Teaching recursion in elementary schools

Leading team

Project members

  • Chen Cohen


Recursion is a fundamental idea of computer science, which is strongly connected to two other fundamental ideas of computer science: abstraction and reversing. Research shows substantial difficulties of students in understanding recursion, rooted, among other things, in the critical role that the concept of black box plays in understanding and handling reduction and in the inherent pseudo-cyclic nature of recursion. This research deals with teaching the idea of recursion to young students (grades 5-6). In line with Bruner’s spiral teaching framework, the underlying approach is to expose young students to this idea in a way that corresponds to their age, that is, their level of cognitive development.
To this end, recursion is taught as a general idea, in a non-algorithmic context. Teaching and learning takes advantage of concrete teaching aids of different kinds, corresponding to different cognitive understanding stages. The non-algorithmic context enables to bypass the aspect of the cyclic nature.
This is the Master research of Chen Cohen.