alice in summerland

learning and teaching math in alice

Eyes glued

It is 10:00 p.m. as I write this blog, and I have been working since around 9:30 a.m.—I guess this makes up for some of the time I missed on Friday!

New tutorial to teach simple and stratified random sampling.

This morning and early afternoon I worked on correcting my simple random sample/stratified random sample, red/blue ball tutorial, and as I wrote it I realized a lot of things needed to be changed. For starters, two of my methods, simple and stratified, were almost exactly the same. So I nixed those and created a simple “choose” method that works for both of them. This was an easy switch because the two really aren’t much different. All I needed were 3 parameters: numChosen balls (number of balls the player wants to cho0se), numTotalBalls (total number of balls the player can choose), and allBalls (an array of the balls that the player can choose). Also, as you can see in the picture, I named the tutorial “1 ball, 2 ball, red ball, blue ball” after the classic Dr. Seuss book “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Hopefully the kids still read Dr. Seuss!

Once the code for the world looked good and I got to slide 11 in the tutorial, I remembered a world that I really wanted to make. My Statistics and also Algebra II teacher from high school would use the random number generator on his calculator to do various things, such as choose 5 people to do a problem on the board or create new seating arrangements. Each of us were assigned a number based on our order in the alphabet, and we had to remember that number throughout the year so he could use them to generate random numbers associated with us. Although somewhat entertaining, there were a couple problems with this process. Besides forgetting our numbers, one major problem was that the calculator’s random number generator has no memory of what numbers it has already generated. Thus, if we were trying to get all 21 numbers for people to switch seats, getting those last few took forever.

Player chooses at the beginning if he wants to randomly select students all at once or one at a time.

So, I created a world called choosePeople that solves this problem. There are two buttons at the start: “all at once” and “one at a time.” The all at once option prompts the player for the number of people he wants to choose from the class and then chooses and displays the specified number of people randomly. This would be used for situations where a teacher wanted to choose 5 people to go on the board to work homework problems, for example. The one at a time option allows the player to click on a “+1” in the bottom right corner if he wants to randomly select another person who hasn’t yet been chosen (both options keep track of which have already been chosen).

Player has randomly selected 10 students one at a time by clicking +1 in the corner 10 times.

There are a few limitations to this program. Because I used randomGirl people for the girls and randomGuy people for the boys, I had to know ahead of time which people were going to be girls and which would be boys. This could be a problem because other classes won’t have the same number of girls and boys as I did in my AP Statistics class, which was the example I used. Classes also wouldn’t have the same number of people. In these cases, someone who wanted to use this would need to add however many people he wanted to the already-existing 18-person visual list, resize the visual (yet currently hidden) list based on the number of people in the class, change the genders, change the heads, add the bodies to the allPeople list, add the heads to the allHeads list, and change the instructions that ask for a number from 1-18 to 1-however many in the class. Many of these I could account for, but I don’t think I could fix the boy:girl ratio problem.

If I do decide to make a tutorial for this world rather than just an example world, I would need to fix some of the problems mentioned above. I would also need to consider providing an example world (which I’m also doing for the red/blue marble world because there are a lot of objects) with all the people in it. I would probably change the number of people to 5 or something that would be easy to see because it was difficult for me to get all 18 people to show up on the screen—I had to get every even-numbered person to move up 3.7 meters and every odd-numbered person to move down 0.7 meters. Moving them in the Add objects section rather than in the method oddly didn’t stick when I reopened the program.

In any case, this was a really fun world to make because I could really see it being used in my former classroom and it solves many problems that we came across with the calculator’s random number generator.

I now have a package, if you will, of world teaching randomness—one for random digit dialing, one for simple/stratified random sampling, and one for sampling in a very applied context.

I also realized today that it would be nice if we had a program that could automatically make tutorials for our worlds. Seeing as all my tutorials pretty much use the same wording, spacing, picture placement, etc., I actually don’t think that this would be hard to do for an advanced programmer. Since it’s my last week without a workshop going on, I obviously don’t have time for that, but it is a little disappointing to me that I made most of my worlds in my first two weeks and have really just been tweaking those, making simple ones, and creating tutorials since then. Although I think the tutorials are great for the kids, all of this familiarity that I have built throughout the last handful of weeks have made me a pretty solid Alice programmer, and I have made some pretty cool worlds when I’ve recently gotten the opportunity. The problem is that spending 80% of the time making tutorials for the worlds does suck some of the fun out of it and also detracts from the time I have to continue to make cool worlds.

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