Having used coding for this school year, it seems like there are so many teachable moments to use with my class that I did not know existed. I want to outline three accidental discoveries while I was teaching geometry.
1. Teaching the characteristics of shapes is in the Code
I have taught characteristics of shapes countless times in my career. It wasn’t until I integrated coding that I discovered an amazing way to teach this lesson. Coding forces kids to read the characteristics of shapes. Lisa Floyd particularly likes this lesson. Look at this code:
To identify this shape, students would examine the code and point out:
- All of the sides are equal (Move Forward 300)
- There are more than one 72 degree angles (more on this point later)
- It repeats 5 times
Knowing the above, a student might guess that the shape is a pentagon.
2. To code a shape, students have to know the exterior angle as well as the interior angle
I remember an EQAO question that asked students the exterior angle of a shape similar to this drawing I showed my class:
To code a pentagon using Hopscotch, students discovered and told me that the character has to travel in a complete 360 degrees so that he returns where he started. In coding a pentagon, you would divide 360 by 5. So a student would place 72 degrees in the code repeated 5 times. This fact allowed me to focus on that EQAO question that stumped my class years ago. To code Sphero, a student would follow the same code so that the robotic ball follows the correct path.
3. When a shape repeats and draws, it always forms a circle
After coding a shape, students wanted to rotate the shape slightly and make the drawing repeat countless times. They considered it fun. No matter which shape was coded, it always created a circle when it was repeated. This concept is hard to explain and perhaps these images will explain my accidental discovery best. The code on the top, produces the pentagon / circle pattern seen below:
Students were genuinely fascinated to learn these geometry points in an authentic way. They were also motivated by the fact that I did not intent to teach these accidental discoveries. Isn’t learning best when teachers are surprised too? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and maybe you can share your accidental discoveries in using coding.