As a key part of the coordinate plane, negative numbers quickly come into play during initial explorations of Scratch. Angles/degrees are added to the mix as students look for ways to fine-tune their sprites' motion, and can form the basis for creative games such as these two examples. And those topics, while providing plenty of room for learning, are just the beginning of the concepts that can be brought to life using Scratch.
Learning about math with Scratch doesn’t have to be limited to math-focused projects. Short problems can easily be worked into games, where solving problems might let a player advance in the game or collect more currency. Nearly any type of project allows students to practice fundamentals like cartesian coordinates, so students can pursue projects based around personal interests while getting comfortable with these concepts.
Álvaro Molina Ayuso, a secondary school math teacher in Spain, has students create Scratch projects showing practical applications of the ideas covered in each unit. For example, his students learning about percentages used Scratch to portray a scenario, such as an online shop, which requires the calculation of a product discount.
Another way to visualize how percentages work, especially for those who are completely new to the topic, is by using the “scale” command with various percentages and noting how the size of the sprite shifts accordingly. Visualizing changes to a shape or object by changing a sprite can also help students learning about transformations, who can program sprites to perform translations, rotations, and reflections. Karen Randall shares several suggestions for projects related to transformations, geometry, probability, and other topics in this resource. She also outlines sample geometry projects here.
For U.S. teachers hoping to integrate Scratch into classrooms guided by Common Core standards, Kelly Vaughan provides a series of three math lessons for middle school students. In these lessons, sixth graders draw polygons in the coordinate plane, seventh graders look into scale drawings of geometric figures, and eighth graders create function machine programs.
Several teachers have found that Scratch can be a nice platform to bring students together across grade boundaries. Older students may enjoy mentoring their younger counterparts in the use of Scratch, and they can also create games that allow younger students to have fun while practicing grade-appropriate problem solving. For example, games similar to this one shared by Ben Johnson could be programmed by one grade for the grade below them.
Beyond introducing operations and concepts, Scratch can help students see the beauty in math. Many Scratchers have produced creative projects showcasing colorful patterns, fractals and more. This studio has several good examples, as does this studio of work by 10th graders taught by Maria Beatrice Rapaccini.
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