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Week 14: Computer Programming

Now that you have had time to play with Scratch, this assignment will have you dig deeper into how to implement computer program and the advantages and disadvantages of using the software with middle school students.  

Note: This week’s chat will be held on Wednesday, April 17th at 7:30pm.

Task 1: Benefits of Computer Programming

How does programming support learning mathematics? You can use articles, videos, or examples of programs to explain the benefits of students using computer programming software. In addition to listing the advantages of using this program in the math classroom, describe some problems you foresee parents having with assignments that require students to create programs using computer programming software.

Task 2: Create an online assignment

Create an online assignment that uses Scratch to assess the students’ understanding of a mathematical concept of your choice. This will be an online assignment using the online learning community that you created in the Blended Learning week. Make sure that your assignment includes:
(1) an online tool that will review prerequisite knowledge of the mathematical concept that the student will need to make the program
(2) the goals and requirements of the Scratch program the students will be creating
(3) an exemplar of a program that you either create or find on Scratch’s online community

In order to help brew some ideas and understand the structure of this task, I created a lesson on properties of angles in triangles. To view this lesson, click here: Mulranen Blended Learning

Task 3: Post your lesson and give others feedback

Post your lesson in the online learning community that you created in the Blended Learning week. View another student’s lessons and post a comment including critical feedback on what you liked and how they can enhance their lesson.

Task 4: The controversy

Should computer programming be introduced into a middle school level math curriculum? Why or why not? What other tools can be used to help support students who are new to programming? In addition to your own personal reaction to these two questions, I would like you to also research an article that supports or goes against your stance on this issue. Include the link and a summary of the article and compare it to your own personal reaction.

Task Discussion

  • SueSullivan   April 30, 2013, 5:59 p.m.

    TASK 4:


    I personally have benefitted from having programming in middle school, and am grateful for the opportunity.  The introduction to programming (and computers in general, as they weren't household items at the time) was valuable because it exposed me to technology that wouldn't become commonplace for a few years yet.  The most important thing that I learned was that attention to detail and proper sequencing is critical when issuing instructions, whatever form they take (oral, English, or Basic).  These skills have helped me not only in math, but in oral and written communications as well.

    While I believe that programming can be used to teach middle school students these skills, I'm not necessarily sure that it's the only or best way (see my comments for Task 1).

    This article discusses the benefits of 'Programming for Children Minus Cryptic Syntax', but ends with an MIT professor saying that "We shouldn’t think of programming narrowly as a tool for a professional activity but as a means of expression…Our goal is not just for kids to grow up and get jobs as programmers. We feel that everyone should be able to express themselves with online media.” 

    I found another article that discusses controversy in the mathematics academic community regarding programming:  

  • Gina Mulranen   May 4, 2013, 9:55 p.m.
    In Reply To:   SueSullivan   April 30, 2013, 5:59 p.m.

    Hi Sue!

    I was so impressed with how early your computer programming experience started. I am so jealous! I wish I had those opportunities when I was in middle school. I remember you commenting in the chat held that week how the computer programming you learned in middle school really gave you a leg up when learning technology later on in life. I am in full agreement with you that the earlier we introduce this technology, the easier the students will learn and be able to apply and transfer their skills as technology advances.

    You also mentioned that attention to detail and proper sequencing are key roles in computer programming, which are skills that can be linked and used in a lot of other disciplines. Again, I agree completely! I also think the article that you chose was a great way to emphasize this point. I also liked the point that professor Resnick made about students being able to produce clever and unique solutions, which is way of expressing themselves through technology. This is a result that all students can benefit from. Great article!

  • Katherine Hanisco   April 28, 2013, 11:25 a.m.


    Task 2:

    I decided to create a lesson on probability. The online tool to review background knowledge is this probability game, which covers the basics of probability.

    The students will be assigned a task of creating a probability game which compares theoretical and empirical probabilities, such as this Scratch game

    The goal is for students to use coin flips, dice, spinners, etc. to create an interactive game. The game must give users the option to input the number of trials, and then it will calculate the empirical probabilities based on the rules of probability, and then it will simulate the number of trials and calculate the empirical probabilities. Students will then have the opportunity to compare the theoretical and empirical probabilities and experiment with the number of trials to see how these values change compared to each other.

    Task 3:

    I posted my assignment here:

    The code to join the class is bhwlxr.

  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 10:43 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katherine Hanisco   April 28, 2013, 11:25 a.m.

    I liked the Edmodo website you chose for your online classroom. It was easy to find your recent posts and respond to the tasks. I posted my responses to your lessons on the different tasks that you assigned. I will reiterate how much I loved your idea for the Scratch program! This is the way that I think we can incorporate computer programming into our classrooms, by using it to deeper student understanding of a mathematical topic. Would you have time for in-class Scratch training or will the students be learning the program on their own? I know this is a big issue for teachers when using computer programming software because we all have tight cirriculums. I'm interested to hear your ideas!

  • Katherine Hanisco   April 25, 2013, 5:55 p.m.


    Task 1:

    I found this post in a computer programming forum that was asking about how much math computer science majors learn:

    I thought this was interesting even though the perspective is sort of opposite the one in our class. This post is asking how much math programmers should learn, not how much programming math students should learn, but I thought there were some interesting points made that were relevant to us. One of the comments talks about the connection between logic and programming, and I think this is a really important point. The logical statements that are absolutely essential to programming are very much a part of math, so these skills would certainly be strengthened by math students learning programming.

    I think one issue parents might have is not seeing programming as an essential part of math class. This might be true especially if the parents are worried about their students learning math needed for testing, such as SATs, etc. They might think the programming is a waste of time.


    Task 4:

    I talked about this in our meeting the other night, but I definitely think that programming should be introduced as early as possible. As adults, it can be frustrating to try t learn brand new things since we are used to knowing what we’re doing. But the younger kids are, the more they are accustomed to learning, since that’s what little kids do every single day. I think that younger kids are more likely to pick up on a new skill without too much trouble and then add it to their bank of skills.

    As for the controversy, I found this press release about a pilot program in NYC schools where students take computer science and software engineering classes starting in junior high:

    I thought this was an interesting perspective because Mayor Bloomberg talks about how beneficial this will be to the city to grow its own workforce for the tech industry. 

  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 6:01 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katherine Hanisco   April 25, 2013, 5:55 p.m.

    Hi Katherine!

    I am excited that you chose a different way of looking at Task 1 by investigating what math computer science majors need to take in order to be successful in their field. I agree that the logic taught in discrete mathematics would benefits programmers because of the need to problem solve on different levels. That is the type of problem solving that I want our middle school students to be exposed to in order to achieve that higher and deeper level of understanding. Great point!

    I also found the comment about a math ceiling on that website to be interesting too. To directly quote from the comment, “If you can't get math, you will never move into the really sophisticated areas in computer science beyond the math ceiling. Most basic business programming is under the math ceiling, however.” From that, I gathered that in order to make sure you are prepared for advancing in the computer science industry, you need that math background to be able to solve more complex programming.

    I also strongly agree with you that younger students are able to pick up new technology so much quicker than some adults are because they are growing up with it and are exposed to it so much in today’s society. I introduced computer programming on Tuesday and I had students who have never even heard of Scratch before in that class. At the end of the 60 minute class, I had students moving their Sprites and picking up objects they placed on the screen. The next class they were stamping their names onto the screen and creating infinite loops. I had assumed that the students would pick up the programming easily in Scratch, but I was still surprised at how fast they did! They were all generally interested in creating their own programs so I think that also contributed to how fast they learned too.

    The press release you found on the NYC schools creating technology programs was great. I love the quote from Mayor Bloomberg, "This groundbreaking program will ensure that more students receive computer science and software engineering instruction so that they can compete for the tech jobs that are increasingly becoming a part of our city's economy. We're creating the home-grown workforce our city needs and teaching our students skills that will open up new doors for them and their future." This is exactly what we were talking about in our chat last week about the importance of students learning what will be a huge part of their future workplace.  At the end of the video that I showed in the chat last Wednesday, it said that 1 million of the best jobs in America may go unfilled because only 1 in 10 school teach students how to code. As teachers, we need to be preparing our students to be leaders in their respective fields in the future. Technology training is important to make students proficient in the language and also to help technology keep advancing.

  • SueSullivan   April 21, 2013, 10:33 p.m.

    Task 1:


    When I first starting researching this task, I stumbled upon  While this page offered a lot of testimonials from innovative (and famous) people regarding the benefits of learning to 'code', it didn't really give specific examples of how any of this relates to a math classroom (personally, I found the lack of specifics pretty disappointing).

    I looked further and wound up at, which states that

    "Bootstrap uses algebra as the vehicle for creating images and animations. That means that concepts students encounter in Bootstrap behave the exact same way that they do in math class. This lets students experiment with algebraic concepts by writing functions that make a rocket fly (linear equations), respond to keypresses (piecewise functions) or make it explode when it hits a meteor (distance formula). In fact, many word problems from standard math textbooks can be used as as programming assignments!  The entire curriculum is designed from the ground up to be aligned with Common Core standards for algebra."

    I feel that this statement is pretty concise about the benefits of this software; and I personally like the idea of students being able to put textbook problems into programming contexts, as it provides an excellent opportunity for application. 

    As far as problems that parents might have with assignments requiring students to create programs, a few come to mind - I'll mention them, but I'm not going to take sides at this point.  First, what about special-needs students?  These students often benefit from tech, but can accommodations be made for programming curriculum?  Second, where do we draw the line between requiring students to be 'well-rounded' and just wasting their time?  Should we require students with non-tech vocations to experiment with programming (such as those committed to a career choice of acting, woodworking, or writing (where any commercially-available word processor would work just fine)?  Third, a student able to write programs to meet a need not already addressed by commercially available (or free, as explored in this course) software is probably already exploring programming on their own, and at a more accomplished level than would be provided as part of 'regular' one-size-fits-all curriculum; this would not meet their educational needs.  Fourth, is it sensible to spend time and money to instruct students in a particular programming language that might be obsolete in a few years?  Lastly, the Digital Divide greatly impacts the feasibility of making programming part of required curriculum. 


  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 6:01 p.m.
    In Reply To:   SueSullivan   April 21, 2013, 10:33 p.m.

    I took a look at the website with all the quotes from famous people from the technology world and you are right. Some of them were as simple as, “To compete in a global market, our students need high quality STEM education including computer science skills such as coding.” –Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education). They didn’t provide statistics or ways students and teachers can get involved with programming. I did find some of the quotes to be inspiring nonetheless. “Learning to code is tremendously empowering. It lets you go from just being a consumer of technology to being a producer of it. When you make that transformation, you realize that rather than settling for what someone else tells you is possible, you have the power to create whole new technological possibilities.” –Mehran Sahami (Stanford, Chair of Education, Computer Science). Using these quotes might be a good way to inspire students and get some motivation to challenge themselves with learning this new language.

    Great minds must think alike! Lisa also posted the link to Bootstrap and I feel in love with it too! I think you and I are looking for the same goals with computer programming – to enhance the students understanding of the mathematical topics they are learning in class. That way they are getting the problem solving practice as well as deepening their understanding of the topic by troubleshooting with the program. The only problem that I saw with Bootstrap, which I also shared with Lisa, is that the lessons that Bootstrap has build off of each other, so it is hard to just do one lesson in the middle of the curriculum unit. However, I do think that it provides really good ideas on how to create your own assignment or lesson based on the concept you are teaching.

    Wow, Sue! You brought up some excellent points about some issues with computer programming. The first issue about special needs students is an important and prevalent one in many schools. I think that special accommodations can still be made for students when using technology. There are so many instructional resources like video tutorials on or lessons on The lesson on the second website I gave have screen shots and step-by-step instructions for those students who need more structure or are struggling learning from demonstrations. Meagan talked about creating cheat sheets for parents, but we could also make on for students too with what each button does and how to put the pieces together to make it work. That way those students can have that resource printed out in front of them to follow along with a lesson or when creating their own program. Resource teachers can also get trained on Scratch and be an additional resource in the classroom for these students. I think it is important to make those accommodations for special needs students since they will need this technology exposure to understand many of the different technology applications in society today. Do you have any experience working with special needs students? Do you have any other ideas on how we can accommodate for their needs when teaching computer programming?

    In response to your second point, I think that computer programming has benefits that extend beyond just learning and understanding technology. I think the ability to break apart a large problem into pieces, troubleshoot, and problem solve are important no matter what career field you chose. Although students do not need a heavy overload of computer programming to achieve these goals, I do think the basic exposure is still important to learn about the technology and gain problem solving skills. What are your thoughts on this?

    I also think your fourth point about learning a computer programming language that might be obsolete is a few years would also relate to what I just wrote on the benefits of learning computer programming. The ability to break apart problems and write code can be more easily transferred to a new computer programming software if your brain is already used to working in that format. Do you agree?

    Your third point talks about students who are already programming and might be bored with a curriculum that is designed to fit the needs of different skill levels. I would challenge them to create a program that meets certain criteria that are math-based. That way they are being challenged with a new goal in mind and problem solving with math concepts they have learned. These students would also be great resources for other students in the class, as well as the teacher! Maybe you can invite the student to create a Scratch program and a lesson to teach the students their favorite skill. There is a lot of ways to challenge and use those advanced students in your class. Do you have any ideas on how to make it work?

    I do think that incorporating computer programming is difficult considering how structured many of our school curriculums are. However, I think we can be creative about how we use it. Like instead of students creating a diorama, they can create a program instead. I think by taking those baby steps, we can give the students the exposure to programming without deferring too far from our curriculum. That is why I liked the Bootstrap link that you gave. I think using computer programming to enhance and assess mathematical understanding is meeting more of the Common Core standards than you may first think!

  • Lisa Ritt   April 21, 2013, 1:28 p.m.

    Task 4 continued:

    click Here for a great website with examples of teaching code to younger kids. 
    My personal opinion is that this is a MUST to at least introduce students to programming in middle school. This ability to be comfortable with coding is becoming more and more necessary in today's world. Its a disservice to our students if we, as teachers, don't stay abreast of what future career opportunities are in great demand. This is an extraordinary opportunity for students to fill to growing gap of tech-saavy engineers to make amazing contributions to our world. 

  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 6:01 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   April 21, 2013, 1:28 p.m.

    “It’s a disservice to our students if we, as teachers, don't stay abreast of what future career opportunities are in great demand. This is an extraordinary opportunity for students to fill to growing gap of tech-savvy engineers to make amazing contributions to our world.”  Beautifully said, Lisa! I absolutely agree! At the end of the video that I showed in the chat last Wednesday, it said that 1 million of the best jobs in America may go unfilled because only 1 in 10 school teach students how to code. With the way technology is advancing, businesses are now hiring people JUST for online web design, production, social media coordinator, etc. So I do believe that statistic may be correct. And as teachers, it is our job to prepare tomorrow’s leaders today. If we are not teaching the proper way to use technology, who is?

  • Lisa Ritt   April 21, 2013, 1:22 p.m.

    TAsk 4: OK- just wanted to share this link which I found on It gives FREE lesson info and professional development to teachers who want to create computer programming programs. Fab! What am amazing tool for educators who want to teach code and programming! Awesome!

    Truth be told, I didnt see any article showing concerns with parental concerns over computer programming being taught.  Click Here for a great example of an after school program being implemented in a low income school as well as a charter school, both of which had great results. The article shows some links to games that the students created! Very cool :)  

  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 6 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   April 21, 2013, 1:22 p.m.

    My first comment is THANK YOU! Bootstrap is a great website that has the same goal as I do – to use programming to enhance math assignments based on the concepts they are learning in class. I wish I would have found this site earlier! I just taught Pythagorean Theorem and I saw that the website has a really neat lesson where students use the theorem in conjunction with Boolean operators to detect when a collision occurs in their program! So neat! Here is a link to that lesson:  The only problem I see is that the units that Bootstrap has build off of each other, so it is hard to just do one lesson in the middle of the curriculum unit. However, I do think that it provides really good ideas on how to create your own assignment or lesson based on the concept you are teaching. What a fanstastic tool, Lisa! Thank you SO much for sharing! I will be looking into this for next year most definitely!

    I really liked the article that you found on computer programming in schools with a lower budget. I was not aware of the different organizations raising money for camps and programs at schools who cannot afford computers. This is awesome! I am so glad that people are recognizing the importance of technology education with how much our society is advancing in these different fields.

    I checked out some of the games posted and stumbled on this on I really liked because it connected to percents, which I teach in all my classes. This is the type of assignment I want my students to be able to create after learning about a math concept. I also saw on the website that the projects were done in pairs over 5 to 7 classes and the programs had to involve math problems. Neat! Thank you for sharing this site, Lisa! All of your resources will be really helpful for me as I do more with teaching computer programming at my school.

  • Lisa Ritt   April 21, 2013, 12:58 p.m.

    Task 3:

    Here is where I created my online classroom:

    I did a simple comment section with info for a lesson that is more project oriented for students say in 8th grade to be thinking about class lesson on distance and how it relates to the world. Then, my thought would be to intro SCRATCH from there. Asking them to start with thinking about what a SCRATCH project that they work on may look like in the context of DISTANCE. 

    I hope this is what you were thinking. Hopefully you can post a comment in the classroom which is where I put the lesson (in the comment section.) Everyone should get an invite to join the classroom forum. Phew....huge steps for me in the virtual world! ...but getting more comfortable as we go thank you :)




  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 6 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   April 21, 2013, 12:58 p.m.

    I am glad that you chose to make a new virtual classroom in order to learn more about the Blended Learning environment. I think that the Collaborize Classroom has a good format for discussions and is pretty easy to navigate.  (I posted my comment on the website as well.) I also think that discussion boards are great for students to post their ideas or questions so you can make sure they are on the right track. Great lesson!

  • Lisa Ritt   April 21, 2013, 8:03 a.m.


    Task 2:

    Ok, so click here is an assessment tool I'd use for assessing the concept of distance as it appears on a graph. Then, I also did a simple scratch thing...not too fancy but introducing the students to real life distance things. I'd lead them into creating a Scratch ditty for themselves that uses the formula for distance as seen on a graph to put it into real world terms. Ok, so here is the link to the scratch ditty :

    I would ask them to comment right on the Scratch website after getting a lesson on the programming that went along with the Distance Fun example. Then, I 'd get them working on how to plug the distance formula concept: (this is pulled from the Math is FUn website as well)

    Start with: c2 = a2 + b2   

    Put in the calculations for a and b: c2 = (xA - xB)2 + (yA - yB)2   

    And the final result: graph 2 points


    The goal will be to have students really starting to think about that you can find distance NOT just with rate * time, but that even when you have less information, you can still figure it out. And hopefully the students start thinking about other places to use the formula in the real world.


  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 6 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   April 21, 2013, 8:03 a.m.

    As I told Meagan, I do use since it provides background on the concept before showing the formula. It is a great way for the students to achieve a higher level of understanding. After reviewing the distance formula, I was a little confused on why the Scratch program was not about the distance formula. But then as I read on, I saw that the goal of your lesson was to have the students take what they know about distance and relate it to the distance formula. Good idea! I would have that as an in-class discussion to make sure the students understand the connection before starting their Scratch program.

    I also thought your Scratch program was great! I am so glad that you used this task to play around with Scratch and create your own program unique to the goals of your lesson. The costume changes, movement, and placement looked good! Maybe you could even have Mrs. Gerty demonstrate the distance traveled by having her walk along the screen as she talks about how far she is going. I do think that the distance formula is a good concept to adapt to Scratch since it involves movement. Thank you for sharing!

  • Lisa Ritt   April 20, 2013, 11:23 a.m.

    Task 1:

    This article was about a software called "Etoys." Etoys is a computer programming software that is being used by middle schoolers. The software sounds very tru to learning code, how it works, finding solutions by trial and error, etc. The teachers say the kids are really motivated, work in groups and have come up with really cool manipulatives like getting skittle to rain a rainbow or getting a train to go around a Christmas tree. 

    What one teacher/user of Etoys says in the article is that  "... written lesson plans that don't assume the person teaching has any technical knowledge, and are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, which are learning standards in English, reading and math that schools will have to adapt by 2014-15." about will fit right into the Common Illinois anyway! Hopefully, in PA as well!! 

    I think the main concern of parents is that it may feel like very unknown territory for them. Most parents don't work in computer programming, nor did they learn it in school so there will truly need to be strong efforts to educate the community/paretns to see the WHY this is so important. Bottom line, we have to prepare our kids for the world we live in. I think any parents would recognize that. The main thing that parents need to feel/ understand is that their children are SAFE. Technology give alot of us parents an uneasy feeling because we don't know whats out there. So long as teachers instill a sense of security as well as importance of subject matter, I think we will be good here! ...Of course, not to be naive here...there will ALWAYS be a parent or 2 who may be "hard to love" (as I like to say)...but we can win them over!!!


  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 5:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   April 20, 2013, 11:23 a.m.

    Hi Lisa!

    I have never heard of Etoys before so I did a little research. It was developed by Apple in 1996 and actually got its way into Disney Imagineering Research. Etoys actually is the programming language that influenced the development of Scratch. The two programs seem very similar.

    It is also nice to know that the Common Core is started to get aligned to this deeper level of problem solving and technology proficiency. I was actually just trained on the Common Core standards since my school will be aligning all lessons to these standards next year. I definitely think that computer programming will align better to the Common Core standards because of the problem-solving-based learning and the technology component that they want students receiving in order to be successful in society.

    I agree that most parents are not comfortable with the advancing technology and might have trouble understanding the importance of “playing around on the computer.” I definitely think we would need a little presentation at a back-to-school night or something like that to explain to the parents the other educational benefits to programming. The importance of safety online is a GREAT point to make that I had not previously thought of. Since Scratch is not based on the internet (yet), I think that parents will let out a sigh of relief in that sense. But I do think it is also important to remind them of the security and monitoring that you will be doing as a teacher. Good point!

  • SueSullivan   April 18, 2013, 11:25 p.m.

    Tasks 2 & 3:


    My lesson would take an interdisciplinary approach, relating math to music.  I would teach the lesson either in math class or in music class.  Specifically, the goal is to teach students about the relationship between the two disciplines, how to apply their knowledge of fractions to real-life experience via the medium of music, and how tech can be used to manipulate the sounds that we enjoy.

    As a prerequisite, the Scratch program would enable me to determine if students are able to combine fractions with different denominators so that the denominators equal 1 (as a measure of music does).  I chose this Scratch program because my early middle-school musicians should be able to play music in either 4/4 or 3/4 time, but also probably won't be using dotted- or 16th notes.  My non-playing students will be taught to recognize these signatures using tunes they are already familiar with (tunes would be chosen by me from examples submitted by students).  All students will be required to explain how this relates to the Beats Per Minute (BPM) terminology commonly used in music.  This is also known as Tempo; it's a fractional relationship where 'the sum of the whole' (BPM) is critical to aesthetics (regardless of what genre of music the students enjoy).  Students with a formal instrumental background will be paired with students with informal backgrounds, where they will discuss and use real-life examples to relate BPM to formal and informal terms.  A group discussion will center on how the time signature ratios contribute to the general mood/feel of the music, and what styles of music/dance have evolved from same.  My goal is to have students discover how math (in a musical medium) can indeed influence one's mood.

    A separate discussion will discuss the fact that anyone who enjoys music needs to be aware of how technical manipulation/editing influences what we hear (and its connection to math, such as AutoTune).  Examples will be provided using software such as Audacity, GarageBand, and actual recordings.

    Students will be required to create a Scratch program demonstrating both 4/4 and 3/4 time (using the 'sounds' and 'record' options).  The students will then use Scratch to give examples of how each time signature is influenced by altering the BPM (options available in the pink command menu).  Students will be encouraged to experiment with transitioning one time signature to another (old-school modulating), and using tech to accomplish new-school beatmatching.

    I found this program at, which is  essentially a metronome formulated in Scratch.  This might be helpful for the students who are recording examples of 4/4 and 3/4, or using other time signatures.

    I've also posted this at my Blended Learning site,

  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 5:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   SueSullivan   April 18, 2013, 11:25 p.m.

    Hi Sue!

    What an interesting and fantastic way to use Scratch with math and music! I really like that you found a Scratch program that you would use to assess the students prerequisite knowledge. I think it would be a great way for the students to “get their feet wet” using the program. I also think that asking the students to explain how the Scratch program relates to fractions and BPM is a good way for the students to have a chance to link the two content areas together.

    What a great idea to pair students together! I think students benefit SO much from each other, especially when you pair the highly skilled and the less-highly skilled together. The highly skilled student will achieve a deeper understanding of the topic and then less-highly skilled student is gaining a new and different perspective that may help them learn the concept better. Everyone wins! I have incorporated this strategy in the computer programming elective that I have started with the middle school students at my school this week. It is working out great and the students really seem to enjoy that type of atmosphere.

    I also really like the discussion topics you gave the students. Relating it to real-life examples and how math influences music is a higher order question that will prompt some interesting comments and deeper discussions. Bringing in the other pieces of technology like Audacity and GarageBand will also spark the students’ interest.

    I had a hard time trying to figure out what I would create to demonstrate beats, probably because I do not have a strong music background. I also have not played around with the recording buttons in Scratch. Would you be showing the example of the Scratch program that you found in class after the lesson? I know with those beginner Scratchers, it might be important to go over the parts of Scratch that you are requiring them to use, like the recording and sounds. Great lesson! I really appreciated the connection to music and taking the Scratch to a new level outside of the typical math lesson!

  • SueSullivan   May 2, 2013, 4:19 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 5:59 p.m.

    Hi Gina,

    Glad you liked the lesson!  I would definitely incorporate the Scratch program into the lesson, and go over the recording/sounds concerns.   Also glad that you like the pairing concept, I've benefitted from this musical collaboration in real life (I depend on reading music, while my husband is solely an auditory learner, we help each other out).  Even if it turns out that the two students don't fit perfectly together, the students still get to practice the valuable social skill of having to interact 'professionally' with someone different.

    Thank you so much for giving us a topic where we are encouraged  'think outside the box' and brainstorm/daydream about things that we'd like to teach someday!

  • MgnLeas   April 18, 2013, 8:14 p.m.

    Task 2: (And task 3 is me posting it here)

    So for my online assignment, I am choosing to review greater than, less than, and equal. I was thinking of using this around the time students lean to solve and graph inequalities. So this assignment would be a refresher of the topic of inequalities. Here is an online tool I found, .

    The goals and requirements for the Scratch program are broad as to allow for creativity. I would require that students use at least three inequalities within the program code. How they are used is up to the student. My goal is for the student to be able to work with inequalities. I want them to come up with some skit or interaction between two sprites. They do not have to talk to each other, but they should both do something. (They do not both have to have inequalities in their codes.)

    Here is my example. The witch gives directions. Then the green mouse leans either left or right depending if your guess is more or less, and he stops when you guess right (equal).

  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 5:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   MgnLeas   April 18, 2013, 8:14 p.m.

    I use the website often because it usually provides a good introduction to the concept and leads students into the rules/formulas/etc after exploring what  it means on a deeper level. I have used this site to review previous concepts with students or link it in a homework assignment if they need more instruction before starting their homework.

    I LOVE your Scratch program, Meagan! I am so glad that you took the opportunity in this task to make your own program. It looks great! I also thought the movement of the mouse was a creative way to show inequalities through the program.  I also like that you left room for the students to be creative, but still kept some directions in order to make sure the students were applying their inequalities skills. Would you have the students print out their code? Post to the online Scratch community? How would you assess their understanding and application of inequalities after they create the program?

    I would suggest including instructions and explanations about how to start the program by clicking on the first Sprite and then what it means when the mouse rotates. For those students who may be struggling with creating their own program, it might be helpful for you to meet with the student and share your programming screen with them. You can have them try to understand the code and explain it to you so you can assess their skill level and problem solve with them so they feel more comfortable creating the program on their own.

  • MgnLeas   April 17, 2013, 8:11 p.m.

    Task1: I think this video shows why programming should be included in learning math. It shows students real life uses of math. I really liked in one part they show a video game character being created. How many kids love video games? Lots. If they learned how to write the codes that go along with the game, it would open doors for them. Some kids probably do not even realize they could actually learn how to write the code for a game. Students are always asking the “why should we learn this”, programming could help answer this. I think in middle school would be a great time to teach an intro course. I foresee parents being scared about not knowing the programs. But some parents are scared with Algebra 1 so I feel this is a nonissue. Parents have trouble helping their kids with any math (or any homework sometimes!); one way we could help overcome this is to invite them in to work with us on the software. We could also come up with ‘cheat sheets’ for parents to have for trouble shooting issues.

    Task 4:

    I think computer programming should be introduced at the middle school level. In a school I was observing, I felt that the 8th grade pre-algebra course was basically a more detailed 7th grade math class. The students could have the option of taking a programming class. The pre-algebra content could have been incorporated into the programming course. I feel like this would help to find new ways to teach them same materials. I also think that if we open these doors to the world of programming at a young age then students would not be afraid of it later (like when it is a requirement in college). So many jobs now use programming in one way or another, so why not teach it to them!

    Here is a site written by a father. He talks about teaching his four children to write programs at a young age. He also gives lots of sites to help to teach kids of all ages. I thought this was great for your second question, because it gives lots of tools to use! He talks about how each kid is different and you need to lead them to water so to speak. But it may take a while and it may be a different avenue for each kid.

  • Gina Mulranen   April 30, 2013, 5:58 p.m.
    In Reply To:   MgnLeas   April 17, 2013, 8:11 p.m.

    Hi Meagan!

    It looks like good minds think alike! I really enjoy this video as well and decided to use it as the introduction to the computer programming elective that I started with the 24 middle school students on Tuesday this week. This kids were surprised at the big names they saw in the film and how early they started working with computer programming. I was amazed at how fast they were picking it up and how excited they were when their program worked. One of my 6th graders who never heard of Scratch or code before ran up to me at the end of the second class exclaiming, “Ms. Mulranen! Look it works! Look how cool it is! I did it!” I agree that this video and computer programming as a whole answers the question of why we need to learn math. I love the stat at the end of the video about jobs that are not able to be filled because of a lack of knowledge with computer programming.

    I LOVE the idea of a cheat sheet! You talked about my biggest fear with parents, which is when they get scared because they cannot help their child with their homework. A cheat sheet with tutorials like would be a great way to invite them to learn it as well. I also found a great website with lessons that walk you through the problem solving process of learning different commands with screen shots. I think that when parents see the steps in this site, they will see how much the students have to break apart a problem and troubleshoot to find out how to make the command work. This is a high level of problem solving!

    I also agree with you that getting students started with computer programming at an early age is great because it gets them excited about the material before they get into learning harder programming languages and it primes their brains for this type of problem solving. I definitely think it can enhance curriculum too, especially with concepts they have learned before!

    The article you found I think is great because it emphasizes the importance of kids being different in their learning style and gives A LOT of different options to explore any level of computer programming. I know my school has used Python before with high school students and we are now using Scratch with our middle school students. We also have a First Lego League team, which involves the Lego Robotics that the article references. Thank you for linking this article! I really like all the options it gives for different skill levels.