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The box-plot represents the number of programming tasks performed correctly in 30 minutes.These tasks are designed to learn basic CS concepts: sequences, loops, conditional ... Each box represents an age group:

  • p1 = 6 - 7 years old
  • p2 = 7 - 8 years old
  • ...
  • p6 = 11 - 12 years old
  • ...
  • s1 = 12 - 13 years old
  • s2 = 13 - 14 years old
  • ...
  • b1 = 16 - 17 years old
  • b2 = 17 - 18 years old

When I see the results, I am surprised by the difference between p4, p5 and p6. The set of tasks was almost identical by age. The only difference is that by increasing the age they have some less start tasks. I think it may be due to the ability of reading comprehension and motor development ... Can be? Are there more factors that can influence?

  • $\begingroup$ Hi, and welcome to Computer Science Educators! I gave a few questions for you. (1) Can you link to the original study? And (2), what result did you expect? $\endgroup$
    – Ben I.
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


There is a point, somewhere around where puberty starts but I don't think identical, in which the brain changes its structure. It is much more capable of abstraction after that point than before. Young kids don't do a lot of generalization, for example, adults do. So, perhaps the study just captures part of that.

I don't have it available, but I think there is a lot of brain science around that structural change. A simple search may turn up some of it. We aren't born fully formed either in mind or body.

An implication of that is that how and what you teach toddlers and youngsters isn't the same as what and how you can teach teenagers. Also, every person hits that change at a slightly different age and it isn't instantaneous any more than any other brain change is. For the youngest, make it visual and tactile, even aural.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Piaget's transition from "Pre-operational thought" to "Concrete operational thought" happens around age 11. Concrete operations include the conceptual understanding of Conservation, Reflexivity and Transitivity. These are vital for basic computer programming capability. But the Formal operational abilities to abstract and manipulate things symbolically (not just in a familiar scenario), around age 14, are necessary to be good at programming. Mathematics is the single best training environment for developing these capacities. Without the right training, many adults never gain these abilities. $\endgroup$
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ @ScottRowe It would be nice to have your comment as answer. $\endgroup$
    – OBu
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @OBu my experience in giving answers like my comment is that they are not well-received by the community. The author here said he lacked some details, so I provided them, as we are meant to do with comments. $\endgroup$
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 20:48

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