Modelling Civilization at St Andrews PS, TDSB: Coding, Making, Math

View this report in PDF here.

Report by Iain Brodie, December 2018

Over the years we have found out a lot of things about how children learn mathematics and more, but the one thing we have not consistently found is just what a child cannot learn in some way. Whether it is playing with and learning about infinity and limit, abstracting number patterns to find the nth term, or in our current case, modelling civilization mathematically with code, even our youngest students are capable of incredible feats of thinking and learning.

Ms. Silver’s grade 3 class at St. Andrews Public School are about to set out on a learning journey to understand how civilization works. They will be starting out by reading and exploring two wonderful books, Anno’s Magic Seeds and Weslandia. Ms. Silver states, “I am eager to participate in this learning path because exploring new and innovative methods or concepts to further inspire the teaching and learning in both my students and myself is a passion of mine. I thrive on seeing how creative, imaginative and intelligent the students are and enjoy the student led learning path.“

Some of the math and modelling activities that they are going to choose from are available at http://eduapps.ca/civilization/). These activities are linked to both of the books they will have read. Importantly for the students, they will use the Use-Edit-Create cycle of learning to code to explore how to make mathematical models which will allow them to experiment with the parameters which affect a civilization’s growth and change.

Grade 3s are a curious and creative bunch, so giving them the opportunity to learn while innovating and creating in a maker space harnesses the best of what the students are able to do to learning how the iterative creative process works. Here they are going to be adapting some of the activities linked to Weslandia that are available at http://janettehughes.ca/lab/make-me/. One of the activities that Ms. Silver is really excited about is a making activity where her students will adapt robots like Sphero to powering a vehicle or add-on that could help Wesley with his harvest.

As a final activity, the grade 3 students are going to be modelling their own civilization in a game-like setting using an idea from St. Andrews’ amazing librarian, Mr. Withrow. This role play simulation will allow the students to use all of the knowledge they have learned in order to make their civilization successful.

Asked why she would want to have her students learn this way, Ms. Silver says that part of the attraction to learning and teaching in this way is that she, loves “the unpredictability of teachable moments that arise and how we may anticipate a certain path but the students may take us to knowledge we didn’t even expect. I also enjoy integrating the curriculum to teach more productively and fluidly rather than teaching one subject isolated from another.”

This is shaping up to be an exciting, integrated unit of learning that will delight not only the students, but their teachers and parents, too.

Cast a Wide Net at St Andrews PS, TDSB: AI, robotics, coding, math, social studies

View this report in PDF here.

Report by Iain Brodie, December 2018

Sometimes, in order to learn about specific things, you have to approach it from many angles. This is what the grade sevens at St. Andrews Public School are about to do with artificial intelligence. Rather than approach it as a singular scientific subject, they are about to embark on a journey that will take in literature, communication, mathematics, coding, engineering, making, and most importantly – thinking.

Thinking as a skill is not specifically outlined in any of our curricula except as a category on an achievement chart or a process expectations, and even there it does not give nearly enough credit to the abilities of our children to think, to think critically. The grade sevens in Ms. Awara’s classroom are going to learn not only how to think critically, but in order to understand what artificial intelligence might be, they are going to have to think about thinking, as well as about some serious issues in our interconnected world.

During planning, Ms. Awara stressed that it was really important for her and her students to cast a wide net during learning engagements. “Doing so exposes the students to a widening horizon so that they can learn to make informed choices in and about their futures. It also gives them many chances to learn and practice collaborating, thinking critically, and problem solving through conducting an open inquiry with many “big, juicy questions” for the students to dive into.

Some of the materials they are going to be using include a graphic novel which will set the stage for the inquiry, online apps which will help the students to understand how programming works with Boolean algebra, logic gates and more (see http://eduapps.ca/ai/). They are also planning on exploring Vector, an AI robot so that they can experience the user side of working with an AI.

Our future is wide open, and there are so many things that we can learn. Ms. Awara and her grade seven students are not only going to learn about what AI is, they are going to learn how it learns and in the process learn how they learn, too.

NEW Math Leadership Literature Review & Recommendations

Two new reports are now available from our Mathematics Leadership CoP!

For more ML CoP information, resources, and events, please visit mathnetwork.ca/math-leadership.

MKN October 2018 Updates

It was a busy summer for the MKN and our CoPs! Read our latest updates here to find out what our CoPs have been up to, explore recently added resources, and learn how you can get involved.


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NEW Brock U-NCDSB CT + Math Tasks

With a focus on experiential learning, Brock University students worked collaboratively with Niagara Catholic District School Board teachers to develop engaging, coding-based activities for students that were explicitly or implicitly about mathematics.

Teams first explored resources developed by Dr. George Gadanidis, which led them to further develop 4 CT-based math tasks. You can now access the summaries here!