Monday, June 25, 2012

Teaching APCS: Away with GridWorld say I!

What follows is a reply I made to a post on the AP CompSci ListServ regarding changing the GridWorld Case Study on the AP Exam:

Thanx for expressing the frustrations that many of us have had teaching large case studies in AP Computer Science over the years. These case studies have gotten more and more elaborate starting with Directory Manager in Pascal to Large Integers in C++ and Marine Biology in C++ and then in Java. BTW, both the Marine Biology and GridWorld case studies seem to me a lot like Conway's Game of Life gone amok. 

However, as a Math teacher, I must admit to being a bit partial to the Large Integer Case Study. One really nice feature of this case study was the use of operator overloading which we lost when we switched to Java. We really should do more with Scientific Computing or Computing Science applications in Math and Science. Maybe, we should even introduce multi-processor aka grid aka cluster computing!

I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels a lot of time presure in their AP course. I have a big problem teaching all the content in APCS plus a large case study with time to spare for review for the May exam to students who take this course as a first experience in Computer Science! In fact, I'm quite concerned that the new mini modules won't be all that mini! 

On a related note: some schools start the year in August but mine, as many others, starts in September. I thought something was being done about this such as early and late exam dates for AP exams in May?

Well, that's all folks!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Teaching with Tech: The Paperless Office - once a dream, now a reality!

Here's my last report of the HS year, due on the last day of the HS year:

Peer Coaching Focus:
“How can I improve student performance using the Paperless office approach?”

Peer Coaching Partner:
I have benefited greatly from my discussions with my Peer Coaching Partner, George Drakatos, aka @urStatsTeacher. I have found it invaluable to bounce new ideas off him from using Edmodo as an electronic NoteBook to using SAGE as an on-line WorkBook just to name a few topics we discussed related to teaching and learning Mathematics with technology.

Peer Coaching Stategies:
I had two sections of Math 4R-12, preCalculus 4 Seniors, this year. Math 4R-12 gives the students an opportunity to hone their skills preparing them to take Calculus next year. Math 4R-12 covers the traditional preCalculus course in 3 Quarters of the year and introduces the concepts of limits, derivatives and integrals from Calculus during Quarter IV.

The pace is very difficult for these students to maintain. Therefore, I am trying new strategies to encourage my students to keep up with the pace as well as to maintain a good grade in the course. I ScreenCast every new topic as an MP4 file and store all SmartNotes as PDFs. Then I upload these files to Edmodo most everyday. 

I incorporated these strategies throughout the year. However, I used Period 9 as a control. I introduced Edmodo to Period 9 later in the year than I did in Period 1. I found that my Period 9 results improved dramatically once they started using Edmodo. I also started using SAGE with both sections in Quarter IV. I found that the students really enjoyed using SAGE as an on-line WorkBook in place of a TI-83. The students were really working in a paperless office then as all my notes were on Edmodo and all their work was on SAGE. 

Peer Coaching Assessment:
Both sections of Math 4R-12, preCalculus 4 Seniors, are now doing very well. I really think this success is due to the new teaching strategies described above! My students now have access to all class videos and notes at any time of the day or night. If a student is absent, he or she can easily catch up on the missed work. Also, if a student needs to review an old topic, all ScreenCasts, SmartNotes and WorkBooks are available from the beginning of the year to the present day.

I have found that, over the course of the year, these students have become more and more proficient in learning new material on their own as they gain ownership over each new topic.  The experience my students got from using Edmodo and SAGE not only improved their grades, but also affected classroom work in a positive way.  Now my students tend to be more organized and better focused in class.  These students also tend to take more pride in their work and are assets to class discussions. Students also learned a great deal from using a Computer Algebra System such as SAGE for the first time.

Next year, we are ready to “Flip the Classroom!” I think I'll do so with my lab intensive course, APCS. I recorded new videos for AP Computer Science for this entire school year. I also have lots of notes in the form of java code!

Well, that's all folks!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Quarter IV, Weeks 8 and 9: ScreenCasts, SmartNotes and Code, oh my!

Please note, that this will be my last blog posting for the school year regarding my classes at the High School. This was a banner year for this blog as I posted every single new lesson as a ScreenCast with SmartNotes and WorkSheets or Code for every single class for every single Quarter and every single week! I hope you get a lot out of it. BTW, our YouTube Wednesdays and TED Tuesdays for the last 5 weeks (11min each week) have been devoted to Steve Jobs (see above). Have a Great Summer!!!

AP Calculus BC completed a final project with SAGE I like to call LAC 2012: "Life After Calculus." LAC 2011 was the same last last year except we did it without SAGE and didn't get a chance to record for YouTube. So, we did a lot of Calculus with SAGE on Youtube these past few weeks! 

LACS 2012: "Life After CompSci" is nearly finished. We did some graphics programming with java on Youtube (GameOfLife, Turtles, Fractals). Last year LACS 2011 was about appInventor for Droid. Next year, LACS 2013 may revisit Droid app development again with Eclipse.

ToDo: Maybe I'll record LAPC 2011: "Life After preCalculus: SAGE plus Vectors and Matrices" and LAPM 2010: "Life After Physics Mech: SAGE plus Ballistics" as well. 

preCalculus for Seniors  
preCalculus spent all of 4th Quarter on an Intro to Calculus! We're calling this LAPC 2012: "Life After preCalculus."

Calculus Research Lab
CRL didn't quite finish the Calc3 text on DiffEqus! We finished the Derivatives text (calc-1) last semester and the AntiDerivatives text (calc-2) last quarter. We are using this Differential Equations text (calc-3) in our final project, LACRL 2012! These texts are all free for the download as PDFs from
pages 15-20 of DiffEqus text:

I hope you enjoyed this week's notes!

Learning with Technology, 

Teaching APCS: LACS 2012 - Life After AP Computer Science is nearly done!

Welcome to LACS: Life After Computer Science! It's time for this year's final project. We are going to investigate the world of programming pixel graphics with java using the StdDraw class from

LACS01: Day 1, Polar Graphs

LACS02: Day 2, More Polar Graphs

LACS03: Day 3, Animation and Bouncing Balls

LACS04: Day 4, Turtle Graphics!

LACS05: Day 5, N-a-gons!

LACS06: Day 6, Drunk Turtle?

LACS07: Day 7, Koch Snowflake Fractal

LACS07a: Day 7a, Miscellaneous

LACS08: Day 8, Mandelbrot Fractal and Complex Numbers

LACS09: Day 9, N-Body Problem and Vectors

LACS10: Day 10, Conway's Game of Life

Well, that's all folks!

Teaching preCalculus: LAPC 2012 - Life After preCalculus Intro to Calculus is now done!

LAPC 2012: Apparently there is Life After preCalculus after all! We made the entire 4th Quarter an intro to Calculus as our final project. This is a preCalculus class, right? What better way to prepare for taking Calculus next year than to actually do some Calculus now! We focused on the skills in the 3 of 5 units I review from AB Calculus in my BC class. 

Unit 2 was Limits, Continuity and the Definition of the Derivative as the limit of the Difference Quotient. Unit 3 was all about the Existence of the Derivative and Differentiation Rules such as Power, Trig, Product, Quotient and Chain. We didn't have time for Unit 4 which included some Applications of the Derivative (min/max, related rates) other than rates of change, tangent lines and displacement problems. 

Last, but not least, Unit 5 was about Definite and Indefinite Integrals and the First Fundamental Theorem. We didn't have time for Unit 6 on Applications of the AntiDerivative (arc length, volume, surface area, Second Fundamental Theorem) other than area and acuumulator functions. 

The only difference here, compared to my BC class, is that we used a TI83 instead of a TI89 as needed. Also, in BC we get into a lot more theory for Riemann Sums including limits of series of constants and we write programs using TI-BASIC to estimate these sums when exact answers are not possible!

Unit 2-1: 1-Sided and 2-Sided Limits

Unit 2-2: Definition of Continuity

Unit 2-3: Min/Max and Intermediate Value Theorem 

Unit 2-4: Definition of the Derivative

Unit 2-6: When does the Derivative Exist?

Unit 3-1: Power and Product Rules

Unit 3-2: Quotient Rule

Unit 3-3: Trig Rules

Unit 3-4: Displacement, Velocity, Acceleration, Parametrics

Unit 3-5: Chain Rule

Unit 5-1: AntiDerivatives

Unit 5-2: Differential Equations
Unit 5-3: Definite Integrals

Unit 5-5: Riemann Sums
Unit 5-9: Indefinite Integrals

Unit 5-10: U-Substitution

Well, that's all folks!