Happy Tau Day and Summer of PD

Hi all, and, although I’m partial to pi, a very happy numerical day to its cousin tau (tau = 2•pi, or approximately 6.28…).

Today was also the kickoff day for two different professional development workshops I’m co-facilitating. I’m actually involved in 5 different PDs this summer, including:

  • CS Praxis Study Sessions
  • Intro to Artificial Intelligence for Educators
  • Python Programming Advanced for AI
  • AI for Educators Follow-Up
  • Mobile App Development

The fifth workshop is probably the one I’m most excited about. It’s actually based on a two-course curriculum for high school seniors in Mobile App Development (with Java and Android Studio, meant to be taken after the AP Computer Science A course), which I’ve been developing informally over the past three years, and formally with a team writing into actual lesson plans, unit plans, rubrics, answer keys, teacher guides, and other resources for the past six months. App Dev 1 is all about learning the Android system, coding apps with user interface and user interaction, using object oriented programming to organize and improve your apps, and using databases and other data storage and retrieval features to use and access persistent and real-time data with your apps. Over the course of App Dev 1, students also learn git/github, collaboration tools, and the software development process, including working on multiple releases (each time with more and better features) of one app. App Dev 2 is a capstone course, where students work on one major project the whole semester and really dig into the app development process (including some pieces of agile development) while designing and building an app that helps the community in some way.

This will be my fourth summer facilitating trainings with Maryland Center for Computing Education, and/or its partner organizations MarylandCodes and CS Matters in Maryland. 2018 was a week at University of Maryland College Park, 2019 a week at Hood College in Frederick. Last year with the move to online/remote trainings, MCCE and MarylandCodes grew their PD offerings from only 5-6 the year before to 27, and this summer I’m told over 700 teachers/educators are signed up for over 50 distinct workshop offerings! I’m thrilled to be a small part of that growth, and to be bringing computer science to more and more folks across the state and beyond!

Happy Tau Day, and happy summer! May you always be learning and trying new things!


Leave a comment

Filed under computer science, teaching, Uncategorized

COVID Vaccination Equity: State vs. City

So our governor has been making ignorant anti-Baltimore comments again, and defending state vaccine distribution policies that are racist and anti-poor.

Here’s the original Baltimore Sun article from last week, which quotes Governor Larry Hogan in announcing a new mass vaccination site at Ravens Stadium and making a totally unprovoked comment that Baltimore City “had gotten far more than they were really entitled to”. As a side note, which may shed some anecdotal evidence on the falsehood of his statement, all six of the people that they interviewed or photographed for the article about getting their vaccine at the stadium are from outside the city!

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott responded: “one of the most ridiculous things that I’ve ever heard. We do not have equitable access to vaccine doses. … Baltimoreans are Marylanders who both are entitled to and deserve vaccine.”

Yesterday, Hogan re-affirmed his comments, despite the fact that Baltimore City has the third lowest rate of vaccinations of the 24 county-level jurisdictions in the state. He did this by citing only a single week’s statistics on vaccines sent as an example, and ignoring other more-relevant statistics about the per capita rate of city residents vaccinated and how many vaccines in the city are going to city residents (39%, from article linked above) vs. out-of-city-residents.

Even if his comments were factually accurate (they are not), they display yet-more evidence of his antipathy for the biggest city in his state, his callous disregard for people’s lives and livelihoods, and a willful misuse of statistics.

There could be a good math and/or social studies lesson here on lying with statistics by choosing the wrong measurement and/or using incomplete information.

Leave a comment

Filed under math, teaching

in-person teaching during COVID-19?

This morning, we had an emergency meeting of our school’s Career and Technology Education (CTE) department. We were told that no decision has been made about whether Patterson will be one of the twenty-five schools bringing in small groups of students for in-person learning next month. But that we were being considered for such, and that our CTE department might be involved in bringing students back for hands-on career-preparatory projects and lessons. We were asked to email our principal with our willingness to return in-person.

Here is my response:

My answer at this time is no. At this time, I have not been provided adequate information to make an affirmative decision to return to in-person teaching. This is due to health concerns not just for faculty and staff of Patterson High School, but also due to health concerns for our students and their families.

Some things that might make me reconsider my answer include:

  • Details on scheduling.
    • Since time spent interacting in an enclosed space affects the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, further information on numbers of students and how long they will be in our room may affect my thoughts on this issue.
    • Also, expectations for teaching students online at the same time I am teaching students in my classroom will make my job several times more difficult (as the teaching style and format for online is different than how I would teach in-person). So an idea like using lab Wednesdays for hands-on (with no online component that day) while teaching virtually the other days of the week could help.
    • Finally, adequate planning time built into the schedule to handle the extra work expected has not been provided to most teachers so far in this school year. And now, with juggling Some consideration to that would be helpful.
    • If we are following a traditional schedule, how will class changes occur to avoid overcrowding in the hallways? How will lunch be handled?
  • Details on numbers of students.
    • Will it be half our students at a time (A-day/B-day)? Can we bring in targeted groups who need the most help, or who are working on a hands-on project? 
    • If we do have flexibility on numbers of students and which ones, this ties back into the schedule, as working with one small group for a longer period of time could be beneficial in terms of completing a project in a day. And then a different group the next time.
  • Details on administrative support.
    • What are the protocols and consequences if a student refuses to keep their mask on?
    • What are the student entry and screening procedures, especially now that we have lost some staff?
    • What are the daily cleaning expectations of custodial staff, teachers, and/or students (including in between class changes each day)?
    • When a school community member (student or staff) becomes sick with COVID-19, what is the plan for notifying the community? What is the plan for contact tracing and quarantine?

I think these details are of top importance, not secondary to a decision to return. Which is why my answer at this time is a no.

Yes, our students are the most at-risk for being left behind with online learning. We as teachers are currently working our butts off to minimize the chances for them being left behind, including by distributing supplies, making calls home, acting as tech support, and more. But we do realize, even with all our efforts, they are not being as fully engaged as with in-person school.

But they (and their families) are also the most at risk for catching COVID, and more-severe cases of the disease if/when they do catch it. As you know, COVID-19 incidence has been tied to both poverty and race in this country, as well as local information like 21224 as a hotspot.

Sometimes I hear people, like Dr. Santelises, citing equity in calls for a return to in-person school, and sometimes the implication seems to be that those of us who are reluctant to do so or who cite concerns are working against equity and don’t care about our kids. This is unfair. They are addressing the first point above (that they are missing out on learning), but I don’t hear them address the second point which is also about equity: that our kids and their families will be hit harder by COVID-19 than their peers in other counties. I think that, for our students, as well as for the health of school faculty and staff, it is important to ensure all details of safety precautions BEFORE a request to return.


Nick Yates

Leave a comment

Filed under teaching

Pi Day 2020 and Thoughts on Coronavirus

A weird pi day this year, as the world shuts down around us to prevent the spread of coronavirus / covid-19.

Things have moved super fast this week, from out-of-state field trips being cancelled a week ago, to local colleges and universities shutting down early in the week, to our engineering advisory board discussing backup plans (thinking of them as a good precaution but not likely to be needed) for a virtual senior capstone symposium on Wednesday, to Friday’s systemwide professional development being cancelled on Thursday morning so teachers could spend the day preparing “packets of work” for the unlikely event of a school closure at some future time, to the state superintendent and governor announcing school closures later that afternoon.

Our math department had purchased t-shirts for the math teachers (in whose ranks I am grateful still to be an honorary member), which say “Pi Day inspires me to make irrational yet well-rounded decisions.” Due to pi day falling on a weekend this year, we were all planning to wear them Monday. But now with no school Monday (officially we are out for two weeks, 3/16-27, though there’s every chance it could be extended longer; other states and districts that have cancelled school seem to be out for at least a month) there won’t be a chance to celebrate the day with students as I have for the past fourteen years. In fact, we didn’t have a chance to see our students after the decision to close schools was made, what with Friday being school-staff-only for professional development / packet planning, and school closure beginning Monday.

This could be the chance to experiment with online learning, but as I mentioned our district has gone old-school, requiring teachers to prepare (with short notice) two weeks’ worth of work to be photocopied and distributed. The argument is that using digital tools can increase inequity, since many of our students do not have computers or internet access at home. This “digital divide” is certainly real: many of our students do lack a desktop or laptop computer needed to run engineering software like Autodesk Inventor or CNC Base, or Python or Java coding softwares. But at the same time, I feel that inequity is also being increased by us only providing hastily-prepared written packets, while other counties and school districts do use richer online learning tools. Even a perfectly-prepared packet of work, that excellently scaffolds instruction for students from one page to the next, teaching new concepts in clearly written language, which may be a rich learning experience for self-motivated students with good reading comprehension skills, will not adequately teach students like those at my high school who read on an average of a fourth-grade reading level, who may not have English as their first language and are still learning it as a second or third or fourth, who learn more from demonstrations and hands-on projects, who demonstrate amazing ingenuity in the projects and work they are able to accomplish but often do poorly on standardized tests like the SAT, the engineering EOC exams, the AP exams, in part because of the heavy reliance on long questions and reading. When instead, we could be using online tools that allow for video instruction, interactive feedback, discussion fora, and screenshare videoconferencing to teach in a more audiovisual and interactive way instead of only relying on the static written word. I don’t know if the inequity of packets is more or less than the inequity of digital, and I know there is no good solution here, but I feel bad that Baltimore may be making the wrong choice, which puts our students even further behind.

I wasn’t sure today if I would do my traditional pi day email & blog post. I haven’t written a blog post since last pi day. And I figure, there can’t be any new pi facts or cool things that I haven’t already shared with you all over the past nearly two decades. Well, as I finish typing this it’s actually past midnight into the Ides of March here, though I figure it’s still pi day somewhere (specifically anywhere west of US Eastern Time and east of the International Date Line) so I can still count this as a pi day post. Although it hasn’t been much on pi facts & figures, more of a reflection on current events.

Some news about me from the past year:

I travelled to India with my friend Matt last April; it was amazing! Had plans to do one or more blog posts but never got around to it; you can see some photos on my instagram page.

I took a semester sabbatical from teaching to finish up my master’s degree in computer science with Georgia Tech. I am now officially graduated! 🙂 It was tough structuring my time so that I could work from home and not be distracted, but somehow I pulled it off. Guess it was good practice for the next two weeks or more of remote work and social distancing.

Anyway, hope you all had a happy pi day! I celebrated with a crab pie from Matthew’s Pizzeria in Baltimore. And stay safe/healthy/well!


Leave a comment

Filed under computer science, engineering, math, teaching

Pi Day 2019

Today was a very pi-saturated day for me (which is wonderful!). After waking up, I took a shower behind a pi shower curtain:

(that’s right, I have a shower curtain filled with the digits of pi, which are colored differently to make the shape of the pi symbol stand out…)

I dressed with a pi day t-shirt as my undershirt, and a pi tie (the same pi tie I wore last year).

On my way into work, I did a few pi day routines:

  1. reciting pi to myself to make sure I still know the digits (I usually falter in the mid 100’s and need to refresh my memory the day before so I’m solid at 200 like I was in high school, then I continue to practice that morning)
  2. buying some pies from the grocery store for my students
  3. decorating my board with pi digits and facts

We had been invited on a field trip to have our students celebrate Pi Day in Annapolis at the Maryland State House Office Building, with legislators, the lieutenant governor, and representatives from other schools and STEM education organizations. So we brought six students and three bins full of projects and things to show off, from our engineering program, our computer science program, and our STEM after-school clubs. We brought a 3D printer, which was a big hit, in constant operation producing little raven figurines which we gave away to visitors to our table (many of them younger children). We brought a laptop with Python and Java programs coded by my students that simulated flipping coins, drew a beautiful geometric flower, merged two photos together (a primitive Photoshop), and an “artificial intelligence” program that interacted with a weather API to obtain the current weather and give advice to humans on what to wear. Also some tablets with student-coded apps, and electronic devices like a robot butterfly, a random-number-generator dice LED board, and a soda-can lamp. There was also a solar-powered car, a hovercraft, and designs and blocks and shapes carved out by students using CNC mill and lathe.

For lunch there was pizza pi(e) and mini dessert pi(e)s, as you can see in the following picture of the students each holding up a slice of pie, a pie, or a pi:

Returning to school for my last period class and our after-school makerspaces club, we celebrated in the traditional way by eating more pie. 🙂

When I got home, my neighbors invited me over for a pi day and birthday celebration for their kid. So even more pizza pie for dinner, lemon meringue and key lime pies for dessert, and some discussion of pi day trivia at the dinner table, as well as anecdotes of how the neighbors celebrate pi day at their offices. A wonderful time!

Overall, lots of pi and pie from morning ’til night. A great way to celebrate a great day!

Here are some pi-day tidbits of news, information, and links about pi:

  • Today, Google announced that one of their employees, Emma Haruka Iwao, together with the Google Computing Engine, calculated pi out to 31,415,926,535,897 digits (i.e. pi times ten trillion digits, some self-referential humor in their choice of where to stop). This shatters the previous world record of 22 trillion! (sources: BBC, Forbes, 538)
  • Here are some ways NASA uses and celebrates pi.
  • As pi day gets more and more popular, I’ve seen more backlash of pi day skeptics recently (though nothing like the great pi / e wars and debates of my Williams College days, nor the great Pi/Tau Debate of 2011). I am still a pi fan, but here are some other numbers you might enjoy and wish to celebrate as well!
  • Since we handed out 3D-printed ravens as Maryland-themed souvenirs at today’s event, I feel like I need to re-post this link to the renowned retelling of Poe’s “The Raven” which has words of lengths equal to the digits of pi. Poe, E. Near a Raven.
  • In honor of my new neighbor’s birthday, there are some other famous folks who share a birthday with pi day: Many people know about Albert Einstein, but also Waclaw Sierpinski, the Polish mathematician famous for fractals, and also Alexey Pajitnov, the developer of Tetris. (h/t to Michael Lugo for the latter fact).

And finally, a few pi day jokes. Each image is linked to its source:

Hope you all had a wonderful pi day, and continue to celebrate math all year long!

Nick the Pi Guy

Leave a comment

Filed under computer science, engineering, math, teaching

Triangle Spaghetto?

So, this is an interesting question to think about…

If you were to break a piece of spaghetti randomly twice, to yield three smaller pieces, what are the chances that your three pieces would form a triangle?


I encourage you to take some time to think about this before reading my solution.
















I had a little intuition based on the triangle inequality, which says that for any pair of sides of a triangle, their sum must be greater than the third side: a+b>c.

After making that guess, I actually tried to prove this to myself geometrically before moving to try a simulation via computer program, so I guess I’m still a mathematician at heart even though my current teaching load is all computer science courses! 🙂


The outer triangle, AEF, is the probability space for the spaghetto we’re talking about, assuming (without loss of generality) that the original spaghetto has length 1. The x-axis represents our (random) choice for the first break, which could be any number between 0 and 1 with equal/uniform probability.  Let’s call the random number chosen x*. The y-axis then represents our (random) choice for the second break, which is now constrained with an upper bound of 1-x*, based on however long our first broken piece was (thus the hypotenuse of the right triangle, y=1-x). Only two breaks (or, equivalently, random numbers) are needed, 0≤x*≤1, and 0≤y*≤1-x*, since the third piece is completely determined by the first two, as 1-x*-y*.

Within our probability space, the bluish-green region in the lower right is out-of-bounds for trianglehood, since an initial break of my first piece x*>0.5 would mean that I’m left with a piece less than 0.5 which still needs to be broken into two, and that means those two pieces could never sum to more than my first piece (the triangle inequality). The magenta region near the top is similarly off-limits, even if my initial break is small enough, if my second break yields a y*>0.5, the first and third pieces could never sum to more than the second. Finally, the yellow region near the bottom represents non-triangles where both the first and second breaks are two short, yielding a combined sum less than 0.5, and therefore a third/final piece greater than 0.5 which would dominate the first two and thus not allow triangularity to flourish from our three pieces of spaghetti.

So the only triangularly-valid region is the center, which is 1/4 the total area of our probability space.

After becoming certain of this answer, I did mock up a quick random number generator function in Python:


While this was indeed closer to 0.25 than any other option in the initial poll, the fact that I ran 10,000,000 trials and got consistently less than 0.2 (and not closer to 0.25) does worry me that I coded one of the assumptions wrong. I’m still 99% certain that 0.25 is the correct answer. But if anyone spots a program error, or a logic error, please let me know!

Leave a comment

Filed under computer science, math

PI DAY 2018!

Happy pi day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pi Day as a holiday is 30 years old this year (unless someone had been celebrating quietly on 3/14’s before Larry Shaw publicly founded Pi Day at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988)!

While last year was a pi day snow day for us, this year the snow has mostly missed us in Maryland, while Boston area folks have had several huge storms in a row, and some of them do have a pi day snow day today!

The day was off to a good start this morning with a beautiful pi day sunrise:

I was up early to buy some pies, as per usual, when I stumbled across a pi-day pie sale! While I’ve seen photos of these before on social media, this is the first time I’ve actually come across one in person on a pi day myself!


I made my chalkboard a little busier than usual, including a few extra pi facts:

I also wore a new pi tie today (some years I’ve worn pi t-shirts). You can’t tell from the photo, but the image/pattern is made up of pi’s digits!

My first period AP CS A (Java / object-oriented programming class, with juniors and seniors) is the only class I did a pi-focused lesson with this year. In my other classes, we took a ten-minute pi and pie break, and talked about pi facts while eating, then back to our regularly-scheduled lesson. But in AP CS A, we coded an infinite series for pi in Java. We used the Leibniz formula, relatively easy to understand and code: 1/1 – 1/3 + 1/5 – 1/7 + 1/9 – 1/11 + 1/13 – …

This actually converges fairly slowly, compared to other infinite series for pi. Here are the results after ten terms, with the terms included on the left, and the running summation on the right of each line:

Here we are after 1000 iterations, just the sums:

And after a million terms, we’re getting pi accurate to five digits:

A million terms took a few minutes to run, so we didn’t dare try ten million, for fear we would break our ancient computers! Nor did we try to break the record of 22 trillion digits of pi, which would need many many times more terms if we were to use this series 🙂

Also today, in other news, a nationwide walkout against gun violence, which students at my school participated in as well. And I took two students on a field trip; the students had built a custom-engineered bicycle for a kid with a disability last month during National Engineering Week, and today we got to deliver the bike to the kid and his mother. So that was pretty cool.

Anyway, that’s how my day went, hope your pi day was similarly awesome!

Here’s my round-up of a few Pi Links:

And a few really creative pi-related photos, found via Twitter (linked to their sources):

1 Comment

Filed under computer science, math, teaching

Cold temperatures

Draft of a letter:

Over the past two days, many schools have tried to continue educating students in the midst of very cold temperatures. Students in many rooms had to huddle together in winter coats, hats, and gloves indoors. Some teachers in colder classrooms combined their classes with teachers in (slightly) warmer classrooms, with class sizes thus rising to 50-60 in some places and multiple lessons being taught simultaneously in the same room. Is learning really occurring for the majority of students being taught in frigid rooms, or combined in a classroom with multiple other classes?

Some students’ parents kept them home because they didn’t want their children standing for long periods at a freezing bus stop, being put off the MTA bus to wait for the next one because of overcrowding, or trying to learn in classrooms that were unheated. Other parents pulled their children out of school when they found out the lack of heat, expressing outrage that the Baltimore City Public School System did not itself make the call to close schools, and gave misleading information when they claimed “School buildings were monitored for heat & water issues throughout the holiday breakin a January 1st tweet. Low attendance due to these valid decisions, made looking out for children’s safety and well-being, compounds a pervasive chronic absence problem in Baltimore schools and puts our kids even further behind their peers.

This issue is not new; it has been going on for years.

I call on our leaders in my district, my union, and my state to do the following:

  1. Advocate for more state and federal funding
  2. Adopt clear and transparent standards for when schools should be closed due to extreme heat, extreme cold, and other in-building health hazards
  3. Allow principals more autonomy and authority in making the ultimate decision to close an individual school building
  4. Adopt contingency plans to provide services (that would normally be provided in school) to families and communities in the event of a school closure
  5. Improve communications to alert families and communities of an unplanned school closure

I will address each of the above calls in more detail.

At the root of this problem is a severe underfunding problem. In the early 2000s, the Thornton Commission studied the state funding formula and found that, by the Maryland state constitution’s guarantee of an “thorough and efficient System of Free Public Schools”, the Maryland state legislature should be providing $260 million more to BCPSS each year. Even with court rulings, Thornton was never fully funded, so over the past twenty years, Baltimore students and schools have been shortchanged by over three billion dollars, and have not been able to keep up with building repairs and renovations because of this. To fix this problem, I call on our union leaders, our school district leaders, our city leaders, and our state leaders to demand more funding now, not only to bring us up to “adequate” yearly funding based on Thornton (and its successor, the Kirwan commission) now, but also to make up for decades of neglect and crumbling infrastructure.

Additional funding is the only way we can truly rectify the educational harm that is being done to our children. Additionally, as a more immediate way to make sure that our children are not learning in inhumane conditions, I call on our district leaders to adopt the following recommendations, and I call upon our elected union leaders to advocate for these with the district and with the school board.

To begin with, there is little transparency in why the decision is made to close some schools due to lack of heat or water problems, while other schools with equally bad or worse conditions are not closed. I ask that BCPSS set clear and unambiguous standards in writing that dictate when a school’s temperature problems are severe enough to warrant closure of that building. For example, clear wording like:

“If temperatures are below 55 degrees in 25% or more of classrooms, a school will be dismissed. If fewer than 25% of classrooms are below 55, we ask that principals work with teachers to combine classes and/or move learning to warmer parts of the building.”

Similar wording, of course, will be needed for circumstances of extreme heat in un-air-conditioned buildings.

Going hand in hand with this recommendation for a more transparent closure process, we recommend more principal autonomy and authority in making the call to close a school when a temperature or health hazard presents itself. Certainly communication with and consultation with the Facilities and Operations managers at BCPSS headquarters remains essential. But too often in the past, this has taken on an adversarial nature, with district personnel not believing a principal about conditions at their school, arguing that the health hazard is not real, taking hours to come out and measure, only measuring conditions in one or two locations and not where learning actually occurs. While consultation on the best course of action is important, more trust should be placed in principals who are on the ground at the schools to make the best decision for their school community.

Schools are primarily an educational institution, and as such, it is my belief that if weather or health conditions will severely impact the ability of the school to educate its students, school should not be in session. However, as BCPSS CEO Dr. Santelises pointed out in her letter, schools also provide a variety of other services to the community, one of the primary being free meals for students. I ask that BCPSS develop a plan districtwide, and work with schools to develop local community plans, for how some of these services can still be provided even when a school is forced to close due to unsafe or unconducive learning conditions. For example, some school districts allow for pickup of bagged lunches at a school with minimal staffing needs. Another possibility might be partnering with recreation centers, churches, community organizations, public libraries, or local businesses to help distribute food and/or other services.

If the above recommendations are adopted, with clear standards for when conditions at a school warrant closure, granting more authority to principals to make that call, and adopting a contingency plan for providing services, communication with parents and families will also need to be improved to deal with unforeseen closures of individual schools, at potentially later times, and to inform families of locations for other services. One possibility is enlisting teachers and parents in phone trees to help communicate more rapidly.


Nick Yates

1 Comment

Filed under teaching

CS Ed Week, Part 2

To continue with my post from 12/4, a few more emails for Computer Science Education Week 2017!

Thu 12/7: Hour of Code week almost over!

Hi Patterson peeps,

Just a reminder that we are nearing the end of Computer Science Education Week. I hope you have all had the chance to try out one of the awesome lessons yourself and with your classes (or have plans to do so today or tomorrow!).


I leave you with this:

Fri 12/8: Last push – Hour of Code!

As Computer Science Education Week draws to a close this weekend, let me leave you with three resources, two facts, and one reminder:


  1. new video from code.org in which basketball star Stephen Curry talks about coding and persistence
  2. A video produced last year, called “Computer Science is Changing Everything”, that really hits home that CS is found in every field, from agriculture to medicine to dance
  3. If you’re not able to do a whole hour of code, check out this five-minutes-of-code  activity in which you can design your own snowflake and holiday card (with thanks to Mr. Callahan)


  1. CS Education Week was founded in honor of Admiral Grace Hopper, one of the pioneers of computer science, whose birthday is tomorrow 12/9 (if alive, she would be 111 years old tomorrow, which is sort-of a binary age!)
  2. Coding is for everyone, in the same way writing is for everyone, a way “to organize, express, and share ideas in new ways, in a new medium” (okay, maybe that’s an opinion and not a fact, but seriously, check out this interview with Mitch Resnick from MIT, it may change the way you think about coding).
  1. Don’t forget to send me student names and have your students who do the Hour of Code complete the survey!
Happy holidays, and happy coding!
Nick Yates

Finally, here’s a photo of my colleagues and I encouraging everyone to “Code Like a Girl”:


Leave a comment

Filed under computer science, teaching

Computer Science Education Week 2017

Hi all, it’s CS Education Week! Am forming a blog post of the emails I send out to my school to encourage participation in the Hour of Code. Will update this post (or maybe a new one) as I email more.


Thu 11/30 (before CS Ed Week):

Greetings Patterson Family!

Next week is Computer Science Education Week, and we have celebrated this each of the last several years at Patterson by having students do an Hour of Code! Please check out https://hourofcode.com/us and consider picking one day next week to teach coding in each of your classes.


The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event.


There are a variety of activities, including ones that can be done on computer workstations, ones that can be done on students’ call phones / mobile devices, and ones that are “unplugged” using cups or printable manipulatives etc. Depending on your classroom dynamic, you could also work together as a whole class to complete coding exercises on your teacher computer / projector screen. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, you could try to come up with your own lesson that relates coding to your content area, and teaches problem-solving or algorithmic thinking (e.g. peanut butter and jelly making as clear communication, necessary for ELA/writing classes and also for writing computer code that breaks a process down into multiple steps and communicates them clearly to the computer to run).


FYI – for our ESOL population, many (though not all) of the computer-based coding activities have instructions in multiple languages that can be adjusted at the bottom of the screen.

Please let me know if you plan to do an activity, or if you want to chat about different possibilities. For computer access, I can offer my room for second period (all days next week) or fifth period (except Monday). There may also be laptop carts available on a first-come first-serve basis that you can follow the usual process to reserve. Additionally, I am interested in tracking which activities are used, as well as student names for certificates.
Happy coding!
Nick Yates
Mon 12/4 AM: The Hour of Code is here!

Greetings Patterson Family!

CS Education Week is here, and with it the Hour of Code!

Please consider teaching a coding lesson in one of your classes this week, so that we can help our students become creators of technology rather than merely consumers of technology.

Here are some intro videos to the HoC: https://hourofcode.com/us/promote/resources#videos (YouTube + download link in case YT is blocked)

Among the activities, there seem to be two new ones for this year that I’ve noticed near the top: Minecraft (three versions, one from each of the past two years, plus a new tutorial for this year) and Google Design-Your-Own-Logo-with-Scratch.

You can also sort the activities by the technology you plan to use (computers, student mobile devices, or unplugged – no devices), AND nicely by content area (e.g. if you teach Science and want to teach a cross-curricular science+coding lesson):



Please let me know if I can help in any way, whether by consulting with you on which lesson might best fit your class, or having you bring your class down to my room, etc.



Nick Yates and the Academy of Engineering and Technology Team

Mon 12/4 PM: Google Doodle today celebrates 50 years of kids coding!

Hey Patterson people,

The Logo programming language, designed for kids with a turtle that moved around and could draw pictures, was invented 50 years ago! Today’s Google Doodle celebrated that fact. In case you missed it, and want to try it out, here’s a link that will still work after today is over: https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-50-years-of-kids-coding . It is a cool symbol-based (no words, so should work for students of any language!) HoC-style activity within a Google Doodle, with a rabbit trying to eat some carrots. Check it out!


Celebrating 50 years of Kids Coding #GoogleDoodle
Also, if you’re interested, there is an actual Hour of Code activity based on that original turtle (updated to the Python language), which can be found at https://hourofcode.com/codehsturtle
Happy CS Education Week!


Tue 12/5: Hour of Code subject recommendations

If you haven’t started the Hour of Code yet because you don’t have access to a classroom set of computers and aren’t sure what coding has to do with your curriculum, here are my recommendations for unplugged subject-specific activities!

  • Science – Rock Paper Scissors, with connections to biological population modeling (unplugged activity plus presentation on teacher screen)
  • Social Studies – History of Codes and Ciphers (one lesson, plenty more material as well e.g. wikipedia)
  • Art – Algorithmic Doodles (fractals & algorithms)
  • Math – Hexahexaflexagons (geometry, discrete math w/ directed graphs and finite state machines)
  • English / Language Arts – Magical Book Magic (computational thinking and patterns with words)

If any English teachers do have access to a set of computers, the Automatic Homework Excuse Generator looks pretty cool too!

Happy coding,

Nick Yates & the AOET Team

1 Comment

Filed under computer science, teaching