Math and Computation with MIT’s "Scratch"

February 25th, 2008 by ClickSchooling Leave a reply »

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Age Range: 8-16 (Younger children can work on Scratch projects with their parents or older siblings, and college students use Scratch in some introductory computer science classes.)

The good folks at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) developed this website that offers “Scratch,” a new programming language designed to help young people “create their own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art” — and then share them on the web.

As kids (8 and up) use Scratch, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, think creatively, analyze systematically, gain a deeper understanding of the process of design, and use technology to develop learning skills for the 21st century.

Scratch is available FREE of charge and can be downloaded for Mac OSX and Windows at the website.

According to the website, “Different people get started with Scratch in different ways. Some like to tinker with various blocks to see what they do. Others like to experiment with the sample projects that come with Scratch, and then make changes to the scripts.” The website offers clear instructions, along with suggestions for fun, initial activities.

In fact, when you get to the site, click on “Support” on the menu. A new page opens where you can access a step-by-step guide to using Scratch along with video tutorials, reference guides, and FAQs.

An anonymous ClickScholar had this to say about Scratch:

My guys really like Scratch. As they create programs, they can decide the angle that the character turns, the distance that it goes, the speed, any size changes, figure out a formula to decide how a character or object moves in relation to other characters or objects; make use of a randomly generated number and work with logical operations, and they even decide which keys control the character. That’s math and logic. But there’s more.

Art, for example. The main character of your computer game can be one of the preset characters, or you can create your own in a special program very similar to “Paint” – or import a drawing you created using some other software.

Music. You can select background music for your game, or you can record or program your own. Select the instrument you want, decide the speed, the notes and their durations, the volume, and how long you want your song to play. Decide what (in your game) will cause the sound to begin, and what will cause it to end. Wow, cool! :)

Creative writing. The characters in your game can have dialog if you choose to add it. It can be as simple as saying “Ha! I got you!” and “Ouch! I died!” or it can be very elaborate. You can also post your game onto the website, but if you do, you will want to write a quick description so others know what to expect, such as the point of the game and how to play it. Some kids choose to create an animation instead of a game; that’s ok too. :)

Social interaction. When people have tried your game, they might write a comment (inappropriate comments can be flagged by other readers or removed by the game creator – or game creator’s parent ;) If you ask for input, many people are happy to give suggestions / constructive criticism. You can play the games that others have created, and get ideas for new things to try in your own games. If you like someone else’s game, you can congratulate him or her, or ask how they did a certain cool effect. They often are very helpful and you can learn new coding strategies. You can create a buddy list. You can send games to your friends (if they are also using this program) and exchange ideas.

There’s also a forum full of helpful hints from more experienced programmers, and when you’ve learned *everything* there is to learn here (at first it seems deceptively simple, but, like the alphabet, this command set can create an amazing variety!), the forum contains information on other websites where you can continue to expand your learning.


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