A Classroom Anecdote
Nine-year-old Kara had a history of difficulty in mathematics class, to the point that her teacher felt compelled at the start of a robotics workshop to warn the facilitator that “Kara has no number sense.” That caution was voiced when students were asked to program their robots to move forward a set distance, and the truth of the warning was evident almost immediately. Tasked with moving the robot only a few meters, Kara’s opening guess was 1000 robot-wheel rotations.
Suspecting the issue might be rooted in a history of engaging with numbers on a mainly symbolic level, the facilitator invited Kara to the hallway and asked her to walk a set distance (about10 meters). Kara was then asked to estimate the number of wheel rotations it might take to move the robot that distance. She guessed 10, entered the value on her iPad control, and watched as the robot moved about 2 meters. The facilitator invited a second estimate, and Kara guessed 20 rotations. For the third attempt, she guessed 30. And then something happened. In a flash of realization, and to her teacher’s amazement, Kara appeared to utilize the underlying proportional relationships of the values she had entered. With a beaming smile, on her fourth attempt she keyed in 50, and watched in confident anticipation as the robot moved the desired distance.
What to Learn from this Anecdote
Playing with robots and number distance was an opportunity for Kara to show what she knew, as opposed what she didn’t know. The possibilities for Kara’s learning of mathematics increased dramatically in this moment. The teacher’s new awareness of Kara’s strong spatial sense of number prompted a re-examination of resources and practices to design learning that occasions more deliberate spatial opportunities for Kara’s growth in understanding of number. Kara’ initial experience prompted a multi-year investigation in classrooms to reconceptualized the teaching of mathematics with robots and STEM.
STEM is Dynamic and Evolving
Our definition of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is dynamic and evolving to keep science and mathematics on children’s horizon of possibilities. Within two years of evidence-based STEM teaching, Kara’s story changed from not being good at math to “Kara has always been good at math.” We would like every child’s story to be the same.
A Curated Selection of STEM Resources
In this site you will find a curated selection of resources, research, and robotics tasks that were collaboratively designed-tested-revised in classrooms with the help of teachers, mathematics education researchers, engineers, and mathematicians. We would love to hear about your experiences trying these tasks in your classroom.
We would like to express our utmost gratitude to the teachers and students at Calgary Academy, Calgary Jewish Academy, Calgary Girls School, Connect Charter, Evergreen Elementary in Drayton Valley, and Pakan School at Whitefish.