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Week 3: Scratch from MIT

This task is similar to what we did with GeoGebra. It starts with a construction goal and then asks for some community involvement and some learning analysis.

Part 1

Download Scratch from MIT and play with it. Create an applet related to math, however simple or complex. You can have Scratch the Cat walk around a square again (and compare and contrast it with GeoGebra), or try to make a circle (it's hard!) or work on your physics models (vectors?) and so on. 

Part 2

Use the "share" button in the Scratch program to upload your applet to the Scratch community. Link it here, with a short description of what math learning is in there. You need an account at Scratch before you can share. This is one of more vibrant open source kid-friendly communities, with more than three million applets shared so far!

Part 3

Head to the Scratch Educator community forum and check out stories of educators: Find a story you like and leave a comment (as usual, with some substance, not just "I like this a lot") for the educators who shared the story. Put a link to the story where you commented here.

Task Discussion

  • Lisa Ritt   Feb. 4, 2013, 7:41 a.m.

    Part 1:

    I realized I forgot to post part 1...sorry for delay. 

    The circle I found that the only way to demonstrate this would be to have them sprite turn around. I tried in tried to find other ways of having aperfect circle but didnt see any.

    Geogebra compared to scratch I felt like Scratch is a much more exciting tool than Geogebra for kids & honestly for me too. I am a little behind with my geometry skills so I appreciated geogebra for that in that it made me work to get up to speed on thinking about all those lesson plans I'll have to plan for Geometry. But, I loved Scratch because its so exciting from a creativity stand point for kids to go in so many directions with it!

  • Lisa Ritt   Feb. 4, 2013, 7:40 a.m.

    Part 1:

    I realized I forgot to post part 1...sorry for delay. 

    The circle I found that the only way to demonstrate this would be to have them sprite turn around. I tried in tried to find other ways of having aperfect circle but didnt see any.

    Geogebra compared to scratch I felt like Scratch is a much more exciting tool than Geogebra for kids & honestly for me too. I am a little behind with my geometry skills so I appreciated geogebra for that in that it made me work to get up to speed on thinking about all those lesson plans I'll have to plan for Geometry. But, I loved Scratch because its so exciting from a creativity stand point for kids to go in so many directions with it!

  • Green Machine   Feb. 3, 2013, 10 p.m.

    Part 1: Once I downloaded and ran Scratch, I noticed a lot of differences between it and GeoGebra. GeoGebra seems to focus mainly on mathematical or science applications, while Scratch seems to have various applications across a multiple disciplines and you may have to be familar with or willing to learn some computer programming to use Scratch. In my opinion, GeoGebra is the simplest to use of the two and its provides instant results when click on a button to perform an action. Scratch took me back to my computer programming days at Tuskegee University. I was remember do-while loops, nested loops, if-then statements, entering data, and etc... It did take me a while to get adjusted to its layout and setup and how to to navigate through the program. Once I investigated the buttons and certain actions performed, I was able to develop a simple applet that would draw a square and rectangle. I definitely see how important of a resource that Scratch could be in the classroom and many of the wonderful applets that scholars could create. It teach computer programming at an early stage in the came without having to do all the manual typing. I also like how the buttons connect to one another and create rows on instruction. I would like to learn more about to program and how I would be able to implement this tool in a classroom.

    Part 2:

    I decided to keep my applet simple for the sake of time and my sanity. LOL. My applet had the cat create and square and a rectangle with the cat meowing and a message at the end. The math that the scholars would be learning in simple geometry (most likely for a early childhood or elementary). If I was teaching computer science, I would use this program to introduce Scratch and its capabilities. I had a lot of fun writing this applet and I had to figure out where I was making mistakes because I kept having random lines appear as I had the cat draw each polygon. I worked through my issues and eventually elimanted the error.

    Part 3: Waiting for approval.

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 4, 2013, 7:10 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Green Machine   Feb. 3, 2013, 10 p.m.

    Sanity is good most days! And yes, debugging even a simple program is very... educational, isn't it? Sometimes when I do that, people next to me can learn some new words, at least...

    Interesting that you and several other course members commented on Scratch being harder. I have seen discussions of other (grown-ups) saying it's challenging to do math on Scratch, in particular. Of course, GeoGebra is a specialized application, dedicated to mathematics. If I were to introduce very young kids (say, five year old) to programming, though, I would probably choose Scratch. But for older people and specifically for math, as you say, GeoGebra is more straightforward. 

  • Lisa Ritt   Feb. 3, 2013, 8:40 a.m.

    Part 3:
    Which then lead me to:
    (this one creates a a 20 lesson curriculum)

    & also this link:
    (this one creates 8 consecutive lessons)- I feel like this one would be most beneficial to the kids that I would be teaching in Phila S.D.

    Since I don't have the ability to comment in the ScratchEd community yet, I wanted to at least comment here. & then once approved, I can upload my comment to ScratchEd

    I feel so thrilled to truly be getting the education I've been looking for. The innovation on Scratch for Math Education & so many subjects is incredible. Being able to teach Scratch is a wonderful asset for teachers on ANY level. Most students can find interest in this. My 13 year old really got into it as she played around with it last night on her computer while I was working on mine....& without much prodding!

    For me, preparing for interviews with district administers, I can talk about these lesson plans & even show examples & make suggestions as to how to utilize Scratch with whatever technology is available at the school. What I have learned is that you can do this as individual or as classwide or group lessons. No matter how it rolls out, the students will be excited & getting so many fundamentals of computer programming, math tools, problem solving...the list goes on & on! 

    There is no question as I read the lesson plans & curriculum listed in these articles that I can implement these lessons in the future. I'm truly thankful for this information. I will continue to explore all the facets of Scratch & ScratchEd. As someone just beginning my teaching career, knowing that so many teachers share their work for the benefit of so many comunities continues to motivate me to be just this kind of educator. I look forward to doing the same thing!

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 2:51 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   Feb. 3, 2013, 8:40 a.m.

    My teen likes Scratch too! You make a good point about using it individually or in groups. What I see kids doing, quite a lot, is download a Scratch applet done by their friends and make changes to it. We had pretty long chains going in a math club. The neat thing is that Scratch tracks the past history of modifications, so you can see the names of people whose applets got modified. This introduces kids to the world of open source software development, as well.

    Sometimes kids like to work in pairs or small groups, and discuss designs. Typically, one person codes and the other gives suggestions. 

  • Lisa Ritt   Feb. 3, 2013, 7:44 a.m.

    Part 2 continued:

    Regarding by applet here, I demonstrated what a postive slope looks like by having a fish swim it...BUT...all the while with funny "rap" noises & other characters doing other things. Although the math concept isn't too advanced, I think the whole setting is similar to a 7th grade Philadelphia classroom & here is why :  The kids who are trying to really LEARN & DO the MATH at hand have plenty of other kids around them clowning around & maybe NOT paying attention & making distracting noises :) At first I was going to only have the fish on the "stage"...but then I realized this scenario would probably make sense to my future middle school students. Kids do have to figure out a way to LEARN what they need to learn ...even though there can be plenty of distractions :) 

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 2:55 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Lisa Ritt   Feb. 3, 2013, 7:44 a.m.

    What a funny applet!!! You can use it for teacher training to demonstrate the chaos of a middle school classroom. 

    Actually, you will see a lot of kids adding "decorations" to their applets - sounds, characters and so on - even if decorations are not related to the main game, story or model the kids make. This is a typical behavior, and I think it should be supported. It gives people comfort, makes them laugh, and creates the sense of ownership. 

    Other kids make very "austere" applets with nothing extra. It's fine too. I love to watch all the different styles.

  • Katherine Hanisco   Feb. 2, 2013, 10:32 p.m.

    I received approval for ScratchEd and commented on a story here.

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katherine Hanisco   Feb. 2, 2013, 10:32 p.m.

    What a cool global project! And yes, access to experts is one big huge plus of "social technologies" (like the web). For example, kids and mathematicians meet in this Art of Problem Solving forum:

    Anecdote: last time I taught a course at Arcadia, I asked teachers to answer an unanswered question in that forum. They could not catch open questions fast enough: someone was always there, answering and commenting, any time of the day! 

  • Gina Mulranen   Feb. 2, 2013, 9:31 p.m.

    Part 1 and 2

    Wow! I love Scratch! I did enjoy the programming class I took at Arcadia as an undergrad using java. However, I never would have thought that middle school students would have an opportunity for programming. Scratch is a more visually-appealing and easy-to-follow program to give students a taste of what programming entrails without actually writing the code themselves. I love the jigsaw pieces and how you can block of an if/else statement so nicely. You can actually SEE what statement is part of the “if” statement and what statement is part of the “else” statement. Even the repeat loops are easy to construct with the jigsaw piece.

    After I spent a lot of time playing around with the different command buttons, I decided to make a program where students can practice classifying triangles. The link to my Scratch program is here: The program first asks the students to input any 2 angles of a triangle and it calculates the third angle. Then the program asks the student to classify the triangle by its angles and tells them if they are correct. I also included a if/else statement for when calculating the variable Angle 3 so that if a student puts in 2 angles whose sum is more than 179, the program will say that the angles do not form a triangle.

    Creating this algorithm involved a lot of different properties of triangles. If a student was going to make this program, they first need to know that the third angle of the triangle, the variable Angle 3, would be calculated by subtracting the sum of Angle 1 and Angle 2 from 180. A great problem solving strategy is finding a way for the program to recognize what type of angles cannot form a triangle, which I did using an If/Else block and stopping the script when the sum of the first two angles of the triangle was greater than 180. The other aspect of triangles that a student would be applying in this program is when a triangle is classified as acute, obtuse, or right. Students would have the opportunity to apply a lot of properties of triangles into this program to make it run smoothly.

    Part 3

    I am waiting for approval from the ScratchEd site in order to post a comment on a story.

  • Gina Mulranen   Feb. 3, 2013, 1:14 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gina Mulranen   Feb. 2, 2013, 9:31 p.m.

    Since I am still awaiting approval from the ScratchEd website, I am just going to post my comment here on this amazing story of 4 and 5 year old boys using Scratch. The story is linked here:

    What an amazing story of how Scratch can reach audiences as young as 4 years old! Thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed seeing these young students explain the different commands they want the Sprite to do and then picking the right jigsaw pieces to make the Sprite do those commands. I also liked to see how they still acted like 4 and 5 year olds during the video too. It kept reminding me how incredible it is that these young students are showing the basic understanding of computer programming, yet they still enjoy being funny kids. This gives me some motivation and push to introduce this program to my 6th and 7th grade gifted students. I think this program has the problem solving skills that I am looking for to enhance my middle school math cirriculum.

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:07 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gina Mulranen   Feb. 2, 2013, 9:31 p.m.

    You are right, the MIT team really put a lot of thought and experimentation into that interface, making it accessible. I've used it with kids as young as five, beginner readers, and they can poke around and do quite a lot.

    I appreciate your analysis of what people would have to notice and learn to write the program you created. It really shows that making the program calls for more analysis and deeper math - within the same context of triangles - than using it. Talk about higher-order tasks! You need to know the answers, but also so much more...

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:11 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gina Mulranen   Feb. 3, 2013, 1:14 p.m.

    Young kids can sometimes be more open to experimentation than their parents! If you introduce Scratch, I find that about an hour of free play is what most kids need to be well on their way into the interface. They want to mess around. And then you can gently pose some challenges, like making the sprite draw a square. Expect questions like, "How do I make my character jump?" or "How do I make this laser gun fire?" because kids will want to make little games or animated stories. 

  • Gina Mulranen   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:11 p.m.

    Yes! I completely agree with the free time! I would want to start out giving my students a basic tutorial video and ask them to play around with Scratch for an hour at home and then bring in any problems or questions they have to help them. Then after getting their feet wet, they can begin to understand how they would approach other problems like making the Sprite walk in a square.

  • Gina Mulranen   Feb. 3, 2013, 4:42 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Gina Mulranen   Feb. 3, 2013, 1:14 p.m.

    I just got approved by the Scratch Ed website. Here is a link to my comment, which I posted already in the comment above.

  • Lisa Ritt   Feb. 2, 2013, 7:27 p.m.

    part 2:

    Here is my link to my scratch project. Comments to follow tomorrow!


    part 3: also awaiting my ed approval

  • MgnLeas   Feb. 1, 2013, 8:35 p.m.

    So yeah I got my clearance to be on the scratch ed site. Here is the link to my story picked and my comment left.

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:15 p.m.
    In Reply To:   MgnLeas   Feb. 1, 2013, 8:35 p.m.

    Once a year, Scratch team celebrates "Scratch day" where groups around the world get together and play. As you noted, a lot of groups are multi-age. When I run Scratch Day, I make no age restrictions. It's so neat to see kids helping grown-ups, teens working together with seven-year-olds and so on. 

    One math ed question is, "What does multi-age group do for learning content?" 

  • MgnLeas   Feb. 3, 2013, 6:39 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:15 p.m.

    Scratch Day sounds like fun. I am interested to keep checking on the status of this project. I love the idea of different ages working together. If you think about it, it is only in school that we are grouped by age more then anything else. Once you graduate high school groupings of people have little to do with age and a lot to do with interests and abilities. So why not have different ages working together on projects since they will be doing it for the rest of their lives!

  • SueSullivan   Feb. 1, 2013, 2:25 p.m.


    My Scratch project depicts the visual relationship between a pentagon and a pentagram.  I would have the students find interior and exterior angles of each using the properties of a regular polygon (each interior angle is 360 divided by number of sides), properties of supplementary angles, properties of triangles (sum of interior angles is 180).  My Scratch project is posted at

    I've received approval to enter the Scratch Educator community - I commented on an article that reminds educators to keep the student's perspective in mind:


  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:23 p.m.
    In Reply To:   SueSullivan   Feb. 1, 2013, 2:25 p.m.

    Making little "stories" like this can be a neat student project. For a variety and follow-up, you can ask students, for example, if they could change that into a six-point star, or a seven-point star! Why or why not? If you can, how? "Star math" is fascinating in general.

    Nice play with colors there. It makes a difference, and you will see students spend time and effort on sounds, colors and so on. It does support them learning math - they spend some time "arranging" their mathematics and making it beautiful. Some people can't start to relate to math without something like that.

  • Katherine Hanisco   Jan. 31, 2013, 5:11 p.m.

    Part 1: I had a lot of trouble getting started with Scratch. For me, the learning curve felt a lot steeper than with GeoGebra. I wonder if this is because using GeoGebra is dependent on math knowledge (understanding characteristics of geometric figures for example) while using Scratch is dependent on understanding programming basics. I have done some programming, but I am not as comfortable with it as I am with math.

    After I played around with it for awhile and got past my initial frustration, I started thinking about what a great tool this could be for students. Programming is a wonderful skill, not only because it’s involved in so many areas of a tech-driven world, but also because programming makes you think in algorithms, which is an excellent problem solving strategy that can be applied to many areas of life. What I like about Scratch is that it makes programming accessible to students without relying on knowledge of a specific programming language. That gives them the chance to get in there and play around while learning the basic concepts of how to think like a programmer without requiring any specialized programming knowledge, which I think is awesome.

    Part 2: After a lot of stopping and starting and exploring some of the tutorial videos, I managed to make Scratch walk in a square. Once I discovered the pen tool, it made it a lot easier, so I began playing around with other shapes. I tried making a pentagon, and then I had the idea of constructing different regular polygons. I wanted it to be dynamic in some way so I created an applet that it asks the user to input a positive integer and then constructs a regular polygon with that many sides, which can be found here.

    Creating this applet involved understanding the characteristics of regular polygons, such as the measure of each angle. I wanted each polygon to be roughly the same size and I wanted it to be centered on the screen, both of which involved understanding geometric concepts. In the end, it required math knowledge/learning on my part as the creator, but not much for the person using the applet.

    My initial impression is that GeoGebra applets can easily illustrate a lot of mathematical concepts for the user while Scratch applets are more about the creator learning and understanding physics, math, programming, etc. I was looking at some of the applets on the site and it seems like the goal of a lot of the output is to create games where the user plays for fun rather than learning. For example, this applet models the velocity vs. time and displacement vs. time graphs together and shows the relationships between the two. I thought it was a pretty interesting model since it shows how changing the position changes the velocity, and understanding the relationship between functions and their derivatives is a very important concept in math and physics. It’s a model that I think could be helpful for learning these ideas, but a lot of the comments from users are along the lines of, “I don’t get it, how do you play this game?”

    Like Megan, I am also waiting for approval for my ScratchEd account so that I can complete part 3. I am very interested to read about the different ways educators are using Scratch with their students. 

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:31 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katherine Hanisco   Jan. 31, 2013, 5:11 p.m.

    It's interesting to compare different tools (such as Scratch and GeoGebra), isn't it? Makes you think about pedagogical issues...

    Glad you made Scratch work for you! The applet is sort of neat. You are saying it may not require knowledge from users. Designing applets so users have to know something is hard. You will see some "quiz" applets where users need to input answers, of course. But what is much, much, MUCH harder is to design an applet where the user learns in the process of using it.

    One of my favorite little learning apps is called Light Bot. If you play for a while, you can see how using it introduces some basic concepts about algorithms. People who start having no idea about these concepts, learn by playing. It's very hard to design something like that, but as teachers, we should strive.

    On the other hand, the task of creating any applet is typically a learning task, as you've seen. 

  • MgnLeas   Jan. 29, 2013, 8:22 p.m.

    Part 1 and 2

    So my first go with scratch and I produced this. I attempted to have scratch walk in a square. I had him do something at each corner to make it more noticeable that he walked the square. I am not sure how to make the sides of the square show up. I like GeoGebra for activities concerning algebra. I like Scratch for more creative animations not necessarily working with different shape. I could not make him move in a circle to save my life! Maybe I will have more time to play with it later this week.

    Part 3. I went to the scratch Ed site and read some awesome stories. However, you need to create another username for this site. Which is not a big deal but they actually review all the people who want to join to make sure they are not fake or scam accounts. The email I got from them said it could take 24-48 hours. This is nice because I know when I post things on this site there are only serious people reading and commenting back! SO heads up it may take a while to complete part 3. So I will complete this when they approve my account.

  • Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:36 p.m.
    In Reply To:   MgnLeas   Jan. 29, 2013, 8:22 p.m.

    There's a command, Pen Down, that should do what you want for the square. Yes, circle is hard (psst... impossible, but you can approximate). Here's the Scratch Wiki entry about the command:


    Agreed that Scratch is a good animation tool. You can use it for "digital storytelling" - another ed tech term that is worth exploring.

  • MgnLeas   Feb. 3, 2013, 6:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Maria Droujkova   Feb. 3, 2013, 3:36 p.m.

    So my son and I were playing in the little bit of snow we had here today and it hit me! Scratch cannot walk in a true circle but he can turn 1 degree 360 times!!!!!!!!!! Here is my link. It is basic but it looks like a circle. I cannot believe I did not think of it the other day.