Math Facts with “SCRATCH” the Cat

Taking this opportunity to write about something more personal and at the same time technical to share with everyone else. This month “Communications of the ACM” magazine I regularly receive, brought a little gift for me and my eight year old son. The front page article “Scratch: Programming for all” showcase a little one manipulating a bunch of “lego” like bricks which looked more like a set of computer programming pieces of code. Yes, indeed those were pieces of SCRATCH programming language a project launched in 2007 by the MIT media lab folks. After reading the article my usual curiosity took me to download the SCRATCH SDK that currently runs over Mac/Win OSes only,YES I actually spent several hours this weekend hacking on a WinXP virtual box with my son and I have no regrets so far.

I am not going to write about SCRATCH programming language and its community but I highly recommend it for those like me with little ones at home that may or not be interested in computer programming but you do not want to discourage them at an early stage trying to teach them how to program in C, Java, Ruby  or anything similar. With SCRATCH programming they actually start producing executable programs in the form of games, stories or simulations in matter of hours and I mean “producing” which includes publishing their application on the web for others to enjoy, enhance and share.

The goal this weekend for Son and Dad was to figure something out that we could create and complete no further than Sunday night and something that we both can actually use in a regular basis. Since we have been dealing with the issue of mastering those elementary school math facts (addition/subtraction) at certain speed we decided to give SCRATCH project a chance.

The RESULT: we spent around of six non-consecutive hours  this weekend designing, implementing, debugging and releasing our math facts program,  of course normal weekend activities had higher family priorities. The project was not very ambitious but we end up deploying an application that my kid is thrilled with, he is not only using it to improve his math facts abilities but also he feels proud of using it because he helped to create it, yes, he wrote some pieces of code and was the master mind behind the basic design.



Well, I guess this may not be the big breakthrough for most of my geeky friends but I had finally found and personally experience a real programming language for all and I really mean for ALL including kinds and grown ups that are still looking into start learning programming principles with out feeling like it is rocket science. My ten year old daughter is also starting to create her own SCRATCH stuff, let see what happens with my kids using this tool.

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