17 January 2014

Start 'em young

As Eleanor Barkhorn reports, the time to get more women in computer science (any STEM field, for that matter), is when girls are in middle school and high school. The low participation rate in the AP computer science test by women high schoolers is shocking: in some rural states, in the past year, no girls took the exam.

Barbara Ericson, of Georgia Tech's Institute for Computing Education, is working to change that. Ericson and her colleagues, in partnership with the Girl Scouts and other organizations, are experimenting with new strategies to get young women interested in computing. One radical idea: allowing high school students to use CS courses to count toward math or science curriculum requirements.

As much as I think everyone should have a solid grounding in logic (usually introduced by proving theorems in geometry) and problem solving by manipulating equations (algebra, Nicholson Baker's bugbear), I'm inclined to support this idea. Designing, coding, and debugging a program in a procedural language calls for similar skills: working at multiple levels of abstraction, systematically eliminating explanations until the correct one is found, finding the simplest solution.

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