Creating a mathematical environment through programming : a study of young children learning Logo
The aim of the study was to investigate the nature and extent of the
mathematical environment created through young children (aged 8-11)
1 earni ng computer programmi ng us i ng the 1 anguage Logo. There were
three aspects to the problem:
1. How do children in a 'natural' classroom learn to program in Logo,
and in what ways does this activity constitute a mathematical
env i ronment?
2. What effect does the programming experience have on children's
understanding of selected geometrical concepts?
3. How may the 1 earni ng of Logo provide a conceptual basi s for the
understanding of elementary algebraic ideas?
Investigation of issue 1 was based on an analysis of the
children's learning over an eighteen-month period. This consisted of
three phases. The introductory and programning phases, which took
place during the first year of the study, involved the participation
of 118 children in five classes. Characteristic mathematical/
programning strategies of the children's early activities were
proposed. and an analYSis of the acquisition and application of six
key computational ideas was undertaken. A model of children's
'learning modes' was developed, and its applicability and limitations
were determined. The final phase consisted of detailed case-studies
over a six month period of four pairs of children who had participated
in the first year of the study.
Issue 2 was investigated by means of a pencil-and-paper test
designed to probe the children's understanding of three categories of
the concept of length, and three categories of the concept of angle.
The test was administered to the Logo children at the end of the first
year of the study, and to a set of classes deemed suitable to act as
control groups. The findings indicated positive effects in favour of
the logo groups in five out of the six categories. Evidence of a
differential effect in favour of the logo girls was also found.
Investigation of issue 3 was undertaken by a series of
solve-aloud rule formulation problems. administered to the eight case
study children. Evidence was provided of a conceptual linkage between
aspects of the children's Logo experience. and the concepts of a)
algebraic variable. and b) elementary algebraic formalisation.