Fundamental math principles are being explored in new, dynamic ways in the halls of the MICDS Upper School. Oggy Smiljanic, US Math Instructor, partnered with Christian Borja, Upper School Coordinator of Information Technology, to use Sphero (“sphere-o”) robots to teach students the concepts and properties of quadrilaterals. “Students were tasked to identify and classify given property(s) and construct the quadrilateral in question, but instead of working on worksheets where they either matched words to images or being tasked to draw shapes, we used coding and the Sphero robots to add and integrate different skills and semiotic processes,” said Oggy.
“The Sphero is a new way for students to look at math concepts,” said Borja. “They have to really break down the concepts into steps and look at the basics for the concepts to make the robot work. I have seen students that struggle with math concepts on paper gain a new understanding of them when working with the Sphero.”
With the Sphero, students start learning some coding principles while putting their knowledge of quadrilaterals to work in a practical sense. They have to figure out how to tell a robot that does not what a quadrilateral is how to move and create a shape. It forces the students to think of quadrilaterals in their most basic forms (sides, angles, etc.) so they can successfully tell the robot what to do.
The activity builds on the concept of multimodality. Coding (in STEM education) is emerging as a modality of great potential because, in addition to teaching programming, it integrates the sequential and the spatial mediation of concepts—which is, not coincidentally, the framework of MICDS math program.
While observing the students during the exercise, Oggy noted, “I could see that students were mentally rearranging their conceptualization (if not visualization) of quadrilaterals. Mentally and programmatically they had to ‘walk’ the outline of the polygons. Working in pairs, some students were urging their partners to ‘imagine themselves as the Sphero—are you going to go left or right now?’”