Hysterical Programming

The Activities

  1. Topic: Pie Graphs, Percentages: Book: The Grizzly Gazette by Murphy
  2. Topic: Programming:
    1. Trace a program:
      Box_X = 0
      Do 4 times {
      ___Print Box_X
      ___Box_X = Box_X + 3
      Print Box_X
    2. Write a program that prints the numbers 1 – 10.

      One student's program that prints 1 - 10.

      One student’s program that prints 1 – 10.

  3. Topic: Spatial Reasoning, Compasses:
    1. Practice drawing circles using the compasses.
    2. Draw a stop light, Draw a snowman.IMG_1345
  4. Topic: Logic: Hand out the first two logic puzzles from Perplexors Level A, and work through them with the kids.

How did it go?

We had all 6 kids this time.  Circle was more difficult than usual this time, partly because 2 of the kids came pretty and late, and partly because my daughter was crying during most of circle.

She puts a lot of pressure on herself to do well in circle, especially on programming activities, so when her first try to write the program didn’t work, she got very upset.  Eventually I sent her to her room to calm down.

While she was gone, I had an interesting conversation with the other kids.  One of the kids thought my daughter was crying because the problem was hard so she didn’t want to try it again. Another kid thought she was crying because she wanted to solve the problem but there wasn’t enough time for me to help her on it.

After she came back, she slowly calmed down, but still was quite fragile throughout circle.

Book: Grizzly Gazette

This was a fun book about a girl named Corey who was in a camp election. The kids were really invested in figuring out how many votes Corey would need, and reading the pie charts for the candidates.


First the kids traced through the program above that prints 0 3 6 9 12.  Two of the kids got it completely independently, and two more got it with a bit of help. The other two didn’t really understand it, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to go through it with them, especially since a couple kids had come late.

Next I handed out paper and pencils and asked the kids to write a program that would print the numbers 1 through 10.  One kid answered immediately: Print “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10”.  I showed everyone his program and said that that would work.

I asked if the kids could write the same program, with a loop.

My daughter answered first with:

Box_X = 0
Do 9 times {
___Print Box_X
___Print Box_X + 1

I traced this through with a couple of kids, and we found that this prints “0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1” I suggested that the problem was that she was not updating the value of Box_X. At this point, my daughter got very upset, and cried through the rest of the activity 😦

A couple more kids came up with plausible answers that had small bugs, or unsupported statements. For example, one girl wrote:

Box_X = 0
Do 9 times {
___Print Box_X

(Add is not a command in our language)

Eventually, one girl came up with a working program!

This was definitely a hard activity for everyone. The kids worked hard at it, but there are still some who need more practice tracing loops before they’ll be able to write their own.


One of the girls in circle LOVES compasses, so she was really excited when I got them out. All the kids started trying to draw circles, but compasses are hard to use! Some kids really had trouble drawing any circle.

After some practice, I asked the kids to draw a stoplight.  The kids realized they had to draw three circles of the same size in a vertical column. One kid’s first attempt had overlapping circles, but he fixed them.

Next the kids tried to draw snowmen. They all figured out how to draw three circles of different sizes, but they had trouble lining them up right. Either the circles overlapped, or they were too far apart.


I gave each kid a copy of Puzzle #1 from Perplexors Level A.  The puzzle was about three teachers (Ms. Rok, Ms. Roll, Mr. Rapp) who taught three subjects (reading, writing, arithmetic), and gave out rewards (brownie points, red letters, gold stars).  There were three clues to figure out what each teacher taught and which rewards they used.

All the kids enjoyed this activity, though it was not easy for them.  Several kids noticed non-obvious conclusions for each game. For example, if Mr. Rapp did not teach writing or arithmetic, then he must teach reading.


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