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Week 5 Scratch from MIT (February 13-19)

Scratch from MIT is a wonderful design, animation and programming environment for kids. It's also a community sharing open-source applets, with 2.2 millions shared in about three years since the project started! All kids I've seen loved playing with Scratch, and learned a lot of algebra, coordinate geometry, logic, modeling, algorithms and so on from it.

And Scratch has an educator forum, where people can share stories. This is where we are headed this week...


  1. Download Scratch and play with it.
  2. Make a small Scratch applet you think relates to math. Save the applet to your computer - it's a file with the extension .sb Also use the Share button in the Scratch authoring environment to share your applet to the site. You will need an account there.
  3. Comment to our story on Scratch Ed forum: You can comment about your own experience with Scratch; whether sharing the applet was smooth for you; what your kids thought about it; and what you think of math ed possibilities of Scratch. In your comment, include the link to your applet from Step 2.

Task Discussion

  • Kathy Cianciola   Feb. 21, 2012, 12:43 p.m.

    Although I found Scratch rather confusing I finally finished this animation.  It's fun to finally have something (although it's not much) to show for all of my experimentation.  If I had more time I would enjoy playing around with this for hours.  I never did figure out how to get rid of the sprite I chose not to use in my project, but I figured out how to reduce it to a small black dot (which you can still barely see.)


  • Keisha   Feb. 20, 2012, 2:07 a.m.

    Scratch was very difficult to understand. I wasn't too sure what I was doing to the cat when it first opened up. I started off randomly clicking on buttons. I still didn't understand what was going on so I read some information on how this works. I might need someone to talk me through it later on. Here's what I came up with. It's about counting by 2's. I want to work on this more and go above and beyond with it.

  • Laura Haeberle   Feb. 20, 2012, 12:19 a.m.

    I'm all finished with my Scratch project! I must agree with everyone else, this one was pretty hard. I started with a clear topic that I wanted my applet to be based around: working with graphs. This seemed simple enough, since the program was based around an x and y axis. I decided to have show what a reflection looks like on the y axis and the y axis, respectively. 

    I started by just diving in, which normally works, thanks to my knowledge of technology. This was still challenging though, as there were so many different options and no real tutorial. I ended up reading the page on getting started, which didn't really help me pick my direction. In the end, I just fiddled around with the controls, a case of trial and error until things came out how I imagined. Unfortunately, it took so long to get a reflection against the y axis that I didn't even see the point in another reflection on the x axis. It felt like an insurmountable obstacle.

    Overall, I think that programs like this are great for educators. It's a fun way to engage the class and shows the endless opportunities of technology. Yet, I feel like Scratch lacks the necessary directions to guide anyone in its use. If no one can access the material, it's all essentially useless. I'm hoping there will be clearer directions in the future, because the program seems fun once you get the hang of it!


  • Carolyn   Feb. 19, 2012, 2:42 p.m.

    When I first downloaded scratch, I had no idea what the purpose was or what I was doing. Although I cannot say I know what I am doing now, I have a bit more understadning for the program. I knew at first the program obviously had to do with math and was using a graph (I saw the x and y axis and coordinates) but it took some youtube videos and the websites help to make me understand, kind of. I thought I was tech savy but Scratch proved me wrong. 

    After some fooling around and trying out different things I created this. I am not sure if this is what you wanted, but it was the best I could do. I asked my sister who is in middle school to come look at Scratch and see what she could do with it, she was not anymore sucessful then I was. Therefore if I ever used this in my future classroom I would have to do a bit more exploring in order to become an "expert" for my students. I do see the basic graphing benefits from the program though. Simply moving the cat up, down, right and left can show the points on a graph and this could be a visual aid for students.

  • Carolyn   Feb. 19, 2012, 3:01 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Carolyn   Feb. 19, 2012, 2:42 p.m.

    Here is the link to my Scratch


  • Carolyn Lesser   Feb. 16, 2012, 3:28 p.m.


    I also spent quite a few hours during my nights just playing around with Scratch. It was fun at first but was very confusing. I read the getting started link which was helpful for learning the basics. I wanted to make some kind of math game but found it too difficult. I had looked at other projects people have done and some were fairly involved. I couldn’t even get to a second scene because I really didn’t understand how. So I decided that I would just do one. I made a page that showed symmetry. Unfortunately I do not have kids and I am not a teacher yet so I was not able to show it to any kids.

    I can see that this would be a great tool for kids to use. Not only to play the games but to design them as well. For example designing would help them learn the x and y axis. It is just a creative way to work with math and other subjects. By looking at other projects kids can see different math concepts like symmetry or play games that can test their ability and help them learn. In the future if I allowed my kids to use this, I would make sure that I understood it much better so I would be able to help instruct them.

  • SandyG   Feb. 15, 2012, 6:50 p.m.

    I have worked for hours every night since reading this assignment.  Honestly, I consider myself fairly tech saavy.  I work in a media center, and all day long I'm working with and helping others with computer programs such as Garageband, PhotoStory, go animate, PowerPoint, Moodle, and Xtranormal. I could not figure this program out to save my life (or grade, as it may be!).  I was finally able to get two "rounds" of a possible math game figured out, but it isn't completely the way I would like it.  For example, to start play you must click the flag, but to get to the second round, you must press the space bar.  The only way students would know this is if I told them because I can't get it in the script anywhere.  I also noticed that at times the program would not follow the commands I had in it.  If I logged out and logged back in, it would work fine.  Perhaps the site was simply having some tech issues, but for a newbie, it was very frustrating!  I stopped at 2 screens because I can't figure out how to add a third without messing up the second.  If anything, I guess the directions are lacking.  Though I watched about 12 "How to" videos on YouTube and read many comments in the help forums, I still couldn't figure it out.  (I'm going to continue working on it until I have screens for 1-9!)

    I do see the value in the program, and I'm sure once you break through to a true understanding of the blocks and scripts, it would become much easier to use.  Children like games, and this plays into that perfectly.  If they can create them, it's even better!  I watched one video on YouTube of a class working in pairs to make games.  They were engaged and on-task. 

    Here's what my Scratch example looks like.  I did share it on the site.  My username is sjgarret.

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 15, 2012, 7:29 p.m.
    In Reply To:   SandyG   Feb. 15, 2012, 6:50 p.m.

    Sandra, wow, this is going above and beyond, trully!

    I think this is the case of maybe you being more tech savvy than Scratch is? It's has some power, but maybe it's just not as powerful as you want it to be.

    As you mentioned, often games glitch while you play them in the browser, rather than downloading and opening in Scratch client. This has been an issue for a while, because the browser version is exported in Java, which is finicky. Just warn people in the game's comment that they should download and open in Scratch rather than playing in the browser.

    I would love to look at your code - can you give the direct link to your applet on the site, please? I can't find it by the username. 

    Have you look at the code of any platformer games on the site, like:

    This applet does not have levels, but it has buttons you press to switch the screens (and it's mathematically beautiful):

  • SandyG   Feb. 15, 2012, 7:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Maria Droujkova   Feb. 15, 2012, 7:29 p.m.

    Thanks, Professor Droujkova.  Maybe the direct code is  .  I'm not sure where that would be! I think maybe you're right, not about me being more advanced, but maybe the program simply isn't as strong as I would like.  That makes sense.  Some of the games seemed really impressive, though!

    BTW- I would have loved to attend tonight's meeting about patterns, but my husband isn't home so I'm "on duty" with my daughter and couldn't guarantee quiet or that I wouldn't be interrupted.  I will listen to it once it's posted.

  • Kathy Cianciola   Feb. 14, 2012, 10:22 p.m.

    I just downloaded "Scratch."  It looks like a load of fun, but I didn't get too far with it.  The little cat walked off the screen, and I got him to turn around and come back.  That's all that my tired mind would allow me to learn.  Unfortunately my 6-year-old son has already gone to bed.  I feel like he will soon have it all figured out, and then teach me how it works.  Fortunately tomorrow is another day. 

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 15, 2012, 6:55 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Kathy Cianciola   Feb. 14, 2012, 10:22 p.m.

    Making the cat walk off screen is one of the first things most of my students do when they start playing! Then, of course, they need to figure out how to get it back! 

    They either drag it by the tail and make it walk off again... Or they figure out how to make the cat walk back with a button. If I am around, I ask them how. Then they figure out turns, or negative steps, or a slide, etc. 

    When your son wakes up, watch his face as he's making the cat do something at his command for the first time. There is usually so much joy in it! Most kids, literally, laugh out loud. Once I was doing Scratch with a 3yo kid. When the cat walked for the first time, as the kid pressed the button again and again, he started to laugh and clap. His mom was crying - she said it's so touching to see him laughing for joy as he learns.

  • Kathy Cianciola   Feb. 15, 2012, 8:43 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Maria Droujkova   Feb. 15, 2012, 6:55 a.m.

    Unfortunately my son had a stomach virus today, and I'm afraid I'm not very good at making the cat obey my commands.  My husband had some success with the program.  He had the cat walking and jumping. He also changed it's color to blue, so maybe he will show me what I'm doing wrong. I would really like to understand it enough to be able to play around with it, but I was getting a little frustrated.  

  • SandyG   Feb. 13, 2012, 9:53 p.m.

    I have never used Scratch but, at this point, I have watched every YouTube how-to I could find and I still don't quite understand how to get a new screen.  For example, I have a counting question and when the student gets the answer correct, I want to switch to another one.  I need to change my Sprite, and I can't figure out how to do that as a new screen and not simply modifiying the original screen.  Does that make sense?

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 13, 2012, 10:54 p.m.
    In Reply To:   SandyG   Feb. 13, 2012, 9:53 p.m.

    Sandy, this does make sense. This comes up a lot when someone makes mini-games with levels in Scratch. It looks like a new screen, but in practice, you don't actually add or remove any objects completely, but change their properties.

    There are several ways of doing it. Some are described, for example, in this forum thread:

    You can use costume switches or show/hide with variables, for example.

    I searched for "making levels in scratch" to find some examples. Let me know if you need further help, please.

    Nice userpicture :-)