Coding for Young Mathematicians


I summarized my thoughts about Lisa Floyd’s presentation at the Bring IT, Together Conference like this.

Calculators are successful in Mathematics not because we learn how to write the code to create a calculator but because we use it to get a deeper understanding of non-trivial Mathematics

When I saw this in the program, I knew that I wanted to attend. Lisa has been doing a great deal of research into Mathematics and Computational Thinking and was a keynote a few years ago. I didn’t know what to expect but I was hoping for something other than a “Let’s do something cool in Scratch and then try to tie it into Mathematics or some other subject area”.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve attended many a session like I described above. I always enjoy them (despite the sarcasm) but I always wonder about the claims of how students all understand coding and Mathematics as a result. Is that really true?

I was hoping that this wouldn’t be another like that. Plus the fact that she mentioned Scratch AND Python was intriguing.

As she notes, “Ontario does not have coding in K-8”. Of course this is true but we sure have all kinds of Mathematics! She gave us a number of different examples featuring Geometric Art, Gtowing Patterns, Plotting on a Grid, Probability, … In the presentation, she gave us lots of examples and talked us through the process that she uses.

None of the examples started with a blank screen! She stressed the concept of having students remix her content. By running what she distributes, the students see a Mathematical concept and then their understanding is pushed and enhanced by working with the code to make things something better.

Her approach is very visual by showing the results of the program and then takes on the Mathematics concepts. Tweak this, change that, what happens when you do this? How can you make the output look like this. The primary focus was purely on the Mathematics and the coding was secondary. It was a refreshing approach.

Lisa’s approach was cemented for me on the Friday. I attended a session where we were programming robots using a drag and drop language specifically written for those robots. We were to program them to do a task without knowing just what was happening. Often the tool that we needed was in another menu and we were encouraged to try some numbers to see how far in one direction we could make it go. Turning wasn’t a matter of turning 90 degrees, but applying force onto one wheel going in one direction while the other went in the other direction. We eventually figured it out but lost considerable time in the process. There were something like six groups in the room and nobody got the right answer; some were closer than others. Lisa’s concept of remixing would have fit right in.

I really do like her approach. I made myself another note…

Instead of debugging the program, she could spend time debugging the Mathematics involved…

You can check out some of the examples she used, in Scratch, on her website. Type the URL correctly; Lisa notes that a person with a similar spelling as chosen a different career path.

I had an opportunity to interview Lisa. You can read it here.

Coding to learn


I’ve heard many people talk about the difference between “Learning to Code” and “Coding to Learn”. In many cases, it’s just a cute little expression and the different between the two really isn’t fleshed out.

At the CSTA Conference, I had a really good opportunity to see the difference in action – although it wasn’t really fleshed out but you knew it if you were there.

The workshop was:

Integration CT+X: A Workshop to Plan Your Integration Activities
(Link takes you to the complete program)

I ended up there by chance. I was only supposed to be in charge of volunteers but our Proctoring Chair sent out a panic email looking for people to proctor so I said “Put me in coach”.

I read the workshop descriptor and the bio of Andy Isaacs from the University of Chicago who was supposed to be a co-presenter but ended up doing things himself.

The workshop used Scratch but we did anything but learn or program in scratch. Instead, we were focused on learning activities that had us modifying existing code as we were learning curriculum concepts.

From CanonLab, we dug into a couple of activities that made “See Inside” come to life because it was there that you were working to make things happen.

You’ll have to register for free access to these and all of the materials.

Many of the principles addressed are outlined in the Everyday Computing document.

Bottom line – what started as something that I got volunteered for, which I’d hoped might be a place to take the load off my feet for 3 hours, turned into a fascinating and eye-opening experience for me.

A Scratch curriculum


I found this particularly interesting. Yes, there are all kinds of Scratch resources available if you take the time and effort to find them.

Unfortunately, so many of them are single activities that have been done so many times or they’re a cutesy little activity that has no beginning, middle, or end. They’re neat activities in themselves.

If you’re looking for a curriculum, a continuity, then these resources from the Canon Lab at the University of Chicago may be just what you’re looking for.

Scratch Act 1


Scratch Act 1 is an introductory Scratch curriculum consisting of 4 modules, and about 10 hours of instruction. Module content is from SFUSD’s Green Workbook.

Action Fractions


Action Fractions is an integrated mathematics – computational thinking curriculum, designed using Everyday Mathematics. This course focuses on 3rd and 4th grade fractions instruction, providing 10–12 hours of instruction per year to augment any existing mathematics curriculum.

Scratch Encore

Scratch Encore is an intermediate Scratch curriculum organized into 14 modules, of 2-3 lessons each, to be completed across multiple school years.

Access to the resources requires a registration and a commitment to not sharing the resources further and respecting Creative Commons licensing.

Next week


Next week, December 3-9 marks yet another Hour of Code.

This has been going on for a few years now.  It’s an opportunity to try coding exercises in the classroom and perhaps create an interest in Computer Science.

Depending on who you are, it might be:

  • something else in education to ignore
  • a first opportunity to try some coding activities
  • a change to follow up with what you did last year
  • an opportunity to celebrate the coding that happens regularly in your classroom
  • or for Computer Science class where coding is done daily, an opportunity to reach out and try something new

Hopefully, if you’re reading this blog, you don’t fall into the first category!

All this past week, I’ve been toying with some of the offerings for this year and, like I do annually, I have created a Flipboard document of some of the things that I’ve found.  It’s certainly not inclusive but just might generate some interest or inspiration.

Screenshot 2018-11-30 at 10.30.27

All of the past years’ collections are available as well.  I haven’t checked all of the links to see if they’re still active so clicker beware.

There should be no shortage of ideas.

I would encourage all educators to get involved whether it’s getting started or enhancing whatever it is that you’re doing or have done.  Everyone benefits when you do.

If you’re a social media user, take and share pictures, videos, blog posts, etc. so that we can all enjoy what’s happening in your classroom.

So, what are you doing this year?

 

An ode to coding


Continuing along with the prepared for the Hour of Code, I’ve been working my way through the “playlist” from the Europe Code Week.  This time, it was enjoying a little bit of Scratch coding.  I suspect that most classes will do their introduction to coding via Scratch.

This project called “Ode to Code” was prepared for the Europe Code Week 2015 but I don’t think that it will grow old.

The presentation is in the form of a tutorial…

  • Choose a Backdrop
  • Add Music
  • Play the Music
  • Add a Dancer
  • Code the Dance

Now, this being  European, it comes as no surprise that the backdrops feature a quick tour of Europe.


Ah, classic Copenhagen!

And the music … it’s worth visiting the site to play the music and enjoy.

Then, it’s time to do a little dancing…

Getting the moves right and synchronizing to the music is a good activity.

If you’re getting ready for the “Hour”, then check out this activity and see if it suits your needs.