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Which must be first? Beginner programming, or Algebra 1?

  1. Mar 11, 2017 #1


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    I am just curious about this. Must one of these be taught before the other, or does the order not really matter? Should a student be taught beginning computer programming AFTER being taught introductory algebra 1? Or can the reverse order be done? My guess is that learning Algebra 1 first is better, but I cannot say for sure if this is correct or incorrect, so it's only my opinion; so I ask, wondering if anyone has better insight about this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2017 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Fourth graders and younger can learn programming as in general you need to understand basic arithmetic. However, an understanding of algebra is definitely a plus as you will instinctively code your equations correctly and will know how to simplify them. Regular algebra will also help when doing boolean operations as well as they follow similar principles of expression reduction.


    If you are interested in programming then I suggest you checkout Processing:


    There are a large collection of programming examples, many cool libraries that can extend your program's power and its just fun to play with.
  4. Mar 12, 2017 #3
    I learned BASIC on ticker-tape in junior high school (I guess we must have been a fairly privileged school district), which was probably before I was learning much in the way of algebra. But I agree w/ @jedishrfu that algebra will help you grasp the concept of a variable. It could be a nice two-way street for learning; in fact I'd bet there must be teaching programs set up for youngsters where algebra concepts are developed via small programs.

    EDIT: Here we go - second hit on a Google for "programming algebra" - https://code.org/curriculum/algebra

    And here's the sixth hit, which looks like it's a module in an online course for young learners - a lesson explaining some of the differences between coding & algebra: https://www.learneroo.com/modules/11/nodes/102

  5. Mar 13, 2017 #4
    The basics of programming are not exclusively revolving around algebra. It's based on some elements of (native) language.
    Programming can be taught at the moment one can write and read. And even this is just a practical lower limit.
    I think it should be taught at that time. Gives a good boost to the thinking process: cause and consequence in a logical and understandable system.
    Unfortunately, there is one another practical limit. Learning materials for this age are rare.
  6. Mar 13, 2017 #5
    Algebra will be needed before you get to what I regard as the "good stuff" or the real power in programming.

    But not for a first programming course.
  7. Mar 13, 2017 #6


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    I learned programming well before I learned algebra.

    So, programming can be learned first, and this is especially true with modern visual programming languages such as Scratch.
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