[Testing] [IAEP] NewTechHigh at Coppell and Etoys info needed

Steve Thomas sthomas1 at gosargon.com
Sun Nov 21 14:14:13 EST 2010

On Sat, Nov 20, 2010 at 3:19 PM, Caryl Bigenho <cbigenho at hotmail.com> wrote:

> they want to create math games for these children to use on the XOs.
Wonderful.  Games are a great way to learn.  A couple of games come to mind:

   1. Tic-Tac-Toe
   2. Bingo
   3. Guess my Rule


One really good game is tic-tac-toe with some math twists.  This is based on
a teacher warm-up developed by Robert Davis as part of the Madison project.
 First draw a grid of dots 5 x 5.  Break the kids into two teams and have
the kids pick two numbers between 0 and 9 (let's say they pick 2 and 4) you
start at the dot in the lower left and count from 0 to 2 (getting to the
third dot) then count up from 0 getting to the fourth do and place an X.
Then the other team goes and their mark is O. You get the idea, if they go
off the board simply say sorry you moved off the board.  This will teach
them counting and coordinate geometry all without having to explicitely tell
them what they are learning. Part of the key is to NOT explain the rules to
the kids and let them figure it out.  Varying versions of this can be
created in Etoys.  You can then extend the game to include concepts like "a
number is all the ways you can name it" where they pick two numbers and you
apply an operation to those numbers (you could have them guess the operation
as part of the game as well, see guess my rule below).  You can also use it
when introducing negative numbers by moving the origin so that they have to
use negative numbers to win.  Here is a link to a
wrote about the game a while back.

I got this idea from Avigail Snir, who created a Bingo game for kids where
they are given two or three numbers and asked to apply mathematical
operations to those numbers to come up with a number on their Bingo board.

*Guess my Rule*
This was another game created by Robert Davis to teach kids about functions.
 The function machine (played by a student or teacher) comes up with a rule
(ex: x +2, x *2, (x + 1) * 2, etc) then the players say a number and the
function machine spits out the answer.  The players have to "guess the
rule".  Eventually this leads to some interesting conversations when some
kid comes up with a rule like (x + 2 - 3 + 4) * 2 / 2.  Then you can have a
good class discussion about functional equivalence. This can be rendered in
Etoys by building a function machine, where a number is dropped into the
machine and out the other end comes the answer.  You could also create a
table of answers and plot the answers, which leads to more interesting
observations and learning.  Part of the key is to make as much of the
invisible visible (through showing the table of answers and the plots).

*General Comments on games created to "teach math"*
The problem with a lot of games I have seen created by kids (and adults) is
that they are what I will call "teach me to memorize calculation rules" as
opposed to teach me to do the other parts of mathematics (from Wolfram Ted

   1. Posing the right questions
   2. Real world -> math formulation (or a Etoys model)
   3. Computation
   4. Math formulation -> real world, verification.  I am purposely avoiding
   terms like "school math" vs "real math" because that is a distinction I
   would like to see erased, and also it can offend and put folks on the
   defensive (the goal is to win the person, not the argument).

One 10 year old I have worked with said he built a math game in Scratch.
When I asked him about it, he described it as "a math that only a parent
could love" because it was about practicing rote calculation.

Another way to think about it is they are creating "playthinks" (objects to
think/play with that embody and/or expose certain powerful ideas).  I got
this term from "The Big Book of Brain
by Ivan Moscovich.  Cuiesenaire Rods and Pattern Blocks could be used here.

In other emails I wlll send examples of each type of project. Part of the
challenge will be deciding "what should be easy and what should be hard" for
the kids in creating their own games.  The answer to that question will
guide the facilitators in how much they want to show them ready made
projects vs having kids create Etoys projects from "scratch".  Some of the
techniques are not easily discoverable (which is good and bad).

Another thought besides math games is to create "Etoys Challenges" (for an
excellent example try the "Etoys Challenge game" from the "Tutorials and
Demos" section off the Etoys "home page".  The kids could create sample
projects where the students use a set of "pre-selected" tiles to perform a
task or program a car or robot.

Their project director is a math teacher and she wants her students to try
> again this year to create math learning games for the children in their
> project in Ghana.  I suggested she try Etoys this time and promised to get
> her more information on how to do it.  Anything they create will be at a
> very elementary level as most of the children in the shelter have had no
> prior school experience.
So I am reminded of the story Alan tells of kindergardeners learning
calculus concepts.  Just because the kids have no prior school experience
does not mean they can not grasp "more advanced concepts" if they are
presented using appropriate metaphors and concrete representations.
 Combinatorics for example, the kids could create some games where they see
"how many different outfits can you make with *two* diferent color shirts
and *two* different color pants.  You could have the kids "prove" (discuss
their reasoning as to why they think theythey have found all the possible
combinations as they increase the number of pants and shirts.

Their lessons in Etoys should be as language neutral as possible and the
> words they do use can be translated and used by deployments anywhere so this
> could be a very useful project.
The other advantage of  being "language neutral" is that this should tend to
help "put concepts first" and keep the terminology to a minimum.  It seems
to me that introducting terminology too early, is what gets in the way of
learning the concepts.

So I have some questions about things I need to know to help them.
> How do you transfer an Etoys lesson to the XO (they will have both XO-1s
> and XO-1.5s) if they lessons are created:

> On a Mac using Etoys downloaded from the web:
> On a PC using Etoys downloaded from the web:
> On Etoys to go downloaded from the web and, possibly used on both Macs and
> PCs (they have both at New Tech):
All Etoys projects (.pr files) can be run on any version (by which I mean
the Mac, PC and Etoys to go versions, not version 3 vs 4, which may presesnt
some issues I will go into later).

> Is there a good way to disseminate the projects so that the children won't
> accidentally erase them... perhaps by using SD cards or USB sticks? Cost is
> a factor.
If they can be downloaded from the Web there is no cost.

> Or... could they make a custom build for their project that would include
> their Etoys lessons in a way that they wouldn't accidentally be erased?
I need to double check this for the XO, but Etoys projects would have to be
explicitely erased from the machines.  Each time you "save a project" it
creates a new version.

Also I would recommend they use Books and flaps in their projects.  Books
are found in the supplies bin and have a menu option to make the in page
controls to make the pages revertible (ie: save its current state and when I
use or fire the tile "revert page" all objects on that page go back to the
saved state).  Flaps are very useful for instructions. hints  and guides.
 They can be found in the supplies bin of Etoys 4.1+ in earlier versions
click (<CMD><,> or <CTRL><,>) and you will get a menu with one of the
options as "flaps..."

> I will probably have more questions as we go along, but this will help get
> us all started.
Please we love questions ;)

> GrannieB (Caryl)
> For more info about NewTech at Coppell:
> http://www.coppellisd.com/newtech/lib/newtech/pdfs/demonstrationsiteprofile.pdf
> http://www.newtechnetwork.org/newtech_schools   (watch the video linked in
> the upper right corner to see how the school works)
> _______________________________________________
> IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
> IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org
> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep
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