Polygon Transformer – an exercise in collaborative Chrome app development

Eighth grade math kicks off with a unit on geometry. More specifically, geometry transformations – understanding how translations, reflections, rotations and dilations affect congruent angles and sides of a polygon. Eighth grade students can plot vertices on the coordinate plane until the cows come home, but the real power of this unit comes from understanding the geometric properties that govern the shapes and transformations themselves. Mr. Williams, our eighth grade math teacher, approached me about creating a Chrome app (which would run on our students’ Chromebooks) that allowed students to more quickly explore these transformations without being hampered by manual vertex plotting.

Fortunately, I had the foundation of this app already from a lesson on algorithmically creating line art point-by-point last winter. The first round of feature requests included:

  • Creating a closed polygon out of a series of vertices entered as ordered pairs
  • Translating, rotating and reflecting that shape, while keeping each result on-screen
  • Labeling each polygon in sequence – ABC, A’B’C’, etc.

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Launching a new data initiative within our CT program

As we kick off our second year of Computational Thinking at Excel, we decided we wanted to be more data-driven going forward. Last year focused on understanding how best to integrate CT-rich curriculum into classrooms, how to get students hooked and how to ensure we were working towards our program goal of empowering all students to see themselves as computational thinkers. Subjectively, it all felt pretty successful – we had some great lessons, students seemed to enjoy the projects, and we saw some national attention. This year, we’re looking to prove our success.

We have two goals we’re focused on. The first is to show that students are demonstrating knowledge transfer by connecting computer science concepts to other disciplines. This happens when a student proposes using an algorithm to help write a poem, or when they can identify when and how they used pattern recognition to analyze lab experiment results. The second, more audacious goal is to show that integrating computational thinking into core disciplines increases student mastery of targeted standards. That is, we want to show that this program can and should scale to the broader K12 education world – it directly increases measurable student success where teachers want it.

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