### Abstract

In this basic interpretative qualitative study, middle school girls with no formal experience in algorithmic reasoning, abstraction, or algebra were interviewed individually in order to help understand and explain how they think about algorithmic efficiency. A contextually relevant problem (determining the maximum height an "egg-drop contraption" could be dropped without breaking) was described to the students who were then asked 1) to come up with the most efficient solution they could to the problem while describing their thinking for the interviewer; and 2) to determine, from a choice of three solutions proposed by the interviewer, which is the most efficient. Students were found to have varying degrees of success in solving the problem or picking the most efficient solution. The most successful recognized the salient features of the problem and used them to generate possible solutions. The least successful were unable to understand the abstractions inherent in the problem. Students recognized that the most efficient of three proposed solutions may depend on the instance of the problem (where the contraption actually failed). They also understood that there was a "best" solution in general, and chose the solution that had the best worst-case scenario. Compared to college students studied previously using similar algorithmic reasoning problems, middle school girls appeared to perform similarly. They were able to demonstrate sophisticated computational thinking skills while suffering from some of the same algorithmic thinking limitations as older students.

Original language | English (US) |
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Title of host publication | ICER 2013 - Proceedings of the 2013 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research |

Pages | 99-106 |

Number of pages | 8 |

State | Published - Sep 11 2013 |

Event | 9th Annual International Computing Education Research Conference, ICER 2013 - San Diego, CA, United States Duration: Aug 12 2013 → Aug 14 2013 |

### Publication series

Name | ICER 2013 - Proceedings of the 2013 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research |
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### Other

Other | 9th Annual International Computing Education Research Conference, ICER 2013 |
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Country | United States |

City | San Diego, CA |

Period | 8/12/13 → 8/14/13 |

### Fingerprint

### Keywords

- Algorithmic efficiency
- Computational thinking
- K-12
- Middle school

### ASJC Scopus subject areas

- Software
- Education

### Cite this

*ICER 2013 - Proceedings of the 2013 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research*(pp. 99-106). (ICER 2013 - Proceedings of the 2013 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research).

**Efficient egg drop contests : How middle school girls think about algorithmic efficiency.** / Friend, Michelle; Cutler, Robert.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Conference contribution

*ICER 2013 - Proceedings of the 2013 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research.*ICER 2013 - Proceedings of the 2013 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, pp. 99-106, 9th Annual International Computing Education Research Conference, ICER 2013, San Diego, CA, United States, 8/12/13.

}

TY - GEN

T1 - Efficient egg drop contests

T2 - How middle school girls think about algorithmic efficiency

AU - Friend, Michelle

AU - Cutler, Robert

PY - 2013/9/11

Y1 - 2013/9/11

N2 - In this basic interpretative qualitative study, middle school girls with no formal experience in algorithmic reasoning, abstraction, or algebra were interviewed individually in order to help understand and explain how they think about algorithmic efficiency. A contextually relevant problem (determining the maximum height an "egg-drop contraption" could be dropped without breaking) was described to the students who were then asked 1) to come up with the most efficient solution they could to the problem while describing their thinking for the interviewer; and 2) to determine, from a choice of three solutions proposed by the interviewer, which is the most efficient. Students were found to have varying degrees of success in solving the problem or picking the most efficient solution. The most successful recognized the salient features of the problem and used them to generate possible solutions. The least successful were unable to understand the abstractions inherent in the problem. Students recognized that the most efficient of three proposed solutions may depend on the instance of the problem (where the contraption actually failed). They also understood that there was a "best" solution in general, and chose the solution that had the best worst-case scenario. Compared to college students studied previously using similar algorithmic reasoning problems, middle school girls appeared to perform similarly. They were able to demonstrate sophisticated computational thinking skills while suffering from some of the same algorithmic thinking limitations as older students.

AB - In this basic interpretative qualitative study, middle school girls with no formal experience in algorithmic reasoning, abstraction, or algebra were interviewed individually in order to help understand and explain how they think about algorithmic efficiency. A contextually relevant problem (determining the maximum height an "egg-drop contraption" could be dropped without breaking) was described to the students who were then asked 1) to come up with the most efficient solution they could to the problem while describing their thinking for the interviewer; and 2) to determine, from a choice of three solutions proposed by the interviewer, which is the most efficient. Students were found to have varying degrees of success in solving the problem or picking the most efficient solution. The most successful recognized the salient features of the problem and used them to generate possible solutions. The least successful were unable to understand the abstractions inherent in the problem. Students recognized that the most efficient of three proposed solutions may depend on the instance of the problem (where the contraption actually failed). They also understood that there was a "best" solution in general, and chose the solution that had the best worst-case scenario. Compared to college students studied previously using similar algorithmic reasoning problems, middle school girls appeared to perform similarly. They were able to demonstrate sophisticated computational thinking skills while suffering from some of the same algorithmic thinking limitations as older students.

KW - Algorithmic efficiency

KW - Computational thinking

KW - K-12

KW - Middle school

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84883497460&partnerID=8YFLogxK

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M3 - Conference contribution

AN - SCOPUS:84883497460

SN - 9781450322430

T3 - ICER 2013 - Proceedings of the 2013 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research

SP - 99

EP - 106

BT - ICER 2013 - Proceedings of the 2013 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research

ER -