Caffeinated Collaboration

ACT testing was today and I, for once, did not have to proctor the exam. I essentially had the morning off from teaching and student contact. Upon learning this a friend and colleague of mine (@robhazle) invited me to “geek out” with him at a local coffee shop.

“Let’s drink some java and build some Arduino boards.”

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Intrigued by hanging out with him AND messing around with Arduino product, I logically agreed.

We spent about two hours messing with LEDs, resistors, circuits, and C programming. He explained, I listened; he asked, I gave feedback. Yet, despite the technical nature of our conversation, we were able to relate the Arduino-related content to teaching, our school’s engineering program, and to student learning.

We spent quite a bit of time discussing robotics, literacy (via technical reading strategies); biochemical/cellular analogies to programming, board construction, and output; and mathematical overlays of programming.

As he programmed and discussed pulse-width modulation and the nature of binary code, I couldn’t help by daydream a bit about the connections between his words and several mathematical concepts.

I was essentially asking myself (and him) these questions:

How can programming and related skills be used to bolster students’ learning of mathematics?

Who is doing this?

Which schools are doing this?

See, I’ve had so many conversations recently about designing multi-disciplinary projects and creating learning environments that encourage transference of content from one broad area to another. The one area that seems to frustrate such conversations is mathematics.

This frustration has often been likened to a thumb that juts out away from the other fingers.

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I attempted to capture this comparison in a previous post.

At this time, however, I’m left pondering these questions:

How can we use ideas like programming and board construction to better integrate mathematics with other topics?

How can we bring that thumb in a bit?

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Clearly I have more questions than answers, but I can’t help but think that in this world of #globalmath and Professional Learning Networks, PLNs, many creative and responsible ways to integrate and mature math education are possible … and well within reach.

(Thanks to my youngest son for lending a hand with this post.)

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