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ERIC Number: EJ1177869
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1029-8457
First Year Students' Understanding of the Flow of Control in Recursive Algorithms
Sanders, Ian; Scholtz, Tamarisk
African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, v16 n3 p348-362 2012
Recursion is an important concept for any computer science student to master. Many first year students develop the viable "copies" mental model of recursion and can successfully trace the execution of a simple recursive function. This article discusses a study focused on determining whether the ability to successfully trace a recursive function means that the student understands recursion or whether they are simply "applying a formula." The research question investigated was thus "To what extent do students with viable trace mental models understand the flow of control of recursive algorithms?" The research followed a phenomenological approach. A group of first year students with viable mental models was identified by classifying the mental models in their answers to test questions. Fifteen of these students were interviewed. The interviews involved the students talking aloud while they tackled various tasks. Each student's understanding of the active flow, the limiting case and the passive flow was assessed. The results show that in most cases even these students have some difficulty with the active flow, are confused about the passive flow and have misconceptions about the limiting case. This implies that more careful thought needs to be given to the examples used in teaching recursion and how the concept is taught.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A