The How of StatBotics… Solving a Real Problem
When teaching maths, physics, or engineering it is tempting to start with an equation like the equation of motion, s=ut+½at², and then teach the theory. The practical application of the math often missed, and rarely if ever is the description of the original problem that the math itself was designed to solve even mentioned. We think that process is backwards. So we teach by following a logical process from original problem, through the theory of the solution, and the practical application of the theory. This is the most natural way for students to learn complex math concepts and how to apply them.
All StatBotic classes start off with a problem to solve. Students work through possible solutions to the problem and the mathematical concepts behind them. If appropriate, equations summarizing the solution to the problem are discussed, but these are secondary to understanding the concepts within the problem solution.
By following this natural problem solving process, the students first get the context of the problem, and then work through the practice and theory of the solution. Starting with the context removes the “but what do I use it for?” question. In fact it does the opposite, it opens their eyes and minds to the art of math in the world around them.
The What of StatBotics… Exploring the Concepts
There are several subjects in mathematics that are not covered until high school or college, the reason being that the mathematics is too complex for middle school. Specific examples of this are statistics, calculus, and control theory. The mathematics is complex, but the concepts are not. The concepts themselves are well within the grasp of the average middle school student.
Our focus on the problem and the concepts without getting into the details of the mathematics allows us to successfully teach the concepts to middle school students. Statistics in particular is becoming more and more important in many areas of science, engineering, economics, biology, and commerce. Our robotics class was originally envisioned as a tool for teaching statistics. It was during its development that the power of the Lego Mindstorm system to teach other advanced math concepts was discovered.
The Why of Statbotics… Bringing Mathematics into Real Life
Your child can be familiar with the statistical concepts of the normal distribution, central limit theory that makes the normal distribution so universal, and the concept of statistical significance. In calculus they are able to understand the concepts behind integration and differentiation. If they can calculate the area of a triangle they can work out the braking distance of a car traveling at 100Km per hour, or the time to free fall 500 meters. The concepts are easily within their grasp even if they are not able to integrate or differentiate mathematically. Having this practical understanding of the concepts will help them to put the advanced mathematics into context when it is time for them to learn the calculations.
We choose to focus on subjects that are crucial in many areas of science and technology, but that are not typically covered in middle school because of their mathematical complexity. We avoid teaching the complex math, but just teach the concepts using the capabilities and strengths of the EV3 system. At this stage in their learning it is much more important that your child understands the concepts than that they can do the maths. The maths can come later, and will come easier if they learn the concepts now.