Monday, January 30, 2017

Minnetonka Linear Algebra 8th Graders Use Bootstrap to Code

Recently eighth grade students in Sarah Beron’s Linear Algebra class at Minnetonka Middle School West showcased their Bootstrap projects. Bootstrap is a coding curriculum that uses a “video game development programming pedagogy” while reinforcing algebra concepts for middle school students, integrating it with math curriculum rather than making it an add on, elective, or after school club. In Bootstrap, students need to think through problems, troubleshoot their code, come up with solutions, and understand programming behind the scenes. Because of its emphasis on the close ties with mathematics, Bootstrap helps students who may traditionally struggle with math see connections between their learning and something in real life with which they are familiar: video games. (Bootstrap Overview Video)

Last summer along with other Minnetonka teachers, Sarah attended a Bootstrap training to learn more about the program and plan to use it with her math students this year.  The curriculum is free, and Sarah used the lessons for Bootstrap 1 with her math support class for a 24 day unit. In Bootstrap 1, students “create a simple, 3-character game involving a player, a target and a danger. They design what each character looks like, and use algebraic concepts to detect collisions, handle keystrokes, and determine how they move and interact.”

The students I spoke with found the program fun and enjoyed applying their math skills to a real-life situation in order to make the video game that they were designing. One thing Sarah really liked about Bootstrap was the fact that it required students to pay careful attention to details. When their program wouldn’t work if they missed a single character, number, or symbol they would have to debug it in order to figure out what went wrong. She wants her math students to use the same skills in algebra, such as paying attention to whether or not a number in an equation is a positive or negative and appreciating the importance of these details, too.

The students completed numerous exercises in a workbook to learn that basics of coding and then used the WeScheme program to write their code. It was a lot of work for the students but they benefited from it. They were able to see and experience the importance and value of math skills and see computer coding as a possible future area of study and career. Math students taught by Rhonda Lundgren at our other middle school will begin their Bootstrap unit later this week. Bootstrap is one of many tools used in Minnetonka Schools to teach computer programming and computer science. More on the Tonka Codes Program:

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