Meet Dash and Dot! They are two little robots who made their appearance at Lady Mackenzie at the end of March, for a week and a couple of days.
Dash and Dot helped us ask questions and learn about how creating code can help us learn patterning, algebra, measurement and number sense (more specifically repeated addition and multiplication) and work on our problem solving skills.
The students were able to explore their learning through using Blockly, an app that was preloaded on the iPad mini that came with the robots and connected to Dash and Dot to control them. Dash has movement functionality with his wheels as well as being able to move his head, make noises and have the lights on its body change colour. Dot is able to make noises and change his light colours. He also like a sidekick to Dash is able to be towed around by Dot.
Students in Grade 1, to Grade 5 initially experimented with Dash and Dot to string together a series of code that allows the students to see what these two can do. Once that was done, students were given the following challenge:
Can you get Dash to move from Point A to Point B then turn left/right?
The distance and direction depended on the learning environment (classroom carpet, on classroom floor in a small designated space, across the front of a classroom, etc.) and whether it went right or left. Initially students brainstormed a variety of pieces of code that would be needed for Dash and Dot to function. We would give it a try and see if what they put together would work. After this initial attempt, a lot of questions started to come up.
What if the length wasn’t long enough for Dash to get there?
What if we changed how many times our pattern repeats?
Can we change the number of “Dash steps” Dash takes?
What if we added more pieces to their code?
Will Dash’s path be the same when it repeats?
A lot of ideas also popped up.
Maybe him going forwards 50 steps and then backwards 50 steps is not helping.
Maybe if we include code for him to turn at 90 degrees instead of 180 degrees that might help.
If we got rid of or moved this part of code (turn left ) to the end of code this might stop him from going towards the desks.
If we put the turn left after the part that repeats, it might help him get to the end.
There are many more ideas and questions that popped up while they were coding. They even used a lot of their math language (length, measure, distance, pattern, repetition, multiply, etc.) as they were discussing, and inquiring into what can help them get to complete the challenge. We would discuss what we could change, apply it to our code and then take Dash and Dot back to the run through it and see if our inquiring and problem solving skills helped complete the challenge. It took quite a few tries, but the students persevered and were able to apply what they were inquiring about for them to accomplish the challenge.
After the challenge was completed I asked them what math they found they were using when we did it.
This is what they came up with:
We used measurement as we had to measure how many steps it would take.
We used patterning as we had to create a pattern for Dash to move and Dot to make sounds.
Estimation. We had to guess how long our space was.
There was probability as we had to guess how many times it would require for the pattern to be repeated and if it would continue to same path as before.
Addition because we would add 50 steps and 30 steps to make 80 steps total for his distance.
Multiplication because it repeats 3 times and each time he takes 50 steps.
I believe that they were also independently using their problem solving skills as they were able to take what didn’t work and apply it to their next steps…without prompting.
Now you might be wondering where exactly does this fit into the Ontario Math curriculum?
So I combed through the Math curriculum and pulled out some of the pieces that highlighted it. The initial place that I found was the achievement chart under the Thinking category .
When you get to the Mathematical Process Expectations it is also there right away in Grade One and in most of the expectations.
When digging further into the curriculum its relevance is prevalent in Patterning and Algebra in Grade 5 under Variables, Expressions and Equations.
“demonstrate, through investigation, an understanding of variables as changing quantities, given equations with letters or other symbols that describe relationships involving simple rates (e.g., the equations C = 3 x n and 3 x n = C both represent the relationship between the total cost (C ), in dollars, and the number of sandwiches purchased (n), when each sandwich costs $3)”
Now how does coding have to do with variables you ask? When coding occurs it requires a variable to determine what happens. So when the students were learning with Dash and Dot and putting their patterns together, they were really putting together the set of variables and then establishing the number of times that variable repeated.
It can also be found in the Grade 5 Geometry and Spatial sense strand under Location and Movement.
“locate an object using the cardinal directions (i.e., north, south, east, west) and a coordinate system (e.g.,“If I walk 5 steps north and 3 steps east, I will arrive at the apple tree.”)”
“compare grid systems commonly used on maps (i.e., the use of numbers and letters to identify an area; the use of a coordinate system based on the cardinal directions to describe a specific location)”
Or if you look at the Grade 4 Number Sense strand and the section of Proportional Reasoning states:
“demonstrate an understanding of simple multiplicative relationships involving unit rates, through investigation using concrete materials and drawings (e.g., scale drawings in which 1 cm represents 2 m) (Sample problem: If 1 book costs $4, how do you determine the cost of 2 books? … 3 books? … 4 books?)”
How does Proportional Reasoning and this expectation fit into coding? Well unit rate applies as that you are stating that you would like your string of code to have Dot sound like a firetruck 3 times in one loop. So if you repeated that for 3 loops how many times would he have repeated those sounds?
So basically coding ties into the Ontario Math curriculum in varies grades, strands and throughout expectations.
As Dash and Dot have gone back to the Resource Centre, other methods for continuing the inquiry and making the math connections can be utilized. There are a few websites like Code.org, CodeAcademy.com, Tynker.com, Scratch, Lightbot, and Khan Academy have tools (which look more like games) that the students can use to build their skills. Khan Academy and Code Academy have for the more advanced users walk through steps with the actual scripts that are required to build something tangible and real in coding language. There are also a variety of apps available through the App Store or Google Play that leads students through the coding process similar to the websites listed above. Code Academy, Tynker,Hopscotch, Lightbot, Code School, devLearn, Scratch Kids Lite, and Hakitzu are just a few. Annually there is also the Hour of Code around December where educators are encouraged to for one hour on one day let their students explore coding. Code.org provides a variety of online resources for those to be done, as well as tools for students to use to explore.
Special Education Resource Teacher