Saturday, August 25, 2012

Transformations with Scratch

Students need to do more

I don't mean problems. I mean building. Creating. Writing. Designing. I think it can be amazing [read: tragic] how little students actually produce in a typical math class - no wonder math is often perceived as abstract and disconnected from the real world.

Having students do more is good for about a million reasons. They provide a firm foundation to build on their prior knowledge and experience, formulate questions, climb the ladder of abstraction, and experience how math is connected to the world they live in. And the best part? The result of their growth is concrete. It's not a completed worksheet, or a good grade on a test. Maybe it's a video, or a presentation, or a programmed simulation, or whatever. The point is that it is something much more real.


That all being said, there are reasons why projects aren't the norm in math. I know some schools have taken bold steps and are letting going of pre-determined curricula in place of project-based learning and student-driven inquiry, but they're the minority. And not my school.

In a typical public school, I think these are the main challenges for using projects in math: 

  1. Finding projects that fit the unit.
  2. Student expectations of what math class is.
  3. Presenting the projects to students.
  4. Assessing the projects.
  5. Instructional time.
  6. Planning time.
My plan is not to solve all of these challenges this year. My hope is to create some space and a framework that allows me to insert projects more frequently.

First project: Transformations with Scratch

I participated in a CS4HS workshop this summer and was introduced to Scratch. The best way to learn what it is is to play with it. Go ahead, it's a free download, cross-platform, and fun.

The first project of the year for my geometry students is going to be creating a 30 second animation with Scratch. I like this it introduces programming as well as gives students a deeper experience with transformations. 

Here's the handout for students that I will use. The front side presents the task and details to the student; the back contains the rubric by which the projects will be assessed.

Scratch project

I could greatly use some critical feedback before I give this a go. Design, language, rubric, whatever. The "product" part of the rubric definitely needs improvement, but I'm having trouble describing what it is that I want students to produce.

After this project, I plan on tweaking the setup and then using this as my template for the rest of the projects. Hopefully it will making creating new ones quicker and easier!


  1. Hello Kevin - I just came across your post and was wondering how it went. I'm thinking about working Scratch into an upcoming variables unit (6th graders). Any tips? Thanks!