Integrating Computing into Mathematics Education:
A Case of Python Programming in Combinatorics
Computational thinking and activity are a fundamental aspect of what it means to conduct scientific and mathematical work. In light of this, some propose that students’ mathematical education should include an integration of computational activity into their mathematical experiences, giving students opportunities to engage with computational tools as they reason about mathematical concepts. In this talk, I make a case for this focus on and integration of computing in mathematics education. I present some broad rationales for this integration, as outlined in education literature and policy documents, and I propose ideas for how this might practically be implemented. As a motivating example, I present results from a study in which undergraduate novice programmers engaged with basic Python programming as they solved combinatorial problems. I demonstrate how this focus on computing is a natural extension of prior work on combinatorics education, and I highlight noteworthy aspects of students’ experiences with using computation in a mathematical context. I conclude by framing this work within ongoing efforts to better understand the nature of computational thinking and activity for undergraduate students.