Advancing High School Computer Science Through Math and Science Integration


June 2017


Lucia Dettori

DePaul University

Alan Mather

Chicago Public Schools

Steven McGee

The Learning Partnership

Andrew Rasmussen

Chicago Public Schools

Brenda Wilkerson

Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools (CPS), through its CS4All initiative, has led the nation in K-12 Computer Science (CS) education, and has recently made CS a high school graduation requirement, starting with the 2020 graduating class. CPS is experiencing a tiered implementation of the CS graduation requirement in its high schools: the first tier of schools is integrating the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) course into their curriculum and a second tier of schools will do so by 2019. A third tier of approximately 40 schools face additional barriers (e.g., lack of resources, qualified teachers, reduced student exposure) and are resisting the transition to CS adoption. The project targets these schools by focusing on integration of computational thinking into the teaching of mathematics and science courses and will test the hypothesis that this effort will provide a ‘bridge’ to computer science course offerings. The effort will focus on teacher leadership and subsequent teacher development. Several curricula will be tested for integration into existing courses, for example Project GUTS (Growing up thinking scientifically) for supporting computational thinking in science courses and Bootstrap for Algebra. This approach will change school culture and attitudes towards CS and will provide a bridge for third tier schools to achieve sufficient professional development for offering the ECS course. These efforts will ultimately culminate in 100% coverage of the CS graduation requirement across the district. Through documentation and study of this effort, the project will serve as a model for other districts nationwide for integrating computational thinking into the teaching of science and mathematics and how this could support change in school culture and capacity for offering computer science courses. The project addresses core objectives of the STEM+C program to support research advancing a strong and developmental foundation in computing and computational thinking in preK-12 science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning and the applied integration of STEM content in preK-12 computer science education.

In this proposal the research questions involve: 1) understanding whether integration of CS into math and science, coupled with teacher leadership professional development and coaching, can support the formation of a school-level community around computational thinking; 2) understanding how a strong Professional Learning Community (PLC) around computational thinking might facilitate implementation of a CS course; and 3) understanding the extent to which high school students proficiency will be impacted by CS integration. Surveys will provide insight into changes in teacher practice and perceptions. Social networks will be explored. Institutional change will be documented through detailed comparative case studies. Answers to research questions will be attained by examining student learning outcomes, teaching practice, teacher social networks, and professional learning opportunities. The breadth of data gathered through multiple tools will be used to examine the relationship between the approach and student learning outcomes. Case studies of 12 teachers leaders will provide insight into the ways in which teacher interactions influence uptake of CS.


Dettori, L., McGee, S., Rasmussen, A., Wilkerson, B., Mather, A. (2017). Advancing Computer Science Through Math and Science Integration [Grant].