Project URL: www.teachersnetwork.org/teachnetusa/knorth/math.htm 

How it works:
In this program, students use a simple, free programming environment, DrScheme, which provides a library of programming commands that enable them to create graphics to make clip art for enhancing Web pages. The graphics have a unique look and are simple, clean, and have a very small file size for fast loading. These graphics use the basic drawing tools of a line, rectangle, and circle. The students learn to plan their design using these basic shapes by drawing an object on graph paper, plotting key positions of the object, and then studying the relationship of one point to another. They learn to use the basic drawing commands for a circle, a rectangle, and a line in the creation of a picture. The circle uses parameters for the center point, the radius, and the color. Students, guided in the use of functions and patterns, make the connection that the first parameter in a rectangle is the position of the corner, the next argument is the horizontal length, then the height, and last the color. By sketching their balloons with strings and plotting the needed data on graph paper, students are able to write the code that creates the picture.

This procedure serves as a reference to "walk" students through the process. It takes about one hour with an interactive demo to have most of the students completing their picture. They are given a printed hand-out with detailed written instructions that they can use as a reference to create the picture without a demonstration. More detailed instructions can be found at: www.knorth.info

Standards addressed: 
Applying Math Principles To Create Graphics addresses various State Standards including algebraic thinking, problem solving, and symbolic reasoning; using concrete models to solve equations and using symbols to record the actions; representation of data; variables; the relationship between algebra and geometry; geometric thinking; and the use of computers with graphing capabilities to solve problems and analyze relationships.

Materials used:
A computer with Internet connection (to download free software from
http://plt-scheme.org/software/drscheme/) and graph paper is required.

The students:
Any student population in grades seven through twelve can use this software. G/T-level students can advance to the variable graphics by looking at sample code, whereas the lower-level student can be taken through the steps by observation and copying the teacher steps. It helps to have computer literacy skills, but some students can learn how to type and use a computer by doing an activity, such as programming, on it. 

Overall value:
The design elements in programming are applicable to all curriculum areas. Programming is applied algebra at its best, and it helps to improve critical thinking skills, as students move from the concrete to the abstract. Students learn to follow rules, pay attention to details, and analyze data. Programming graphics is fun and creative. It requires thinking and teaching differently and exercises the brain. It is a unique technology tool, different from the Office applications, and "different" motivates interest. And, of utmost importance in algebra, it teaches functions and patterns.

Programming is used in all careers, from musicians who program synthesizers, to all who design Web pages. It is also used in application software. In fact, a Westside High School student who is a self-taught programmer in many computer languages, won a computer application contest based on his programming skills; he had never programmed an Excel spreadsheet prior to this. How can students find out if they like programming if they are never exposed to computer science?  Programming Graphics is just a start into the world of computer science. 

Give students the freedom and time to explore-- let them "become" the teachers.  Hands-on demonstrations help; following written instructions is much harder. Teachers can be walked through this graphic lesson in one hour and everyone can be a successful programmer.

Those interested in learning more advanced programming to teach computer science can attend a free TeachScheme! workshop (http://teach-scheme.org/). Give it a try, you just might find how easy and fun programming can be with a little planning and a design recipe.


About the teacher:
Karen North is a computer science teacher and technology trainer from
Westside High School in Houston ISD. She has served as president of the Texas Computer Education Association Computer Science SIG and has made presentations at math and technology conferences. She has also has worked with the Texas Education Agency in developing the computer science Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills and with the State Board of Educator Certification. 


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