Frequently Asked Questions

What is this Web site?
Who would benefit from this site?
How did this project get started?
What level of education does this site address?
What is a classroom activity?
What is a calculator program?
What is a SAM?
Can I make a SAM?
What are your workshops all about?
How do I schedule a workshop at my site?
Are there on-line activities that would help me understand what you do in your workshops?
Can I bring ideas and activities from your workshops into my classroom?
Who has participated in your workshops?


What is this Web site?
This Web site supports a National Science Foundation grant-supported project to improve teaching in the areas of Mathematics, Science, and Technology at the high school and college levels. Improved learning results from using math, science, and technology principles to build and control various machines such as pointers and robots.

Who would benefit from this site?
In addition to providing general information to anyone who wants to know more about the Math Machines concept, this site provides support in the form of machine building instructions, calculator programs, discussion forums, etc. for those who have participated in Math Machines workshops.

What level of education do you work with?
Most of our work is done with high school and community college teachers of math, science, and technology. However, workshops can be created for k-12 and university participants.

What is a classroom activity?
During Math Machines workshops, participants engage in group learning activities such as building robots and controling robots with calculator programs. These activities can then be taken back to each participant's classroom and used to improve student learning. The activites are constructed so that they are very much in alignment with educational standards for national math, science, and technology.

What is a calculator program?
The machines that are used in our hands-on learning activities are controlled by Texas Instruments calculators. Various calculator programs are installed onto the calculators in order to cause the machines to do various things such as move, point, or reflect a light in
much the same way that scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians use embedded computers to control automobiles, hospital instruments, home appliances and industrial machinery.

What is a SAM?
SAM is a calculator controlled robot, and the letters stand for Science And Math Robot. SAM is only one of the machines that we build and program in order to apply math and science principles to real-life problems.

Can I make a SAM?
Yes. One of the primary activities in our workshops is usually the construction of SAMs in small groups -- and/or the construction of other calculator-controlled machines such as pointers. The process of creating a SAM starts with breadboard, wheels, motor, soldering equipment, etc. and results in functional robots. Creating SAM is a satisfying and fun process, oftentimes resulting in custom-decorated robots, each with a personality of its own. SAM is designed to be cost-effective so that they can be created for as little as $20, not including the caluculator used to control SAM.

What are your workshops all about?
We've done workshops that were 4 hours, 1 day, 3 days, 1 week and 2 weeks. During the workshops, participants create and control machines using principles from math and science. The activities can be taken back to the classroom and used to help students understand, through application, the principles of math and science. The cost depends on the materials we provide (ranging from a breadboard controller to full robots), the number of participants, and the extent to which we need to customize the workshop.

How do I schedule a workshop at my site?
To schedule a workshop contact fred.thomas@mathmachines.net.

Are there on-line examples that would help me understand what you do in your workshops?
You can get some understanding of and feel for the workshops by viewing photos from past workshops, perusing the building instructions for various machines, and browsing the text version of an activity. The things that are hard to capture on-line are the postive group processas and collaborative learning that occur when people work on these problems together in the workshops.

Can I bring ideas and activities from your workshop into my classroom?
Absolutely. The workshops are designed to walk participants through activities that can be replicated, and adjusted to meet specific requirements in your classroom.

Who has participated in your workshops?
Typical participants have been groups of high school and community college teachers of math, science, and/or technology.

 

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"The most important skill determining a person's life pattern has already become the ability to learn new skills, to take in new concepts, to assess new situations, to deal with the unexpected. This will be increasingly true in the future: The competitive ability is the ability to learn.”
Seymour Papert

 

"It is folly to use as one's guide in the selection of fundamental science the criterion of utility. Not because (scientists)... despise utility. But because. .. useful outcomes are best identified after the making of discoveries, rather than before."
John C. Polanyi. Excerpt from the keynote address to the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute of Science, Toronto June 2, 1996