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Autumn Leaf Safari Ecology Data Collection Activity

energize education through open sourceOne of the two people who reviewed my book on Amazon stated that he was disappointed as he expected a collection of lesson plans with open source technology integrated into them.  My line of thought was that I’d put enough effort into researching, organizing and presenting the book’s contents that I really didn’t want to construct lesson plans to go with the software.  Here, I attempt to amend this.  This activity incorporates science (ecology), mathematics and physical fitness.  As this involves going outside, choose a week when the weather looks most cooperative.

This would work best with students in primary grades, but could be modified for intermediate-level students with ease.  The best time for this is at the height of the fall season, when plenty of leaves litter the ground.  Each student will need a plastic grocery bag or food storage bag.  Each student will also need a Leaf Sorting Sheet (see below) and access to an electronic spreadsheet.  In keeping with the open source theme of this blog, I chose Libenergize education,libreofficereOffice Calc, but any such application will do.  At the end of this article there are links to download the Leaf Sorting Sheet, in ODT format, and the Leaf Tally Sheet spreadsheet, which is in ODS format and can be used as a template to design your own.  Note that the species of trees listed on these two items are indigenous to the northeastern United States, so please feel free to adapt them to match species found in your vicinity.

Introduce the activity by asking if anyone knows what a safari is.   Tell your students that we’ll be going out to the playground on a leaf safari and, in so doing, will learn a little about local ecology.  They are to collect as many leaves as they can, but they should try to select a variety of leaves.  When we’re finished, we’ll take a look at what we’ve got and make spreadsheets and graphs showing our findings.

Head out to the playground, preferably between recesses, so your students will have fewer distractions.  Give them 20 minutes to complete this task.  They can work with a partner, if desired.  At the prearranged time, call them back and head back to the classroom.  Each student/group will need a Leaf Sorting Sheet.  Give the students 10 minutes to sort their leaves and be prepared to answer any questions that may arise regarding leaf types and sorting practices.

energize education thorugh open source,libreoffice calc
The author’s completed spreadsheet.

When the sorting is finished, you can have your students open the spreadsheet that you have previously created.  I’d suggest using mine as a template and make any changes needed to it.  Anyway, each student, or group of two students, should have his or her own spreadsheet into which they will enter the quantity of each collected leaf type.  When done, guide the students, if necessary, preferably using a projector connected to your computer, through the chart creation process.  This will provide them with a graphical representation of their leaf collections.  These graphs can be printed and put on display in the classroom.  For closure, ask students what they may have learned while doing this activity.  Were some species of leaves more prevalent?  What does this tell you about the kinds of trees that grow in this area?  Now that you now how to put data into a spreadsheet and to create graphs, in what other tasks could you use these tools?

I hope you’ll find this activity useful and that you and your students both enjoy and learn from it.  I welcome any comments or ideas.

Resources

Leaf Sorting Sheet

Leaf Tally Sheet

LibreOffice Web Site

Tip of the Day: Article publishined on OpenSource.com

I am extremely excited to announce that my latest article, a tutorial entitled Learn Geometry with Dr. Geo, will be published by opensource.com.  This is the first article of this nature that I’ve written that someone else will publish.  I think that they did a wonderful job presenting the article and using my screenshots. Thanks to opensource.com for publishing this article.

dr.geo,energize education,geometry software,energize education through open source

It will be available here on August 22, 2016 (that’s 22 August 2016 for the 6.68 billion people not living in the United States).

Dr. Geo -Be a Geometer!

dr.geo,energize education,geometry software,energize education through open sourceIt’s been almost three years since a wrote a little blurb on an exciting application that allows learners to explore geometry.  That application was Dr. Geo and its developers recently, and with much-deserved pride, announced the release of its latest version.  With that in mind, I thought that maybe it was time to take an in-depth look at Dr. Geo.

dr.geo,energize education,energize education through open source
Object formatting is easy with the Property option under the Edit menu.

Dr. Geo is an open source application that provides an engaging environment through which school-age learners may explore, and learn about, geometry.  So, what can users do with Dr. Geo? Users have the opportunity to work with the building blocks of geometry, including points, line segments and rays.  Users can create arcs, circles and polygons.  Vectors can be used to accurately assign points.  Virtually anything geometric in nature can be created.

dr. geo,energize education,christopher whittum
The author’s burgeoning creation.

What’s even more amazing is that Dr. Geo allows users to bring their creations to life through computer programming.  The programming language used in Dr. Geo is the same one used to create Dr. Geo –Smalltalk.  Some of my regular readers may remember a blog that I wrote a while back on Pharo, a computer programming environment.  Pharo also uses Smalltalk.  Smalltalk is an open source object-oriented programming language.  This simply means that it focuses on objects and data rather than commands and logic.  Portland State University computer science professor Harry H. Porter III (March 24, 2003) describes Smalltalk as “highly efficient, extremely portable, easy to use, and very reliable. But more importantly, Smalltalk is still the most enjoyable language in which to program.”  What better tool to employ to introduce learners to computer programming?

dr.geo, energizxe education
Not ready to program yet? Use a wizard to create a Macro.

As can be seen in the screenshots, Dr. Geo’s interface is very straightforward.  All actions can be performed readily via a menu, a toolbar or tabs, all located at the top of the Dr. Geo window.  This traditional interface certainly minimizes the learning curve.  Even without having used the software, users can jump right in and begin creating.  Functionality is also enhanced by tooltips, which provide a quick way to identify tools.

So, what are you waiting for?  Your students’ potential as geometricians and computer programmers is waiting to be unleashed.

Dr. Geo is available for Linux, Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS.

Resources

Dr. Geo Home Page

Dr. Geo User Guide and Video Tutorial.

Smalltalk Users Manual

References

Fernandes. H.  (2016).  GNU Dr. Geo [computer software].  GNU and MIT General Public Licenses.

Porter III, H.P. (2003). Smalltalk: a white paper overview.  Portland OR: Portland State University.  Retrieved from http://web.cecs.pdx.edu/~harry/musings/SmalltalkOverview.html#Basic%20OOP%20Concepts%20and%20Terminology.