Monthly Archives: December 2013

Hour of Code activities!

The Hour Of Code is such an exciting initiative and I am a HUGE, huge believer in coding because of the thinking it requires you to do.  I thought to myself how programming changed me as a mathematical thinker – it’s a powerful tool for math modeling.  It’s frustrating, but any excuses we ever had for NOT teaching it are quickly evaporating.  It’s no longer difficult and confusing for kids.  You don’t have to compile, link, or wade through cryptic error messages.  Some languages don’t even require you to type. It no longer requires software to install.  It’s no longer time-consuming and hard to find information on how to code.  Furthermore, coding has gotten sexier and more exciting. It’s colorful. It’s beautiful.  It gives you feedback instantly on whether your thinking is right or wrong.

Students present their first big project in groups.

Students present their first big project in groups.

I use Khan Academy and Javascript for coding projects in my 7th grade math class.  I like the colorful editor, the easy management of my classes, and the seamless integration with Google Docs.

For your perusal, here are some programming mini-projects we’ve done in 7th grade math you might consider for your Hour of Code – sorted by Common Core Math Standard.

7.EE.4 Use variables to represent quantities in a real-world or mathematical problem, and construct simple equations and inequalities to solve problems by reasoning about the quantities.

7.NS.3 Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving the four operations with rational numbers.

1.  Write a program that draws a rectangle and uses variables for the side lengths.  Calculate the area and perimeter of the rectangle and display them on the screen.
Video: Using Variables

Video: Expressions

(Clown WS that goes with the video: Clown WS)

Video: The task about rectangles

2.  Troubleshoot a program that creates a pep rally graph and averages the attendance at 4 rallies.  (Order of operations troubleshooting).  I called these my “Wreck-it Ralph” activities, where I presented students with a broken program and tasked them with fixing it.  This activity was really great and created some awesome mathematical discussion.

7.RP.1: Compute unit rates associated with ratios of fractions, including ratios of lengths, areas and other quantities measured in like or different units.

7.RP.2: Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities.

1: “Rates, Ratios, and Fractions:

2: “Population Graph” (Wreck-it Ralph troubleshooting)

7.RP.3: Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems.

7.G.1: Solve problems involving scale drawings of geometric figures, including computing actual lengths and areas from a scale drawing and reproducing a scale drawing at a different scale.

1. Price of shoes (Wreck-it Ralph):

2. Enlarging and Reducing Snowflakes:

Video / extension: loops and snowflakes

Rich math tasks really take on a new dimension when they’re done in a programming context.  The feedback is instant, the visuals are rich, the numbers are never easy to work with, yet mental math and estimation are crucial to understanding if your results are reasonable.  Abstraction and modeling are inherent in these tasks and they force students to really understand the structure of the mathematics.  The students, though, just say they like it.  They say they can’t wait to learn more.  They say “I’m good at this.”  They feel like good problem-solvers and creative people. And you know what? They are.

"I'm good at this."

“I’m good at this.”


Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Uncategorized



This has nothing to do with the math classroom. I was just talking to my husband tonight about our engineering school experiences and I thought of this anecdote.

I declared a major in Computer Engineering in 1993. I had some computer experience – I was a gamer, I knew how to e-mail, and I’d done a few little projects in Atari BASIC when I was a young teen. This experiences gave me just enough confidence to get a good start in my classes and persist with the engineering program.  I had to take a class on computer architecture in which we learned assembly language during my sophomore year, and I really did like the class and felt I did pretty well.  There’s one lecture that stood out in my mind.

The professor had just taught us about a memory address in which you could store the address of ANOTHER location that would actually contain your data, so it was a reference to where your data was stored.  I was trying to wrap my mind around this concept – so wait, the address 0xAA7FFE43 might contain the value 0xAA5B3D22 which is the address of the place that actually holds your information and what? And a friend of mine, sitting near the back of the room, raises his hand and says “Is that like a pointer?”  And the professor thought about it and answered yes, it’s exactly like a pointer.  And heads all around the room started bobbing up and down, and many of the other (almost all male) students mumbled “oh, pointers” to each other.  I had NO CLUE what a pointer was.  I did not have any idea what they were mumbling about.  I wondered what kind of strange planet I had just been dropped on.

Aside from my middle school Atari BASIC tinkering, I really hadn’t done much programming.  It wasn’t offered as a course at any of my schools, and I busied myself with enough high school activities and AP classes that I didn’t leave much time for learning more programming. I never really thought about learning it at the time.  Many of my classmates had taught themselves C and had written complicated and even professional software by the time they were sophomores.

I’m not making any judgments or excuses, but I notice that more males make time for tinkering, inventing, and teaching themselves about computers on their own, as a hobby, than females do.  I wonder why?  I think I, and really any of my classmates, would have had an easier time in engineering school if we’d done more tinkering earlier.

At the time, it just wouldn’t have occurred to me that it would be fun to mess around with computers just to see what I could do.  I do from time to time now.  I wonder why I didn’t find it interesting then.  I wonder if that tinkering spirit gets a kid a little bit of an advantage if they major in engineering.

If there’s a problem statement in there, I wonder what the solution is.


Leave a comment

Posted by on December 4, 2013 in Uncategorized