We present a theory of the causes of difficulty in children’s creation of informal programs. Ten-year-old children are able to devise such programs to rearrange the order of the cars in trains on a simple railway track with a single siding. According to the theory, they rely on kinematic mental models that simulate the required sequence of steps, and we devised a computer program, mAbducer, which does so too in creating its own programs for such rearrangements. An experiment showed that a simple measure of the complexity of its programs, based on Kolmogorov complexity, predicts ten-year-olds’ difficulty in this task: the measure is the number of words in mAbducer’s programs for solving the rearrangement in a minimal number of moves. Complexity, in turn, reflects the structure of the required programs, which need loops of moves to be repeated, and often moves before and after such a loop. Children’s errors are predictable in both their location and nature. Our results therefore have implications for the assessment and pedagogy of computational thinking.

The causes of difficulty in children’s creation of informal programs

Monica Bucciarelli
;
2022

Abstract

We present a theory of the causes of difficulty in children’s creation of informal programs. Ten-year-old children are able to devise such programs to rearrange the order of the cars in trains on a simple railway track with a single siding. According to the theory, they rely on kinematic mental models that simulate the required sequence of steps, and we devised a computer program, mAbducer, which does so too in creating its own programs for such rearrangements. An experiment showed that a simple measure of the complexity of its programs, based on Kolmogorov complexity, predicts ten-year-olds’ difficulty in this task: the measure is the number of words in mAbducer’s programs for solving the rearrangement in a minimal number of moves. Complexity, in turn, reflects the structure of the required programs, which need loops of moves to be repeated, and often moves before and after such a loop. Children’s errors are predictable in both their location and nature. Our results therefore have implications for the assessment and pedagogy of computational thinking.
31
1
12
Computational thinking; Deduction; Informal programs; Kinematic simulations; Recursion
Monica Bucciarelli, Robert Mackiewicz, Sangeet S. Khemlani, P. N. Johnson-Laird
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
The causes of difficulty in children's creation of informal programs.pdf

Accesso riservato

Descrizione: Articolo
Tipo di file: PDF EDITORIALE
Dimensione 558.45 kB
Formato Adobe PDF
558.45 kB Adobe PDF   Visualizza/Apri   Richiedi una copia

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/1829125
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact