For some time, Tony Forster has been blogging about using Turtle Art to teach math, programming, and interfacing to the world outside the computer. More recently, I started creating Turtle Art Tutorials to explain how to teach Turtle Art, and how to use it for math, programming, Computer Science, and physics. Here is a sample.
Mokurai has been working on how to teach Sugar by guided discovery, rather than by explicit direction, with only the necessary minimum of hints. At the same time, he has been working on Turtle Art examples to teach concepts of mathematics, programming, Computer Science, and physics, aiming where possible at presentations suitable for pre-literate pre-schoolers. Thus, no text, no formulas, no calculations. Those can come later in sequences on the same topics as children develop, including a transition from Turtle Art to Python, Logo, and Smalltalk, with options for other languages. However, it is necessary to provide texts, sometimes with formulas and calculations, for the teacher or parent helping the child. These will appear on Mokurai’s Replacing Textbooks blog, available at PlanetSugarlabs, and will be incorporated into Open Education Resources on the Sugar Labs Replacing Textbooks server.
- You be the Turtle
- Mathematics and art, an introduction to TA.
- Turtle Art programming without words (includes Mayan and other visual numerals)
- Turtle Art and Logo
Activities/TurtleArt/Tutorials/You be the Turtle
Long before children can use written language or a computer keyboard, they can do Turtle Art in the classroom on an open expanse of carpet, with a set of colored ribbons and tacks or masking tape. One child is the turtle, others fix the ribbons in place, and someone gives directions. Initially, this would be the teacher, but soon the children will want to take over. The Turtle on one run should be given the opportunity to be the direction-giver.
Start simply with Forward [number of steps], Right 90, Left 90. You can draw a surprising variety of patterns with just these. Gradually add commands, such as Back, Pen Up and Pen Down, SetColor (change ribbon), Repeat (have one child keep the count), Right/Left 45/60/120/135, Store Value in Box (have a student keep track of that value), and whatever else the children show readiness for.
Children can start by giving any sequence of directions they like, but after a while, they should be challenged to make particular patterns and to generalize. Can you make a polygon of any number of sides? How do you express the angles? Can you make star shapes? Can you invent directions? How can a child walk in an accurate circle? (Hint: string) How about a quarter circle?
At this point, we are in a research project, specifically Seymour Papert’s project from the 1960s, which asks whether we can make it as natural for children to learn math as language. You be the Turtle has not been done enough to know what preschool children can understand immediately, what they need hints for, what they have to be shown, and how far they can go. We do not know what levels of art or programming or math they can achieve in Turtle Art or otherwise. We do know that it is more than they have been supported in doing so far.