Category Archives: News

Teaching the Hour of Code

Teaching the Hour of Code


My last day teaching in a high school classroom is this Friday. I’m not the kind to just mail it in on the last day, and yet, I don’t really want to go onto a new mathematical concept since a sub will be showing up Monday to deal with the aftermath from any absences or confusion from a Friday lesson. So what to do as a standalone lesson that is more of a supplement than core to the curriculum? Answer: The Hour of Code.

At the urging of our department chair, the entire math department is going to be participating in the Hour of Code, from the highest level AP students to the students in our most remedial classes. I just happen to be doing it a couple of days early due to my early departure from school for my new job.  If you have never heard of it, the Hour of Code is put together by Code.org, with the idea that every student can benefit from the exposure of 1 hour learning to code.

I embraced the Hour of Code for several reasons. First, I believe all students could benefit from the practice of having to lay out an algorithm in an ordered fashion. So many of my students have a hard time writing out their work in a systematic fashion that follows a few rules. While there are probably only a handful a future pure “computer programmers” in my classes, learning to think in an algorithmic fashion will no doubt benefit them mathematically. Second, there may be a few students who will be exposed to coding via an activity like the Hour of Code and decide to really run with it on their own. I was a student like that when I had a few lessons in GW-Basic back in the early 90’s. There probably are a few future programmers in my classes, and if this is the kind of activity that could encourage them to do some self guided learning. Lastly, there is no place is the curriculum at my school that exposes students to coding, not even a little. While I’m not sure that a single hour of coding in a math classroom is the best way for the students to get that exposure, it’s far, far better than what we offer our students now–nothing. According to the Hour of Code website, over 90% of American schools are just like my school in that they offer zero instruction in coding.

The Hour of Code website offers numerous activities for students of all ages and ability levels. I found activities that I could do with my honors students as well as my students in remedial classes. For my stronger students, we’ll be doing an activity in Python. For those that have a little less motivation, we’ll be using some graphically based coding activities that are a little more game-like involving a robot and Angry Birds. Once again, my school’s decision to go with iPads for one to one instruction is a bit limiting as some of the best activities don’t work with iPads. I’ll be checking out a set of Chromebooks from the library since all of the activities seem to work in the browser with no downloads required. However, if you are interested in trying the Hour of Code and have no technology available, they even have paper and pencil activities.

Officially, the Hour of Code runs the week of December 8-12, but I’ll be doing it this week since it’s my last week in the classroom.

Change of Leadership for Texas Instruments Calculators

Change of Leadership for Texas Instruments Calculators

On Friday, Texas Instruments announced a big change in leadership at the top of their calculator division. Melendy Lovett, who has been part of Texas Instruments for 20 years and has led the calculator division for a decade, is retiring. The new president of Texas Instruments’ Education Technology division is Peter Balyta. Balyta is just…Continue Reading

TI-Nspire OS 3.6

TI-Nspire OS 3.6

UPDATE: Several of you posted more information about TI-Nspire OS 3.6 on the Tech Powered Math Facebook page. As usual Adriend Bertrand of TI-Planet already has a great story up on 3.6. Apparently, it was first available for download in mid-October. In addition to the changes I had already noticed. Readers pointed out some additional…Continue Reading

PARCC Test and Calculators

The Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) annual meeting kicks off tomorrow in my hometown of Peoria, Illinois. I’m actually the co-chairman of the meeting, so I’ll be there throughout, and I plan to do at least one post about the meeting. For the most dedicators math educators, there was actually a pre-conference today.…Continue Reading

Quick HP Prime Update

I mentioned about a week ago that if there was any HP Prime news that I’d be sure to update everyone. Today there was news. I heard from two different people regarding the HP Prime. One was an official source at HP, telling me that the HP Prime evaluation units have already shipped in Europe.…Continue Reading

Interview With Texas Instruments President Melendy Lovett About Hollywood STEM Initiative

Interview With Texas Instruments President Melendy Lovett About Hollywood STEM Initiative

Yesterday, Texas Instruments revealed that it has been hard at work creating a series of supplementary curriculum STEM activities connected to movies. STEM Behind Hollywood is TI’s new program of TI-Nspire activities.  The first of these activities is Zombie Apocalypse, an activity inspired by zombie movies. The activity works on the TI-Nspire handheld, iPad app,…Continue Reading

Chromecast for Teachers

Chromecast for Teachers

UPDATE: My Chromecast Review for Teachers has now been posted.   Even in the midst of getting ready for the big book release today, something caught my eye yesterday that I couldn’t pass up doing a post about. If you missed it, the Google Chromecast was announced yesterday. The Chromecast is a device that should…Continue Reading