alice in summerland

learning and teaching math in alice

Teacher workshop

Today was the first day of the 2-day workshop we’re running for middle and high school teachers that have come to the longer workshops that Duke has hold in previous years. Professor Rodger began the day with updates for our Alice project since the last time they might have been to Duke, so she discussed some project worlds that were created last year, the $2.5 million grant she just got to work on this project in the next 5 years at North Carolina, South Carolina, and Mississippi sites, and the goals we have for this year in terms of making programs to fit the middle school math curriculum.

Peggy, Chitra, and I presented our worlds, and the teachers seemed to find them interesting. When I presented I got a few requests from teachers who wanted specific worlds. One teacher wanted a basic arithmetic program that would connect the idea of adding objects (like 3 soccer balls + 4 soccer balls) to the idea of adding actual numbers. An AP history teacher requested a world that helped visualize random dialing, so randomly dialing a 10-digit number (or 7 digits after 919) and then choosing a random person from the population. He gave this idea after I showed my basic red and blue marble sampling program. Another cool idea someone had was to make an angry birds tutorial with trigonometry, which sounds like a pretty cool idea that would be fun for kids to play and learn math at the same time.

Liz Liang presented some of the work she did during her senior year working on Alice and science in the CSURF program. She’s worked on some cool worlds, including a pong game that people thought was awesome, a bar chart that she sent to CMU to be used in many worlds, and some other earth-science related stuff. Way cooler than most of the worlds I’ve made so far, and it gave me some hope for more advanced and exciting things in Alice!

Liz added that she had fun writing these blogs, but then sped through them during teacher-workshop time: “The start out really long, and by the end of the summer they’ll be like 3 lines,” she said. I can understand that as I’m writing this during the workshop!

For today’s Wednesday lunch, Professor Alex Hartemink first discussed his research in computational biology. As an undergrad at Duke, he studied math, physics, and economics, but decided to study computer science, statistics, and biology at MIT for grad school. He told us about grad school in general, research, etc., and said grad school is the best time of your life because you “just get paid for thinking,” which sounds like a good deal to me.

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