alice in summerland

learning and teaching math in alice


I am currently in limbo as I wait for Professor Rodger to approve my programs so that I can make tutorials for them.

The five tutorials I sent her were multiplicationTable, mathVocab, multiplyingMatrices, arrangements, and marbles (all of these will be renamed). Sending these tutorials to her (and also to my high school math teacher who knows Alice and who I’ve asked to look at some of my worlds) has forces me to synthesize my ideas from each of the programs and come up with brief descriptions that I can use while introducing and explaining them and their current states:

  1. multiplicationTable: Student fills out a randomly generated order of boxes in a 0-10×0-10 multiplication table. Numbers turn green if correct, red if incorrect. If the player types in “answer,” the answer is given in red, if they type “end” the game is ended, and if they get it wrong they have to keep trying until they get it right. In a tutorial I would need to include a starting world because it took so many hours of meticulousness to put 121 3D objects into the matrix at the perfect size. I would give include the whole setup of the world in the starting world and then have the student program the game.
  2. mathVocab: Practicing using >, <, = signs with a balance scale thing. Examples for the scale include number of soccer balls, number of green animals, integers, decimals, sums, products, quotient, but I could also add more.
  3. multiplyingMatrices: Player types in numbers into two 2×2 matrices they want to multiply. The equation of the bottom helps them solve each element of the solution matrix (i.e. a11*b11 + a12*b21 = c11). Click on the numbers to move them to the positions highlighted in green. The decimals here are annoying when using integers, but there’s no way around that if I want the player to get to specify which matrices they want to multiply each time they run the program. If they are pre-generated, the “.0” isn’t necessary.
  4. arrangements: Teaches factorials and permutations by playing around with arrangements of 2, 3, and 4 people into a line. This is pretty simple- I made it on my third day.
  5. marbles: Red and blue are in two boxes. Player chooses if they want to see a stratified random sample, meaning each box has an equal probability of selection and then the marbles in the box do after that, and a simple random sample, meaning all marbles are equally likely regardless of box. On top there is essentially a bar graph or just a collection of the balls. More could be added to this, especially more that would incorporate probability calculations into the programming process.

I tweaked and tweaked and tweaked these programs today, and they still need to be tweaked more before they are perfect and tutorial-ready.

I also read two papers:  Planting the seeds of computational thinking: An introduction to programming suitable for inclusion in STEM curricula, which I discuss here, and An Innovative Approach with Alice for Attracting K-12 Students to Computing, which I discuss here. I’m a pretty slow reader/comprehender, so reading and taking notes on these papers took a while.

In other business, Peggy and I are trying to give Chitra a taste of Duke by taking her to some of the good lunch places near the North building. We went to Blue Express Thursday, Twinnie’s Friday, and the Refectory today. ‘Twas good!

I’ve also discovered that upbeat music and my mood are strongly positively correlated. I’ve devised a fun playlist for me to listen to while walking here and while coding–music to my programs.

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