Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

December, 2011

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Let’s go do some math


    I was watching an episode of Mythbusters the other day. I always enjoy that show and while most of the attention goes to the two main stars my favorite is Grant Imahara. On this particular episode they were trying to determine if a bullet could set off a rocket propelled grenade and if so what would happen to the people shooting both the RPG and the bullet that set it off. They started with some timings to see how fast both the bullet and the RPG would be moving. Once these timings were complete Grant utters a line you don’t hear often on TV – “Let’s go do some math!” And boy did he have some excitement in his voice as well. Now when it gets down to it what they were doing was a variation of the old “if one train leaves Chicago moving at x miles an hour and a second train leaves New York at y miles an hour where do they meet?” math problem that has been the butt of jokes for years. No, really it is the same problem. But somehow figuring out where a bullet and an RPG would meet seems a whole lot more exciting. Well at least to me and the stars of Mythbusters and I expect a lot of other people.

    The fact that there was a very practice reason for this – so they could set cameras at the right spot to record the collision – made the problem more real, relevant and exciting. There were consequences of getting it wrong. Basically there were atoms moving along as well as numbers on a sheet of paper and things were going to happen if everything was calculated correctly.  Of course for some people  including me the idea that there was going to be an explosion (also if all went well) just added to the fun. But I wonder how often we hear students in school get all excited enough to shout out with genuine enthusiasm “Let’s go do some math!”

    I have seen some of that sort of excitement among students involved in robotics even if not expressed in similar words. I see that same excitement in students working on their Imagine Cup entries as well. In both of these activities there are practical real-world results to the math. For robots it might be as simple as figuring out where the robot is. For the Imagine Cup it might be as major as creating diagnostic tools for diseases and saving lives. Regardless, the fact that things move for theory and paper to practice and real life make a difference. This is the reason we need real experiments in science classes for example. But we also need to find the way to bring the same into other courses. Computer science courses have an edge on traditional math courses in this area because we can at least show things on the screen and make it look like something is really happening. We can create games that incorporate math and physics. We can write programs that take information from various sensors (especially with Windows Phones) and combine the real/physical world with the digital world of our software.

    Not everyone can set up an actual physical experience putting bullets up against RPGs – some things are best left to the professionals – but we can use computers to simulate of lot of exciting things. And maybe that is just what we need to do to help build excitement among students. Come on – “Let’s do some math!” should be a signal that good stuff is going to happen.

    Some useful resources:

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Top Most Read Posts of 2011


    It may be a little early to post this but not much. At this point it would be a big surprise if some other post made it into this list. These fifteen posts were far and away the most read of 2011. The first on the list had over 20,000 views. The last on the list was over 4,500 views which was a good 500+ more than the next on the list. Most of these posts had so many views because of links from other places. Somehow they hit a nerve with some people and a lot of extra traffic came towards this blog. The average post was probably read about 400 times over the course of a year. Still not bad but nothing like the traffic the most viewed posts received.

    Most of these posts have a lot of comments as well. The comments add a lot of value in my opinion. I hope you’ll take a look at some of them.

    Edit: Would you believe that One Compile A Day is jumping up into the ranks of views that compare with some of the others I listed? Over 4,000 views in just the last couple of days. Next year I am waiting until the year is completely over.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 26 December 2011


    Well I spent more time on the computer in general and blogging last week then I intended. I may have a problem. Smile I managed to ignore a lot of email and didn’t do much of my usual work though so I got some break. This past weekend was spent with family and friends celebrating Christmas. It was great. I hope your weekend was as good regardless of what you do or do not celebrate. I collected a few links to share beyond the stuff I blogged about though. Perhaps you’ll find something to interest you while you rest off the weekend.

    Are you interested in learning more about the Cloud that everyone is talking about? Microsoft Kicks Off Cloud Fundamentals Video Series

    Ray Fleming in Australia talks about Using Kinect in the classroom for music teaching with some videos.

    Interested in teaching Kodu to children aged 6+ look at this great curriculum and resources

    This resource is designed to help you use Kodu as part of a class, as part of an after-school programme or to support learners who wish to discover and use Kodu at home. The aims of the resource are to get students using Kodu to gain an understanding of basic computer programming concepts and also to suggest ways that Kodu might be used to complement a more traditional curriculum.

    A couple of places including @CSEdWeek: linked to this article in the Wall Street Journal about Computer Science majors being on the rise. Is this Geek-Chic education taking off: Mark Guzdial also has come comments at Big growth in CS in NYC with others replying to it there.

    Baker Franke on retaining women in computer science CSTA Teacher Leader Champions Women in STEM at White House

    CSTA was recently recognized by the White House as a Champions of Change. This blog piece by CSTA Leadership Cohort member Baker Franke is reprinted with permission from White House blog. Baker was invite to represent CSTA at this D.C. event. The original blog piece was posted December 13th at:

    Baker is the Vice President of the Chicago chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association, a group he helped establish in 2008.

    Introduction To Designing For Windows Phone 7 And Metro, (via @smashingmag) Really good overview of wp7 design!

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