Coding for pre-schoolers: a ‘Turtle Logo’ in Forth

*New!* (26 Nov) – Turtle Logo v1.4 is available now! Entirely key operated, suitable for 3-4 years+ to 99 years. 750 lines of Forth code. Algorithmic drawing program with advanced features, incl. macro record & playback, color, etc. Works on WinXP to Win10.

1. Inspiring the next generation of technology builders.

A challenge faced by both parents and teachers is how to help young children develop a ‘builder’ relationship with technology, instead of becoming increasingly passive consumers of content created by others. The consensus on what’s important for older kids and adults is clear: coding. This enables children to participate in the creation of their own technological “micro-worlds” — environments rich in educational potential.[14]

This autumn, spurred by having our own young children (one aged 4 years, the other 16 months), we began an experiment, the result of which is a Turtle Logo program for Windows computers (freely downloadable) that is simple enough to be accessible for children from 3 years and older, while providing an extensible platform that can grow with the child.

The long-term goal is to enable children to express their creativity, artistry, and natural ‘builder’ impulses using coding, computer graphics, and robotics as readily as the previous generation could using paints, brushes, and building blocks.

Turtle Logo - Inspiring the next generation of technology builders.

Turtle Logo – Inspiring the next generation of technology builders.

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The Importance of Non-Technical Questions to Successful Mathematics Education

Students who are hard-working and otherwise successful, but whose peers, mentors, and home environment are mostly non-technical and disengaged from the ideas behind science and technology, are at substantially higher risk of disorientation, dissatisfaction, and disillusionment with mathematics and science.

In this article, I’ll develop this conjecture and suggest an approach that incorporates philosophical and humanistic elements into technical subjects. To reach and engage a broader popluation of students is critical if mathematics education is to directly contribute to the technical (& technological) literacy of a broader population of students.

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A Course in the Philosophy and Foundations of Mathematics

An examination of mathematical methods and the search for mathematical meaning.

During your studies of mathematics, physics and engineering, you may find yourself distracted or troubled by meta questions about mathematics — questions that fall outside the syllabi of most of the coursework that you’ll take.

For those for whom this itch is persistent, what follows is an outline and reading list for a Course in the Philosophy and Foundations of Mathematics. Among the topics included are the relation of mathematics to science, the examination of mathematical method, and the search for mathematical meaning.

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Good mathematical technique and the case for mathematical insight

Good mathematical technique can bring the solution to certain mathematical questions within reach. By a proper formulation (one that is both tractable and that generalizes readily) and the use of mechanical techniques, one can often pass from a single insight to the solution of a family of problems, and in some cases, to the solution of the general question itself. … Good mathematical technique has built within it the mathematical insight of the best of previous generations.

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Teaching Mathematics “in Tunic”

Thoughts on Teaching Mathematics in an Exploratory, Dialectical, Topical format.

Mathematics is a richly spun tapestry, heavy with exciting interconnections from a multiplicity of endeavors, perspectives, and disciplines, both applied and theoretical. Yet contrary to this “non-linear” reality, the typical pattern of school and even university mathematics is both linear and restricted.

For an instructor interested in engaging students, this presents a number of challenges. In the past, where master-apprentice style relations have thrived, when fears of censure at revealing the inner thoughts of the practising professor have abated, in these relaxed, private environments, we have often seen the best of mathematics and science presented beautifully. I call this teaching “in tunic” instead of in the defensive armor common in large lectures at public universities.

This article takes a look at current practice, at what might be behind the way things are, and what could be changed in order to win the minds and hearts of mathematics students.

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Knowledge Engineering & the Emerging Technologies of the Next Decade*

Between Mathematics, Computer Science, Software Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Statistics, is emerging an area of effort concerned, not just with using data or information gathered slowly over months or years, but with its real-time acquisition, interpretation and analysis, and its real-time use in appropriate decision-making, automatic adjustment, and intelligent response.

For a team capable of bridging the disciplines involved, the potential for application is truly unlimited.

*This article was originally written 15 September, 2005 when the author was Director of Engineering at BioSonics, Inc. It was published at MathSciTech on 12 January 2010.
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