Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chalk Talk

We just finished Algorithms and methods last week. I focused on the connection between using methods in C++ and designing good algorithms to solve problems. This is a change, this year I introduced methods before we did if's and loops. My thinking is if the students start by using sub routines we don't have to undo bad habits later. So far it has gone very well.

We did BYOB - Scratch right before Winter Break to move from learning about the Internet to programming. Nice (and unplanned) side effect, it has made methods in C++ much easier for the students. I wish I had designed this nice transition. The reality was that day two of methods one of the kids turned around and yelled across the room "This isn't hard - it's just like all those blocks we did in Scratch before Christmas".
Well, duh.

Sidewalk Chalk

So the Friday before the test we had one of those days. Any public school teacher knows those days. I lost power to 1/3 of the lab (future reference the breaker box is in the boiler room, panel 4). And a mouse, four-legged kind. A very active mouse.

There is a point where no matter how beautiful your lesson plans are, you just have to dump and run. Kids were distracted and we really couldn't do our computer practice. So we went outside.

I borrowed some chalk and put the kids in teams of three. I gave each group a copy of the lab we'll do at the end of next unit. The lab has them design methods for a calendar program. They have to count the number of days left in a month, return the total number of days in a month, then using these they have to count the total number of days between two dates.

We haven't done if's or loops yet, so this is not something they could code in C++, but I was curious to see how they did. They each had to sketch out an algorithms they could use to find a solution.

The solutions were great. Every group figured out that they could use the first two methods in a loop to count the days. This is a program I have done in the past with students and they often struggle with this concept. I am curious to see if the coding is easier this year.

And the mouse is gone- I caught in a cup later that day and he was released back into the garden.

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