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.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to the last TWIOE in June and the school year.  As always, there is some inspirational content written by Ontario Educators.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired to start or re-start your own blog this summer if you’re not already a regular writer?


Rethinking End of Year Countdowns

File this post from Laura Bottrell on the Heart and Art Blog under “maybe I’ve been doing things wrong all this time”.

For many, it’s been a month (or more) of counting down until today.  I even remember a colleague who shared the countdown on his blackboard for all to see.

Laura reminds us that this countdown may not necessarily be exciting for everyone in the class.

I always thought that celebrating the end of the year was just adding to the fun and excitement of summer. I’ve always had a fun countdown for my class. Lately, I’ve been wondering if this is just adding stress on some of my students. It really hit me last week when I announced that we only had ten school days left and there were at least five children in my class that crumbled to tears.

Her suggestion turns the table and has you thinking about treating things differently.  A little late for this year perhaps but … it’s nice to have a reminder that things aren’t always what they seem.


Why do you want kids to code?

With apologies to Jim Cash, I read the title to this post a little too quickly.  Instead of “Why”, I read it as “What” and thought that it might be about some new things to code!

However, using the word “Why” changes everything.  Jim summarizes his thoughts in this graphic he created.

It generated some interesting comments when Jim announced the post on Facebook.

I understand his message but I also wonder if I’m on the same page with him because of having a background in programming.  As Jim correctly notes, there’s a certain bandwagon effect about coding that has people jumping on because it’s felt that it’s important or someone is keynoting about the cool things that kids are doing.

Coding goes well beyond the mechanics of getting the job done.  (Blue side) Until you’re looking at the big picture, you’re not doing it justice.  (Green side)

It would be interesting to find out how many people get pressured to “do coding” because it’s the latest thing and yet they may be doing it without a suitable background in coding.


Go Magic! Let’s do this! 🙂

And the winner in the “Who gets David Carruthers added to their staff” raffle is …

<drum roll>

Bonaventure Meadows.

It looks easy enough to get to.  (at least by driving)

Getting to the actual school placed David in a series of job interviews and he shares his reflections about that process in the post.  I can understand the need for standardized questions for all applicants for fairness.

But, the school really needs to be prepared to take advantage of the skills that David has refined over his time as a learning coordinator.

Maybe instead of “Go Magic!”, should read “Get ready, Magic”.

And, then there’s the whole Plugged-in Portable thing?  I guess we’ll find out in the future.


Reader’s Theatre = Experiential Learning

I read this post from Stepan Pruchnicky a few times and I absolutely understood his message.

In Language, it’s important to read and understand different texts.  The concept of reading a script was a new spin on it.  But, as Stepan digs into it, it has to potential to go very deep, rich in understanding and empathy for characters to be played in the script.

It was during the radio version of This Week in Ontario Edublogs and Stephen Hurley’s comments about the connections to David Booth and Stephen’s own experience that really put me over the top with the concept.

I’d suggest putting Stepan’s post on your list for summer reading.  This is an idea that could really generate mileage for you.  Perhaps a future post would recommend suitable scripts?


Context is Key

Of course it is, Ruthie Sloan.

But, I certainly haven’t thought about it as deeply as you explore in this post.

You take the notion of context and apply it to…

  • wardrobe
  • digital expression
  • body language
  • how we communicate

The post is a great discussion about each of these.

It’s also a reminder of so many things that may just pass us by as life goes on.  These are things that we do every day.  It goes beyond what and moves into how, when, and who.

I loved the collection of images that she includes at the bottom.


“I Don’t Have Time For That”

Joel McLean reminds us that this comes up too often when people are wondering about taking charge of their own professional learning.  I suggest that it’s an easy answer and often given to avoid things.

I also am reminded about my Covey training.  The first rule – schedule the important things first.  Then, let all of the other stuff fill your time for you.  Goodness know that, in education, there’s no danger of that not happening.

I remember also returning from my training and explaining the approach to my supervisor.  We still meet for coffee every now and again and he notes how this changed his professional life.  (Not my comment but after my experience, he went and took the course himself.)

There was only one caveat to my own implementation – I was never allowed to allow my priorities to supersede his priorities for me!  I shouldn’t have encouraged him to take the course.

Maybe Joel has some advice for how to handle that!


Observations & Conversations : Part 1 of many?

The structure of the Interstitial App, or, Observations & Conversations – Part 2

From Cal Armstrong, a pair or posts and maybe more to come.

After my session at the OAME Conference (link to Presentation), a few folks asked me how I had put this together, so I’m going to give a brief run-down here.

It sounds like the audience was really impressed with Cal’s use of Microsoft Powerapps.

I know that I was; I’d heard about it but really hadn’t done anything with it.  I guess that you need to have a reason and Cal used his mathematics audience as the target for his presentation.

If you’re curious, read both posts.  If you’re interested in creating your own, pay attention to the second post.  Here, Cal takes you through his process step by step.


And there’s your last day of school inspiration.

Make sure you’re following these great bloggers on Twitter.

  • @L_Bottrell
  • @cashjim
  • @dcarruthersedu
  • @stepanpruch
  • @Roosloan
  • @jprofNB
  • @sig225

This post was created and posted to:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

If you read it anywhere else, you’re not reading the original.

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.

Hopscotch for iPad


I will admit to a certain level of geekyness.  I’m not apologetic about it either.  Sometimes, I just like to sit down and write a program for the fun of it.  It’ll never go anywhere and I don’t share it with others.  I find it just something enjoyable to do.

One of the playthings that I’ve been poking about with is Hopscotch for the iPad.  You’re not going to mistake this for another productivity language and that’s not its goal.  The goal is to bring a programming environment for the younger, beginning programmer to the iPad.  I think it does it nicely.  There are some enhancements that are coming and you can read about them on the developer blog.  It definitely looks like the developers are listening to users.  That’s great.

At present, this is what you have.  You’ve got a development environment for the iPad, not dissimilar to Daisy the Dinosaur which had previously been reviewed on this blog.

If you’ve used the Scratch programming language, you’ll recognize the concepts immediately.  From the left menu, you have actions categorized by type – Movement, Lines, Controls, Looks, and Operators.  Just drag and drop onto the workspace and enter any required parameters.  You’ll recognized the concepts of sequencing, repetition, modifying parameters, etc.

The steps and presentation are well designed for the intended programming audience.  The cool thing is that it brings these concepts to students at an early age, on a device that they’re infatuated with, and in a context that is just fun.

What I find particularly interesting is that Hopscotch lets you program primitive actions or gestures your product.  It’s done easily and adds just another helpful dimension to the program.

If you’re looking for a creative environment for students or your children to break away from gaming or other activities, Hopscotch is definitely worth a look.  Just like the original Lego, they’ll soon be seduced into drawing and actions on their screen.  Dare we suggest they might learn a little mathematics while at it?

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