Getting Better Together: Coding In The Classroom

Getting Better Together

I tried something new this year: integrating coding with algebra. This was quite the challenge. With all the pressure for students to meet state standards, how would I introduce coding without sacrificing valuable algebra content?

I dedicated myself to search for that balance between algebra and coding, ensuring that one wasn’t prioritized over the other. I wanted coding and technology to be tools for enrichment that would help kids to understand algebra. This year was all about trial and error, succeeding and failing, experimenting and hypothesizing. It certainly took courage to try out something new, but taking that extra step toward the unknown was absolutely rewarding.

My students loved coding. I started the year with a “sandbox.” They were free to be creative and build whatever they wished. The creativity got them hooked. Once they built something, they were itching to build more. However, it only took a few days for them to realize that there were limitations. They didn’t understand enough coding to build more complex things, which of course stirred their curiosity. That’s where it all started, with the big essential question, “How can I bring my imagination to life?”

Here were some of the things they wondered:

  • How can I animate an object?
  • How can I build a car to travel at different speeds?
  • How can I make the car accelerate?
  • How can I build a three-dimensional object like a house or a tree?
  • How can I bring music into my game?
  • How can I have objects interact with other objects in my game?

In my Getting Better Together video, you’ll see me teach a group of students who take an algebra enrichment course. These students take two math classes a day, one being a regular algebra course, and the other being a support class. These students benefit from supplementary instruction, providing them with lessons that readdress seventh and eighth-grade math concepts, as well as new algebra concepts taught throughout their freshmen year.

I asked students to animate a rocket scenario where the rocket blasts off at different speeds and model it with a table, graph, and an equation. They’re essentially building a function to model the situation. Here, I want students to see that multiple models represent the same thing and to be able to highlight the important features from each representation. After creating the model, students are asked to create a code to animate their given rocket situation. For this, I used a platform from code.org. Building an animation code is similar to building an algebraic function. Code.org does an excellent job tying in big ideas like “domain and range,” “input and output,” “variables,” and “functions.”

Since this is an algebra enrichment course, there are plenty of opportunities to try something new, which in this case, opens the door to real-world applications for algebra through coding. Help me better understand these kinds of real-world applications in my interactive Tch Video Lounge video.

I hope these videos, particularly my strategy video, which focuses on using technology tools for assessment, give you a good sense of how I use digital experiences to increase student engagement and knowledge. It’s exciting to try out all sorts of instructional technology and identify which works best for my students.

Next year, I already have a few new tech ideas to try out. Thanks to the Technology for Teachers #TchLIVE Twitter chat, I picked up quite a few new ideas for integrating technology in my classroom. I want to thank all the teachers who were involved in sharing their favorite tech tools. If it weren’t for the Teaching Channel community, I may not have stumbled across some of my “hidden gems” of educational technology this year.

Josh Kwon teaches math at Mariner High School in Everett, WA. He is affiliated with the Martinez Foundation, which provides support programs to teachers of color in underserved public schools. He’s devoting his time to finding innovative ways to teach math that will reach and engage diverse students. Connect with Josh on Twitter: @Jkwon0608.

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