Mathematics: Geometry and Spatial Sense
- describe the relative locations and the movements of objects on a map
Vocabulary for coding (algorithm, symbol, debugging)
These lessons provide opportunities for teachers and students to gather evidence through teacher, peer, and self-assessments; and learning goals and success criteria. See Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools, Chapter 4 for more information
  • Symbol Key (1 per group) (math vocabulary modified from Symbol Key)
  • Cup Stack Pack (1 per group) (Cup Stack Pack)
  • Disposable cups (6 or more per group)
  • Code programming sheet (e.g., a blank 100-square centimetre or two-centimetre grid sheet)
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Lesson Adapted from “My Robotic Friends” by Thinkersmith and Traveling Circuits (My Robotic Friends)
This is the minds on button.
  • Review vocabulary (coding, algorithm, symbol, debugging) with students. Emphasise that debugging is an opportunity to improve rather than a negative.
  • Review mathematical vocabulary to describe relative locations.
  • Ask the class if anyone has heard of robotics - Has anyone seen or touched a robot? Does a robot “hear” what you speak or “understand” what you say? The answer is, “Not the same way that a human does.”
  • Explain that robots need a series of specific “instructions” (sometimes called an algorithm) that they have been preprogrammed to run.
This is the action button.
  1. Show the class a copy of the Symbol Key (or display on chart paper, etc.).
  2. Tell the class that they will be using these four symbols to instruct their “robot” to build a specific cup stack (useful to have these on chart paper in addition to handout):

    • ↑ = Pick up cup (1 cup height)
    • ↓ = Put down cup as far as it will go and release
    • → = Move cup forward (half a cup width)
    • ← = Move cup backward (half a cup width)
  3. Try this lesson as a class. Let the students give directions for the teacher to write down.
  4. Invite one of the students to be the “class robot” to perform the finished code.
  5. Go over an example with the class using the first sample from the Cup Stack Pack.
  6. Next, place students in groups of three - one of whom will be the robot while the other programmers complete their code.
  7. Programmers will choose one image from the Cup Stack Pack.
  8. Programmers will create code for how the robot should build the selected tack, referring to the Symbol Key and writing on their coding worksheets. Cups remain with the robot, not provided to programmers during coding.
  9. When programmers have finished coding their stack they provide the instructions to the student “robot” tester.
  10. The robot will read the symbols from the coding worksheet and apply the corresponding movements. Only the student “robot” tester should be talking. Encourage the robots to use the relevant vocabulary.
  11. The group should look for incorrect movements, then work together to debug their program before having the student “robot” re-run it.
This is an image of a student using symbols to code a program.

Student using symbols to code a program.

This is an image of an example coded program.

Programming example.

This is the consolidation button.
Students can take turns being the robot.
  • Provide cups to programmers during programming step, if they are having difficulty writing their code without cups.
  • Challenge the students to create their own stack drawings.
  • Add the following symbols for those students who might respond positively to the challenge:
    • ⟳ = Turn cup right 90 degrees
    • ⟲ = Turn cup left 90 degrees
  • Review math and coding vocabulary.
  • Have students create a growing or repeating pattern of stacked cups (Patterning and Algebra).
  • Try the activity using paper Scratch Jr. blocks to create the code for a student ‘ robot ‘ tester.