Math and robotics integration spurs applied learning, real-world connections

Student in a classroom works with a small bot and attempts to attach a pencil to it.During the global #HourOfCode event celebrating computer science (Dec. 9-15), Goshen High School students in Christina Maliwacki’s pre-calculus course applied their learning of quadratic equations and functions by programming Edison robots.

Two students in a classroom set up small robotsOn loan from the Orange-Ulster Library, the Edison robots are a powerful, engaging tool for teaching STEM subjects, computational thinking and computer programming in a hands-on way.

“We learned how to use math to create a graph and we got to see what we can do with math by programming the bots,” senior Gabriella Fini said.Two students reviewing equations on two sheets of paper.

The quadratic functions conceived by the students involved moving the bots along a line representing an equation. With the help of small, plastic attachments built by STEM teachers Dillon Johnson and Joe Fedor on 3D printers, students were also able Large sheet of paper depicting a quadratic equation and quadratic connect a writing instrument to the bots, allowing them to draw as they moved.

“I like this hands-on approach to math because it applies to the real world,” said senior Sadie Mulleady. “It’s like you get to be the engineer by telling the robot what to do.”

“This classroom activity is a great example of the cross-disciplinary and real-world connections students make through hands-on, project-based learning,” said Jonathan Redeker, K-12 technology coordinator, who supports this initiative with Aileen Behringer, library media specialist. “Project-based instruction and professional development is a major focus for our STEAM teachers district-wide.”

Student holding a phone kneels on the classroom floor in front of large sheet of paper with an equation and a quadratic function. A small robot sits near the equation line.On one end of the classroom, senior Brooke Youngman was using her phone to make a video of her bot’s performance.

“How often do you see a student recording their math work and sharing the excitement of their success on social media?” Redeker Student sits on the classroom floor next to her laptop watches a small robot hoping it will move along a quadratic function drawn on a large piece of paperasked.

“I’ve never been this excited to come to math class,” Brooke acknowledged.

With support from the CTE Technical Assistance Center of NY, Goshen High School is collaborating with WhyMaker, a STEM professional development company, to help integrate project-based learning in all STEAM instruction and curriculum, and broaden opportunities for all students.