lim joe→∞

Teaching, Mathematics and Teaching Math.

Scratch (programming language), call for activities

Posted by forumjoe on July 8, 2009

Not a review, I’ll do that after I’ve finished teaching the unit.

Scratch

Scratch is great for a lot of reasons, it really lets kids get some of the concepts of loops, variables and general programming techniques, without needing to get caught up in syntax and compilation errors.

Today I created an exercise that used Scratch to do some basic Logo stuff. It worked really well. The class essentially created a script that involved a loop that took one variable (n) and drew an n sided shape. With a little bit of prompting and assistance, most students were able to use variables effectively. End goal is a script that looks like:

Pen Down
Repeat n times
Take 20 steps
Rotate (360/n)
End loop.

Extension activity: use a second variable to define the size of the shape

Second extension: What happens if you change any of the variables INSIDE the loop?  Can you create anything cool with it?

When posed as a problem that the needed to solve, it got most of them interested. What are some other similar ‘tasks’?

There are lots of teaching resources about Scratch around, and I found a really good study which referred to how good Scratch can be in a university environment (can’t find link atm, will update when I do). But that only referred to the specific exercises they tried, and didn’t include said exercises.

Most of the Scratch support materials seemed based around the “Just play around and see what you can do” theory, which is fine for some people, but my students just seem to get bored, and don’t like to play around with new things they don’t understand; well and truly like to stay within their comfort zone. What I find works best is to give them a challenge, and let them work out how to do it with the tools available. It’s a fairly well explored teaching theory, but yet there aren’t very many challenges out there for Scratch. I’d really like to get the exercises the guys in the article used (will have to email them) but there’s not much else out there, so this is a call for help. From either a programming background or a Flash/Animation background, what are some challenges I can get the students to solve that involve really basic control-loops and variables?

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