This year I wanted to carry on the tradition of carving pumpkins and sharing the joy of the season with the kids that I teach.
Despite their excitement to do so I did not want to repeat the same lesson as the kids have experienced in years prior, I wanted to include mathematics in a new way. When I said this to my classrooms they immediately said “oh great are we going to count the seeds, are we going to create fractions somehow”, as fractions are our current learning topic. My response of course was “I challenge you to code the pumpkins to life”. Unfortunately, my kids have not yet fully realized that coding and computational thinking is an important part of mathematical thinking.
How do I as a math teacher make room in an already crowded curriculum for coding. Should coding be its own subject, or should it be integrated within all subjects? I believe that this type of analytical thinking lives naturally within mathematics education. Moreover, computational and procedural thinking lives within all subjects, reading, writing, math and science, not just in a computer science realm. Computational thinking will continue to live in a world heavily influenced by computing and algorithms and play an important role for students to fully understand the world they are living in.
My first job was to get the students familiar with the Microbit and its block coding work space. Luckily this is easy to do as some students have prior knowledge and in general the Microbit block coding software is very user friendly. With a few minutes of how-to instructions, the students were taking off and coding all sorts of little scripts on their Microbits.
In my next lesson I introduced how to connect LEDs to the Microbit and control them. This was not a difficult task and the students picked it up quickly. The more difficult part was to be a designer and creator so they could connect multiple LEDs to the Microbit and create a script that would make their carved pumpkin stand out among the other student’s creations.
Students had to use a design process to plan in their groups how they would carve the pumpkin, how and where they would mount the LEDs and how they would program and attach the LEDs to have multiple LEDs flashing at once.