson, Experiential Education Co-ordinator for Brock’s Faculties of Social Sciences and Education, was pleased to support the initiative.

“When we fund experiential learning projects in courses, our hope is that learning experiences for Brock students are meaningful and impactful,” she said. “Dr. Buteau’s students were able to extend this mission beyond the walls of Brock and share our commitment to high quality teaching with students at Niagara Catholic, serving as wonderful ambassadors of our institution.”

Buteau said the collaborative project would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and involvement of Cronshaw and Martin, and through financial support from the Mathematics Knowledge Network funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education. She also highlighted the instrumental work done by Broley in assisting with the revision of the whole course in preparation for the students’ final projects.

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