June 2014 - June 2015 Program Report

Does learning Computer Science have impact on learning other subjects?

Although we are still early in terms of making a direct link between Computer Science course participation and learning gains in other subjects, a number of recent studies by our partners have shown interesting positive results connecting CS experience and Math performance. More rigorous study is needed.

Our Research

Our evaluation partner, Outlier Research & Evaluation, examined relationships between student exposure to CS Fundamentals Courses 1 and 2 and mathematics, reading and science district test scores in a school district. The analysis was done for grades 1-4. The findings of the study overall are mixed as follows:

  • There were no significant relationships between exposure to Code.org lessons and mathematics, science or reading scores in any grades 1-4 with the following three exceptions.
    • In the first grade there was a significantly positive relationship between exposure to Course 1 and mathematics scores
    • In the second grade, there was a significantly negative relationship between exposure to Course 1 and math and science scores
    • In the second grade, there was a significantly positive relationship between exposure to Course 2 and science scores
  • Given that ten of the twelve analyses did not show any significantly negative relationships, the findings provide an indication that introducing CS into the elementary curriculum does not have a negative effect on test scores in other subject areas. Future analyses using state test scores will take place by end of year.

Note: Some of the study limitations included: 1) the data on exposure to Courses 1 and 2 did not include the specific amount of time spent on each lesson; and 2) Code.org lessons were provided to all students in the district. Therefore there was no non-exposure comparison group.

Third-Party Research

Additionally, third party studies into the impact of CS on other subjects show promising results:

  • A study conducted by College Board students who take the AP Computer Science exam earn higher AP Calculus and Statistics scores relative to peers who previously performed at a similar level in math.
  • A study conducted by our partner, Globaloria, linked participation in CS courses to significant gains on standardized tests of math and reading in low-income middle school classrooms.
  • An analysis by our partners at Bootstrap revealed the challenges of showing direct correlation, but did demonstrate that students who completed the Bootstrap curriculum (which incorporates computer science into an algebra class) showed some gains in understanding of mathematical concepts such as functional application and composition.

See our blog post for more information.