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Getting students excited about math is an intimidating task.

And yet, with a few programmable mice and numbered postcards, Math Teacher Joshua Palsky did just that– his students honed in with their groups to solve math problems, programming their mice to move to the correct numbered card. 

Each number on the card represented a possible answer to a question, leaving students to answer math problems and then program their mouse to scurry towards the correct answer before other teams. 

Palsky offered students time to observe how the mice operate and test their programming features. Once students felt comfortable programming, he put math problems on the board. Students solved them as a group, rushed to program their robotic mice to move towards a numbered card, and watched the rat race, hoping they were correct and the first to finish.

Palsky shared that one student missed the previous assignment and had asked to work on the previous worksheet assignment with similar problems to those students were solving with their programmable mice, in addition to working with a programming team. The student struggled with their worksheet, but not with the problems in the programming task. To the student’s surprise, the assignment came easy, the questions less challenging when applied to a more immediately applicable scenario.

“I don’t understand– I can’t do them on the worksheet, but as soon as I’m solving problems to program for the mice, I can do them,” the student said.

Joshua Palsky believes that framing math within real-world scenarios is a valuable tool for engagement. “We still do a lot of worksheets as necessary, but getting students out of the worksheets makes a massive difference in learning.”

Palsky hopes to implement more programming and tech in his future math classes.

“As much as students are on their phones, students don’t know how to use technology in any meaningful way. They don’t want to do inquiry-based learning, naturally– but you put a toy– as they see it– in front of them, and they come alive. They asked questions.”

The robots were a gift from our district’s Innovative Learning Director, Suzy Cox. 

“Suzy Cox was my Professor at Utah Valley University. I saw that she had joined our district, and I had to reach out.”

As a long-time Provoite, she knows students, incoming teachers, and staff at the district from her time as a Professor at Utah Valley University’s School of Education. The two spoke and set a goal to get more tech-based materials to aid teaching into his hands soon. 

Joshua Palsky seemed excited at the prospect.

“Any day we can play and learn is a good day.”

We’ll visit Joshua Palsky’s class for future stories. Keep an eye out for incoming stories on the STEM Inclusion Initiative to see how STEM tracks are gearing up to run district-wide and for some incredible student projects from last year’s STEM Fair.

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei
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