Computers and computer programming has become an integral part of today’s society. The usage of computers appears in the educational and business as well as the scientific fields. Computer usage is a powerful resource and one that will grow and eventually become an integral part of all our lives. With the emergence of computers as an important learning tool, we as educators must also prepare our students for the future. Computer literacy is needed by all students. Computer literacy implies a working knowledge of a math language, the language of programming, and an idea of what computers can and cannot do.
Programming languages are available in many shapes and sizes. Some are science oriented, some business oriented, and some developed for a particular computer system. They all share one similarity, they all are languages based in logic. A computer is simply a logic machine that performs computations and calculations at an incredible speed. What those of us not associated with computers do not realize is that these units are quite moronic and are only as efficient and effective as the person instructing or programming the machine.
Our students will enter an adult working world and will be faced with computers. They will need to understand and use this facility. Introducing the usage of computers, basic programming skills, and encouraging our children to think logically about solving problems will help them immensely when they enter the job market. The purpose of this unit is to act as an introduction to the thinking world of computers, to help students develop a math language and an alternative methodology that will enable them to solve all problems. This unit is directed specifically to those who still have difficulty deciphering and solving single and double-step word problems.
Most middle school students try to solve a word problem or any mutli-step task by trying to take intuitive leaps at the answer. This method has only two possibilities for solution. The answer is either right or wrong and efforts to solve the problem end. Students have attacked the whole without ever contemplating alternative ways of dealing with the problem. Our students would best solve problems if they critically read each problem and determined what information is given, what kind of answer should be returned, and what steps or calculations are needed to obtain this answer. This need not be so difficult to achieve. The introduction of computers, how computers work, and flowcharting will help students develop ways to handle these problems. Methods must be developed to help students relate the immediate problem to ones they have previously solved. Our students can solve these problems if we can explain how to break large difficult problems into small manageable ones. Again, a step by step procedure to solve tasks. Many of our students believe or have been told that they’re just “not good in math”. Ideally, with computers as a motivational tool, these students will also be able to achieve success in school mathematics.
The key to developing a child’s ability to think logically is to have him talk through or explain how he goes about solving a problem. This method of “talking through” the problem will force them to verbalize an explanation of a problem he may
he understands. A child who can explain how to solve a problem, whether it be a mathematical problem or some other task, truly understands the process involved and is not dependent upon rote memorization of a skill. How many students can actually explain how to subtract two numbers when regrouping is involved? Our goal is to help students sit back and think about what must be done before attempting to solve a problem. An efficient and powerful method to use is that of flowcharting a problem. Flowcharts are used in programming to diagram the path in which information is processed through a computer to obtain the desired results. The flowchart will be a general outline of how to solve a problem or perform a task. The chart will not only enable the creator of the chart to solve the problem but other students may follow that procedure as well. Below is an explanation of the symbols used in flowcharting.