I would like to show the movie “Hidden Figures” in my CSD classroom to emphasize the problem solving process. Does anyone have a worksheet or know of where to access one that I could use for this purpose?

If you ever receive one I would love to have it as well

Thanks so much, but I have seen this before. Unfortunately, it is mostly focused on history and African American History. I was looking for something related to computer science and our CSD curriculum (problem solving, what makes a computer a computer, etc.)

Thanks so much for the reply though. I appreciate it.

Was there a specific clip you planned on using? I love the idea. Hadn’t even occurred to me!

Nothing truly in particular, just general CSD to keep the kids engaged. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I remember all of the problem solving the men and women had to do to get the rocket to the moon. They had to define the problem correctly. there was a point where the main character said that they were solving the wrong problem. Also, how the women were “processing” all of the information for NASA. Finally, I love the scenes where they get the new IBM computer that took up the entire room and how they had to learn how to run the computer. They would have to input the algorithms so it could do their work for them. The computer didn’t replace the women, they worked along side of it.

Now that I am teaching CSD, I am seeing all of these themes take place in Unit 1 of the curriculum.

I need to watch the movie again (maybe this weekend) and get some concrete ideas going.

Oh and most importantly, showing women succeeding in the CS field.

This is such a great idea!!! I think you just illuminated all of the questions you would need to make the worksheet . I love this idea. I’m brainstorming right now.

Overview: Students discuss Hidden Figures and what it might have meant that Katherine Johnson had to “make new mathematics” where “there is no formula.” They play a game about communicating mathematical ideas across barriers, that may force them to “see beyond the numbers” and come up with new mathematics. Finally they reflect on their experiences dealing with mathematical frustrations, and the ways that Katherine Johnson’s experiences as a Black woman might have helped prepare her to be a pioneer in her field.

Lesson Resources Needed:

Hidden Figures trailers: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/hidden-figures (particularly the second trailer, “Give or Take”

Folders or books to put up between students to make a barrier to hide each other’s work during the “Mission Control” game

Either tangram or pattern block pieces or graphs and graph paper, depending on which version of the “Mission Control” game you want students to play

Lesson Launch: Play one or more trailers from the movie, Hidden Figures. Help students understand what role the women at NASA were hired to do (carry out the sort of calculations that calculators and computers now do, based on others’ instructions), how hard that work was, and also how it was different from what the white male engineers were expected to do (apply mathematical ideas in new ways to problems that no one had solved before). Make sure students are aware that Katherine Johnson, and other women at NASA at the time, went beyond the expectations to “invent the math” and be problem solvers.

Explain that we are going to play a game that will encourage students to think about math in new ways, apply some problem-solving, and work on a version of the problem that Katherine Johnson went on to work on at NASA: how to communicate with the astronauts in space when some part of your communication has failed, and you need them to understand the geometry or rocket trajectory to get home again.

Mission Control Games: (Originally published in Powerful Problem Solving, Heinemann 2013)

Geometry Version:

Format: Students working in pairs or groups of four.

Materials: Folders or books to serve as dividers, pattern blocks or tangrams

Step 1: Determine which blocks will be used for Game 1.

Suggestion: Start with two each of two different polygons.

Step 2: Using the folders or books to block others’ views, one student in the group (or pair) constructs a pattern using the specified number of blocks.

Step 3: Set the scenario explaining that the person making the pattern using the specified number of blocks is Mission Control and all others participating are Space Ship Crew Members. The Space Ship Crew Members are on a mission and have encountered problems—they have only one-way communication with Mission Control! To find their way home, they must follow Mission Control’s orders exactly to rebuild their panel of controls.

Step 4: Remind all students that there is only one-way communication, which means only

Mission Control may speak!

Step 5: Looking at the “panel” of shapes, Mission Control carefully describes the position

of the shapes using as precise vocabulary as possible to assist the crew in constructing the

panel, which will enable them to return to Earth.

Step 6: As Mission Control speaks, the Crew Members listen and construct the panel using

Mission Control’s description.

Step 7: All students compare their control panel to that of Mission Control. If it is exactly

the same, they return to Earth. If it is not exactly the same, they are lost in space!

Step 8: Discuss what was difficult and what strategies students invented to help solve this novel problem. How are they getting better at the task? Play again to let people put their new strategies into action.

Suggestion: Make a list of useful words (available for everyone to see) to assist in subsequent games.

Step 9: As skill in describing the configurations improves, add more blocks to the panel

until of the different polygons have been used.

Algebra/Coordinate Geometry Version:

Format: Students working in pairs or groups of four.

Materials: Folders or books to serve as dividers, graphs and graph paper

Step 1: Using the folders or books to block others’ views,give one student in each pair, or 2 students in each group, a graph to study. Depending on what you are studying, students might get:

Linear functions

Quadratic functions

A graph of a circle or other shape using coordinate geometry

Step 2: Set the scenario explaining that the person with the graph is Mission Control and all others participating are Space Ship Crew Members. The Space Ship Crew Members are on a mission and have encountered problems—they have only one-way communication with Mission Control! To find their way home, they must follow Mission Control’s orders exactly to plot the trajectory of their space ship.

Step 4: Remind all students that there is only one-way communication, which means only

Mission Control may speak!

Step 5: Looking at the graph, Mission Control carefully describes the graph using as precise vocabulary as possible to assist the crew in plotting the trajectory, which will enable them to return to Earth.

Step 6: As Mission Control speaks, the Crew Members listen and plot the graph using

Mission Control’s description.

Step 7: All students compare their graph to that of Mission Control. If it is exactly

the same, they return to Earth. If it is not exactly the same, they are lost in space!

Step 8: Discuss what was difficult and what strategies students invented to help solve this novel problem. How are they getting better at the task? Play again to let people put their new strategies into action.

Suggestion: Make a list of useful words (available for everyone to see) to assist in subsequent games.

Step 9: As skill in describing the graphs improves, add specific constraints to Mission Control about what they can and cannot tell their astronauts. For example:

Students can only give the coordinates of points with positive x-coordinates – the rest of the trajectory has to be figured out through other kinds of clues

Students can only give the exact coordinates of one point – the rest of the trajectory has to be figured out through other kinds of clues*

For students of calculus, you can force them to use the math Katherine Johnson was using by telling them they can only give a starting point on the curve and then information about the slope or derivative!

*In the Hidden Figures movie, Katherine Johnson suggests using Euler’s method to plot the trajectories. What students are doing as they try to describe a graph with the constraint of knowing only one point is related to Euler’s method. Euler’s method is a way to plot a curve given only the starting point and knowing the rate of change (local slope) at each point on the curve. The curve can be approximated using lots of tiny linear functions to get to the next point – a method your students might use as they tell a friend, “Start at (0, 0). Go up 1 and over 1. Now, go up 3 and over 1. Then up 5 and over 1.” If students use this method, point out the connection to Katherine Johnson’s work.

Lesson Debrief: Hear from students what it was like trying to use mathematics they were familiar with (shapes, graphs) to solve a new problem: communicating with someone who couldn’t see what you saw and couldn’t ask you any questions. Listen to students describe what was hard or easy, what made them think in new ways, and what it was like to have to use math to do something they’d never thought about before.

Ask students to connect their experiences with this game to other aspects of their lives: have they had to use communication skills like this before? Cope with frustrations? How did their previous experiences help them have success today?

Connect this back to Katherine Johnson by asking, “How might the women in Hidden Figures have drawn on their life experiences to help them make mathematical and engineering and computing breakthroughs?”

Students might consider:

They knew how to cope with frustration and set-backs

They knew how to look at problems (computers taking over their jobs, Russia winning the space race, not knowing a formula) as opportunities (the computers will need programmers, the urgency around Russia means that there will be more leeway in allowing us to contribute, there are mathematical techniques that are specifically designed for calculating without a formula such as Euler’s method)

They learned to be confident in their own thinking, and check their own work, knowing that they could only rely on themselves and each other

More Resources:

Excerpt from Hidden Figures (the book): http://nautil.us/issue/43/heroes/the-woman-the-mercury-astronauts-couldnt-do-without

Katherine Johnson’s first paper (with her name on it!) about calculating aspects of orbit: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19980227091.pdf (I think this paper is about figuring out how to launch a rocket so that it passes over what the movie calls the “go/no-go” point. In the “Give or Take” trailer she assumes that the capsule is over a certain point and calculates that it will therefore land in the Bahamas. This paper shows that once you work backwards to find the right point for the rocket’s re-entry that will get it to land in the right spot in the ocean, how to work backwards further to figure out where to point the rocket at launch to get it to pass over the “go/no-go” point.)

Paper by Katherine Johnson about how astronauts can navigate by stars and do calculations by hand to re-set their trajectory: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19680002053.pdf (One problem they had to solve: making sure the by-hand calculations didn’t take so long that by the time you were done calculating you’d passed the point to turn!)

I found this lesson plan on the internet.

http://mathforum.org/blogs/max/a-hidden-figures-lesson-plan/

Maybe it will help.

I really like this idea for highlighting problem solving, CSD and “Make new mathematics”. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas. I would love to see your vision of what the worksheet would look like.

Hi everyone.

Here is what I have put together so far. It’s a rough draft, but gotta start somewhere. Let me know if there are any other questions you think I should add (or delete). I wanted enough to keep them intrigued but not too much to where they are bogged down. I wanted to add something about women in the computing field but didn’t really know how to word it without getting too political.

Any other suggestions?

https://myuticak12-my.sharepoint.com/personal/michael_galli_uticak12_org/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?docid=0d2099482107f4c368af39a4fc154623d&authkey=Ad3PGBcgIZZBRmLnim3kCco&expiration=2018-07-24T17%3A58%3A52.000Z

This is a wonderful resource. You’ll have to let everyone know how it works. Ya know… Reflect on the problem!

I love this thread. Thanks for all of the shares!

Did you get this going - love your connections to CS? Did it help find “Hidden Figures” in your classroom?

The movie worked well. The kids loved it. There was even some clapping at some points. The worksheet was great. Enough to keep them engaged but not too much to bog them down.

Note: If you haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet, whether you show it to your class or not, it is an excellent movie!!

Thank you for sharing this scratch project idea.

Here are a few resources I put together for showing Hidden Figures. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B380nkWk4WdINkpJYS1yS1JDOFE?usp=sharing

Thanks for sharing. I like your intro slideshow.

This is awesome, thank you for sharing!