MOTIVATING WORK

*An email conversation December 2005 with*

*Castilleja School, *

*Joshua*

A quick look at your
website shows that you are doing much more of the kind of thing that I want to
teach! For example -- and I found this
example almost right away, so I'm betting that your site is full of this kind
of stuff -- you write (after a bunch of good exercises leading up to this):

- WRITE A FUNCTION that calculates the Y-intercept,
given the slope and 1 point. Hint: Look at the PATTERN of examples in
finding the solutions to the linear equation worksheet to develop the
function.

And there you go: FOLLOW
THE DESIGN RECIPE. Examples first, then
design the function to abstract the examples.

- Write a function that calculates the slope of a
line given two points.

- Write a function that calculates the Y-intercept
of a line given 2 points. Hint: REUSE your slope function and Y-intercept
functions

That's wonderful
stuff! You're **teaching great algebra** AND **great
programming** AND great **thinking
skills** at the same time. Absolutely beautiful!

*Karen*

I think what we really need is a
University to write a NSF grant to support math education using
programming. We need to get together for
a week during the summer. I think with the math problems across the

*Joshua*

That all sounds great to
me!

*Karen*

And not only will it help math, it
might encourage more students to study computer science in high school that
carries over to Universities.

*Joshua*

Yup. Teaching at an all-girls school, and being
passionate about "extracurricular math" (projects, contests, and all
the topics usually left out of high school like number theory, combinatorics, and so on), this is especially important to
me.

*Karen*

You are so right about needing an
alternative book!

*Joshua*

Now the question is, who
is smart enough (and understands 6th graders well enough) to write it? I think I'll nominate you, Karen! The tidbits from your web site look great,
and you're already hooked up with some grant money, and you certainly
understand middle school students better than I do.

We'll probably be rolling
out our new middle school CS program, whatever it may end up being, in the fall
of 2007, as part of the celebration of our school's centennial, looking forward
to the next century by modernizing our curriculum a bit. So, that gives you about a year and a half to
get the job done ;)

Thanks! You've helped cheer me up a lot already. At least I know some people still believe
that TEACHING HOW TO THINK, rather than teaching some feeble Java-like syntax, IS
THE POINT OF TEACHING programming.

*Karen*

And you have cheered me up. At least I know there are some people out
there who understand that programming can be used to enhance algebraic concepts.