The word programming has been used to spread the fallacy that it is the ‘languages of computers’, foreign and hard to read, disconnected from other subjects and takes years to learn.
During one of our virtual programming sessions with 8-year-olds, I met this kid who provoked my mind about learning/teaching programming to kids. In grade 3, the curriculum ”does not allow” them to get exposed to concepts like geometry. When you mention angles and geometry to a grade 3, some might think that you are asking them about their ‘favorite tree’ (Geometry).
In one of the stages in programming, the learners needed to have basic geometry principles understanding to proceed with some programming stages. Needless to mention about all these, the little one proceeded to change the angles and the bearings in terms of simple number values that we continually changed to program a bird to change their motion to pick a worm.
The girl was fully aware that making the birds turn at 15 units will not make it pick the worm but when she changes it to 10 units it picks the worm. We progressively changed the values using 15 units interval, 0,15,30,45,60,75,90. We agreed that it can only pick the worm when the units are between 0-10. But wait, what are we talking about here? ANGLES!
The little one seemed to be aware there exists a ‘right-angled triangle’ (it could be from personal experience) or heard someone mention it somewhere. Having all these tiny pieces of information, I decided to put programming on hold and got to maths.
We drew a rectangle, which I then diagonally cut. The little programmer was aware that one of them is a triangle (in this case, a right-angled triangle) but the other half is not a right-angled triangle. She was convinced that it was a triangle but, she was not sure if it was a right-angled triangle. It made me ponder for a moment. This showed that she could have only interacted with only one type of triangle.
After this we got back to programming, where I introduced the concept of loops and conditions. More than often, this can be so abstract. But when you think of it as crossing the road, you usually look left, right , then left (LRL) and if the road is clear you cross. I found this to be a powerful way to introduce IF and ELSE commands in programming to the young programmers. Why do we need all these and how do you introduce them to young kids? Find out in the next blog!