Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sketchpad & TinkerPlots - Still Out There, Still Awesome!

NCTM is coming up in April and is in San Francisco, which has me very excited because I get to have a Key Curriculum reunion (i.e. my colleagues from my years working for Key Curriculum mostly live in the SF area).  It's hard to describe the amazing connection those of us who worked with Key, (Keysters, as we fondly refer to ourselves) have, and I have yet to find another place or another group of people that I so deeply connect to on both a professional and personal level.

With this math conference and potential to see so many of my former colleagues, I have been a bit nostalgic about some of the things I loved from Key - i.e. Sketchpad and TinkerPlots to name a couple. Sketchpad, now owned by McGraw-Hill, is still around thank goodness, but without the support and push in math education it deserves.  Thankfully, some former Key folks are still out there making a difference with Sketchpad - check out Daniel Scher and Scott Steketee's most recent article in The Mathematics Teacher, Connecting Functions in Geometry and Algebra, where they use Web Sketchpad to create dynamic, in-article representations. Having worked with Web Sketchpad myself, it's amazing, and a great addition to desktop Sketchpad, and hopefully McGraw-Hill will at some point provide access to this tool for everyone.  Meanwhile - Sketchpad is still out there, and of course still better than Geogebra for many aspects of math (I have done extensive work with both).  (Shameless plug - if you need any Sketchpad training/support for your teachers, please reach out to me, as I do that as often as I get the opportunity!).

TinkerPlots, which McGraw-Hill gave back to it's creators, is available again as well. If you haven't ever explored it, I highly recommend you do so.  TinkerPlots is dynamic statistical software that allows incredible visualization and exploration of data, quickly and easily just by dragging and dropping.  It's so fun!!  Better than anything out there, hands down.  The website on TinkerPlots has great resources so be sure to check it out. I use to do workshops and webinars with TinkerPlots when I was with Key, and wish more folks would discover the power of it, as it is especially helpful when working with students just beginning to explore data and connections. Especially helpful for those of you working with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, which has a huge emphasis on data analysis. (Another Shameless Plug - if you need TinkerPlots training/support I am available!)

In my reminiscing about my favorite math software and Key, there is another group I should let you know about, a group that also fell in love with TinkerPlots, but wanted a web-based version for their data site.  Tuva Labs - a data literacy site that has really expanded over the last couple of years, has created an online version of TinkerPlots and has lessons and data sets that can be used, for free, in classrooms.  Here's a link that lets you see the data tool. The site has data sets, lessons in addition to the online dynamic data tool. It is exciting to me to see a web-version of TinkerPlots out there that teachers and students can access, as it makes data come alive and available for students to explore and analyze data. Data literacy is such a need in our world.

Anyway - it warms my heart to know that dynamic math tools, like Sketchpad and TinkerPlots, are still out there, still available, and still being used.  And better yet, there are web-based versions out there, though not necessarily readily available for all (Web Sketchpad). They are both evolving to meet the demands of a web-based society, which is exciting.  There are many other math tools and apps out there, but in my humble opinion, having worked with so many, these two are some of the best and easiest to access and use, with and by students.

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