[Edu-sig] Python and pre-algebra

mokurai at earthtreasury.org mokurai at earthtreasury.org
Fri Jul 1 05:03:59 CEST 2011

On Wed, June 29, 2011 7:15 pm, mary.dooms at comcast.net wrote:
> I teach 6th grade math and Python was suggested as a way to apply
> pre-algebra concepts in a programming context. My programming background
> consists of one C++ programming class. How do I begin?

Python is one of several excellent options. Others are Logo, Smalltalk,
and APL, all of which are available at no cost. I worked on a free APL for
8-bit computers before the Free Software movement got started, and I have
friends working on APLs for current computers to put under the GPL.

Assuming that your students know no Python, you could use the Sugar Labs
Turtle Art approach to math and programming to get started. Turtle Art was
designed for children to use for math, programming, and art, and has
natural ways to move to Logo, Python, or Etoys/Smalltalk. FORTH, too, but
most people don't want to know that. ^_^ (FORTH love if honk then)

The question is, which pre-algebra concepts? Do you have a curriculum
standard or a particular textbook in mind? Are there other topics of

I can write TA or mixed TA/Python examples, and show students how to do
the same, and we could work together on lesson plans to share in the Sugar
Labs Replacing Textbooks program. There are others with an interest in
doing this.

> Are lesson plans and small programs available, for example,

Probably. There are well over 100,000 digital learning resources on the
Net. You can find some of them on pages linked from


We will need a substantial number of teachers to review them, compare
them, and select those that do the best job making concepts clear in ways
that will stay with students.

> where students could write and
> "drop in" a script that includes integers and the output would not only
> calculate it, but see the relevance of it in a real world situation?

There are many ways to do that. One of the weirder ones is my Turtle Art
Turing Machine for addition. ^_^


More directly to your needs, Pippy is a Sugar activity that shows a number
of Python examples that students can edit. For example,

a, b = 0, 1
while b< 1001:
     print b,
     a, b = b, a+b

Changing the 0, 1 in the first line changes this from a generator of
Fibonacci numbers to a generator of the related Lucas numbers. There is a
Pascal's Triangle program. Plotted mod 2, it reveals a Sierpinski fractal.

Relevant Python resources include NumPy and PyGame.

> Or, perhaps, the program controls a "wheelchair" robot and students would
> write scripts to drive the robot at a certain speed considering the slope
> of a ramp?

 See the Etoys tutorial challenge for programming a "car", and the robot
program in Uruguay with robots controlled by Sugar software.

XO turned into a robot thanks to the Butiá project

> As you can see, I am a novice, but I see great potential and am willing to
> learn.

Delighted to meet you.

> Thanks,
> Mary _______________________________________________
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Edward Mokurai
&#1580;) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.

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