An innovative approach to teaching structural induction for computer science

Irene Polycarpou, Florida International University

Abstract

Proofs by induction are central to many computer science areas such as data structures, theory of computation, programming languages, program efficiency-time complexity, and program correctness. Proofs by induction can also improve students’ understanding and performance of computer science concepts such as programming languages, algorithm design, and recursion, as well as serve as a medium for teaching them. ^ Even though students are exposed to proofs by induction in many courses of their curricula, they still have difficulties understanding and performing them. This impacts the whole course of their studies, since proofs by induction are omnipresent in computer science. Specifically, students do not gain conceptual understanding of induction early in the curriculum and as a result, they have difficulties applying it to more advanced areas later on in their studies. ^ The goal of my dissertation is twofold: (1) identifying sources of computer science students’ difficulties with proofs by induction, and (2) developing a new approach to teaching proofs by induction by way of an interactive and multimodal electronic book (e-book). For the first goal, I undertook a study to identify possible sources of computer science students’ difficulties with proofs by induction. Its results suggest that there is a close correlation between students’ understanding of inductive definitions and their understanding and performance of proofs by induction. For designing and developing my e-book, I took into consideration the results of my study, as well as the drawbacks of the current methodologies of teaching proofs by induction for computer science. I designed my e-book to be used as a standalone and complete educational environment. I also conducted a study on the effectiveness of my e-book in the classroom. The results of my study suggest that, unlike the current methodologies of teaching proofs by induction for computer science, my e-book helped students overcome many of their difficulties and gain conceptual understanding of proofs induction.^

Subject Area

Education, Mathematics|Education, Curriculum and Instruction|Computer Science

Recommended Citation

Irene Polycarpou, "An innovative approach to teaching structural induction for computer science" (January 1, 2008). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. Paper AAI3346732.
http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI3346732

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