teaching machines

Intervals in Deltaphone

For a few years now, schools and industry have been telling kids that they can code. They say the jobs are plentiful, and the salary is enviable—the workforce is waiting. The nobler agents of educational reform will also tell our kids that programming is a creative exercise that will make them better thinkers in other […]

Funeral of Trite Ideas

The art teacher at my son’s elementary school once held a special ceremony called the Funeral of Trite Ideas. My son and his classmates said goodbye to some friends that they had known for years in their drawings: stick figures, flat outlines of cars, suns with smiling faces. I am considering holding my own Funeral […]

Flatcaps in Libigl

Madeup’s dowel solidifier has one job: thicken a sequence of line segments into a solid. But what if the sequence isn’t a polyline, but rather a branching structure like a tree or a fork? One could model each branch as a separate dowel and hope that nobody looks too closely at the joints, but that’s […]

Debugging Secret Coders

My sons have thoroughly enjoyed Gene Luen Yang’s six Secret Coders books. They are graphic novels about three teens who fight evil with programming, and their weapon of choice is the Logo programming language. Last summer we were reading the fifth book in the series. It ends with this challenge to complete a code snippet […]

Prior Art

A year ago I made a little widget for visualizing the additive color mixing of RGB triplets. I had been teaching a course on front-end web development, and I wanted a tool to illustrate mixing that was easier to access than the traditional many-chambered Venn diagram. Just this week I discovered that my widget is […]

From * To Javascript

Educators must contend with students’ prior knowledge of a subject. Sometimes the prior knowledge is advantageous—but not always. What we “know” may be wrong or incomplete. The same is true with programming languages. When learning a new language, you must contend with the baggage you bring from other languages you know. Suppose you are C […]

STEM in Education 2018 Workshop

Welcome to the notes for the Computational Making with Madeup workshop at STEM in Education 2018. It’s my hope that you read the abstract for this workshop, and you consent to our stated goals: In this interactive hands-on workshop, participants will learn to build models using Madeup and gain skills and resources they can use […]

Stepping Up in Deltaphone

Recently I added chords to Deltaphone, which required me to rethink how I was structuring the blocks to play notes. Previously, the play block came in two forms. There was a form for an absolutely-specified note, like “play C natural in the fourth octave.” And there was a form for a relatively-specified note, like “play […]

Kookaburra in Deltaphone

Though we have been in Australia for several months, we have hardly seen any of its unique wildlife. Fearing that we’d return home with no distinctly Australian experiences, we set out to find some animals. Given the number of news reports I’ve heard about kangaroos injuring humans, we decided to take it slow. We headed […]

Sensing Shapes

In the late 1600s, William Molyneaux posed a question to a friend: Suppose a man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a cube and a sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and the other, which […]