Fun for the summer

You can’t beat swimming, long summer walks, playing baseball, and many other traditional outdoors activities for the summer.

In the heat and humidity of the past few days, I’ve been looking for something a little more suited to not moving much.  For me, that involved firing up a game or two and exercising the brain instead of the body.

My current fascination is a game called Solitaire Chess

I could take the noble route and say that I was looking for an educational game to share via the blog.  After all, there is a section for teachers interesting in using gaming in the classroom.  But, that wouldn’t be truthful so I won’t go that route.

There are some new games here and some spins off traditional games.  

I’ll never be confused with being a chess master but I’ve always been inspired by chess.  Yes, I’ll confirm that I was a member of the chess club in high school.  

There is just something really addictive in this solitaire version played in the mini-board that you see in the graphic.  The chess pieces all have the same traditional moves and your job is to clear the board and leave just one piece standing.  It’s nowhere as easy as this description would imply.  

It’s just one of those things that keeps you coming back and you just know that this type of thinking is good for you.  I’ll cave and mention the educational use – introduce your club or class to this game for a better understanding of chess.  Oh, and poke around the rest of the site for more ideas.  There’s no shortage.

In the meantime, have some fun.

I played online but there are downloadable applications if you’re interested.


OTR Links 07/28/2016

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Déjà vu coding

Part of the problem of having so many programming environments is that you can’t remember them all.  Yes, there are big lists but the reality is that you typically get really comfortable with one or two and take it from there.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t keep your eyes open.

This morning, I read a post from the ACSE discussion list where Ontario Educator Justin Yantho had waded into a discussion about the best way to teach OOP principles to students.  In his reply, he made reference to a Trinket resource that he had created to share with a group of elementary teachers interested in learning coding beyond blocks.

Of course, I had to check it out.

It’s very nicely done.

I thought that Justin had done a good job of providing code for the learners.  Even more impressive was the documentation provided at the bottom for the learners.  If you had difficulties working through and modifying his examples, you could read about what the code was doing.  That’s so important.

At the point of the screen capture above, my memory cells kicked in.

I’d worked in this environment before.  But where and when?

The power of blogging is that, if you’ve blogged about it, it’s there somewhere.  So, I did a search for Trinket and I had in fact blogged about their Hour of Code example almost two years ago.  It was called “Python with Ease“.

Somehow, I felt good about the fact that I had remembered.  Somehow, I felt bad that I had gone this far through Justin’s tutorial before I realized it.  Maybe I should do my morning reading later in the day when I’m fully awake.

Regardless, it is in interesting and well-created tutorial.  It’s definitely worth a look for understanding and evaluating to see if it fits into your introduction to coding plans.

OTR Links 07/27/2016

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A cutie-pie string problem

I had a university professor who would have called this a “cutie-pie” mathematics problem.  I hope that, by the end of the post, I can convince you that it would be a “cutie-pie” computer science problem.

If you’ve been watching social media recently, you might have come across this.

Do You Have An IQ Over 150? Solve This Puzzle And Find Out!

The complete article is located here and there’s a wonderful YouTube explanation, a challenge, and then a channel to follow if you want more.  Who doesn’t want more of a good mathematics challenge.  There have been a lot of comments about it largely centred around “too easy” which is easy to say when there isn’t a test to really understand your comprehension.  But that’s OK.  Maybe the world just has an IQ of 150.

So, where does the computer science stuff come in?

Warning, the rest of this post might be considered “spoiler” so don’t read on if you intend to try to solve it yourself.  At its best, I hope that it’s good enough to give to students to generate a computer solution.

What got me going about this particular angle was a conversation that I had with an AP Computer Science teacher at the recent CSTA Conference.  In his opinion, he couldn’t give his students enough problems involving string manipulation.  I liked his philosophy and did enjoy giving these types of problems to students myself.  It’s one of the best reasons for teaching computer science; it makes students think and many of them do so out loud with their friends.  It’s a study in itself.

I would actually just start by giving the students to puzzle to solve by discussion or pencil/paper if needed.  It’s one of those lovely activities that force the students to develop a new algorithm on the fly.  Then, we’re off for a computer solution.

It would be simple enough ….

  1. Enter the mathematical expression on the left side
  2. Determine the answer and output the expression and the answer

Very quickly, they’ll know, or have already determined, that this needs some new thinking.  Mathematics doesn’t cut it here.  After all,

6 + 4 ≠ 210

And yet, when someone enters “6 + 4”, we are going to display

6 + 4 = 210

as indeed the answer.

By now, you’ll know what’s needed.  We need to rip apart the expression entered as text and convert to the two numbers needed for the calculation.  This is always a good discussion point.  How do we know which characters form the numbers? Do we need to validate the input?

Then, using our algorithm, we’ll apply it to the numbers and then concatenate the results to display the answer.  As always, we need to consider the input – do zeros or negative numbers need special attention?

Then, the students will need to generate some test data and results and thoroughly make sure that their program works.  Because you’re switching between numeric and alphanumeric, you need to be very precise in calculations and output format.  With many programs, “close” is often good enough.  Here, you’ve got to attend to the details, spacing, character position, etc.

I think it’s a cute little ditty that includes so much.  Of course, I did it here to make sure that it plays well. 

It’s just a lot of fun.  This cutie-pie.

OTR Links 07/26/2016

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Advice from kids

This is just for a great deal of fun. 

We often get advice on how to live our lives to its fullest from “experts” who conduct and analyse studies to come up with said advice.  It’s often great for a “Top 10” list.

But what about those who are living the life?  i.e. kids

100 things you should have done at school before the age of 11 – chosen by primary pupils

So, I wondered … what did I miss?

Up and down the list I went and I guess my childhood experience wasn’t totally complete by these standards.  Here’s what I missed.

  • 28 – Learn to feel confident in front of your class (I’ve never accomplished this; my nerves still get to me in front of audiences.)
  • 40 – Have a pyjama day (This was never a “thing” when I went to school)
  • 57 – Discover your favourite author (Do you ever really do this? I do have one current favourite and she knows who she is.  Just one more read…)
  • 66 – Call a male teacher “Miss” (Thankfully!)
  • 74 – Play conkers (I had to look up this term and, of course, we all played “chestnuts”.)
  • 81 – Learn to skip (A skill I have never mastered at any level.)

A little mathematics tells me that my childhood life was 95% complete, at least by this metric.

How was yours?  Check out the original list and then do a little personal life reflection.