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Help! New to Scratch-Teacher Attempting to Teach Programming as Part of Main Curriculum in My Math Classes This Year

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Dillon Daniel-Hoffman
 Good afternoon,

          My name is Dillon Daniel-Hoffman and I'm so excited to begin something bold this fall. Starting in Septemer (late August really with inservice week) I will attempt to do something completely different in class. I have taught for three years now, all at this great public charter high school in Oregon called Oregon City Service Learning Academy. It is a school that sort of functions as the de-facto alternative high school for the district, and our approximately 180 students have largely been kicked around and given up on in their past academic and personal environments. They come often with high anxiety and with gaps in their academic and functional knowledge and skills. Because we are a public charter school, as the school's advanced math teacher, I am mandated to follow the state (and now Common Core) standards and attempt to teach my students the same Algebra, Geometry, Statistics and Probability, and Trig concepts that any other school would (we don't get up through Calculus, at least we haven't yet). I have a wonderful relationship with my students, many of which I will have for at least two full years while they are at our school, but helping them through the standardized mathematics curriculum is a nightmare. Every day is a battle to try to get past their apathy and disinterest, their anxiety and fear of the subject that has been generated by years of feeling inadequate and failing and/or having a traumatic experience with a teacher or with the material. I am often the third teacher they've had try to explain solving an equation or how to graph something on an x-y coordinate plane. My students are burned out with school in general, but especially with math. And yet, for the last three years, I have done what I was told to. I got them through as much material as I could. Most of them passed. They thanked me and then they were done.

            And the whole time, when I zoomed out, I felt horrible. Like I was living a lie. It's 2014! Why am I forced to teach students the pythagorean theorem and algebraic equations and not something applicable like game design or computer programming! Kids are developing apps at early ages and becoming millionaries, while my students are learning concepts they'll almost instantly forget and never use again! Especially because they are almost all not four year college bound. And the worst part? Since we got a SIG (School Improvement Grant) a few years ago, we replaced textbooks with laptops! We have a wonderful innovative site for math that I've used for two years now (, but it's just a 21st century tool used to teach centuries old curriculum! These laptops should be used for something better...something, applicable...

            It was at a conference in May that I heard about Scratch. The dream became a plan. And that's where I'm at now. My principal is on board. Next year, I will attempt to do something different. I will alternate between the Common Core Standardized Mathematics that I'm forced to teach, and the computer programming skills that my students need (and will probably want) to learn. At least...that is the plan. Because here's the immensely scary part: I have never done this before. I took a couple of programming classes in college, but those were awful and burned me out with computer programming without giving me the knowledge and confidence necessary to do it, much less teach it. So, in the next month I'm diving in and trying to figure this out. I'm excited and scared and hopeful. Can I get 180 or so students signed up for this site? Will it work? What is the progression of stuff that I teach them when we're starting out? And how do I best go about this? Will this just fail miserably, or will it become a model that hopefully many schools like mine and in general could follow? So many questions, and any insight would be greatly appreciated. The journey begins now. Thank you so much for reading this and sharing anything that you might feel inclined to share. 
Jason Rukman
Take a look at our scratch courses we've created at; let me know if you'd like more information and trial access to see if it's a fit for you.  We are focused on providing support for teachers like yourself to deliver coding courses in the classroom; we're you're backup team when you need us!
Tiny Techs Club

I'm a new member so am just reading this. I wish I had read this last year - could have definitely helped out!

Anyways - we create comprehensive curriculums to teach SCRATCH  to elementary school students from grades 2 -5. We have a structured lesson plan that progresses from teaching the fundamental elements of SCRATCH to writing scripts using Operators and Variables. We print out books for students to use and refer to during class, and we send home project ideas to try out at home.

We have never taught high-school students before - and definitely not with a  math theme - but I would be happy to discuss some ideas of how we can possibly get your students interested, engaged and motivated!

SCRATCH is a great tool to learn programming and logic fundamentals and the possibilities are endless - this is my second full curriculum that I have developed and I feel that I've barely "scratched" the surface!!  :)

Email me at if you would like more information.