Teaching functions


Hi there,
I like a lot your examples. It will be useful in my English classes and my students can also learn Computer Sciencie at the same time. It’s a nice an useful way to explain variables and funtions. Great! Thank you for your ideas!


I like the suncatcher lesson. I thought it did a good job explaining how a function works. It may be good to develop something that contrasts functions and looping. It seems the students in the video were a little confused on that issue. I’ll have to think about that. Maybe you could do something more complex like a bracelet that has a number of different repetitive sections that would be better suited to developing functions rather than just looping. I could also see from the video that you may have to approach it a couple of different ways to make sure all of your students “get it”.


I like the idea of using Lego blocks with set patterns that can be turned into functions. I think it would be fun to also see what functions the students come up with for various daily tasks. For example, how could we explain our mourning announcement routine using functions for such things as the steps of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.


Functions are similar to patterns we used to explain loops, but we name it so we can use it whenever we need it. I like the video that explained functions with sports analogies.


The provided unplugged activity will work well with my lower level students. I think I’ll refer to some of our science lab terms and procedures for the middle schoolers.


Functions are like giving a one-word command that contains several steps. If we say, brush your teeth, it means 1. Pick up the toothbrush. 2. put toothpaste on the toothbrush. 3. Open mouth. 4. Brush top teeth in front 5. brush top teeth in back 6. brush on the molars on the right. 7. brush on the molars on the right. 8. brush lower teeth on the front. 9. brush lower teeth on back. 10. brush right side of lowers 11. brush left side of lowers 12. brush on molars of lower. 13. rinse mouth 14. put the cap on toothpaste 15. Put the toothbrush in the holder 16. Wipe mouth.

I would ask students to think of other routines that have one word but mean several steps.


My first graders don’t necessarily know what functions are so I really appreciate that the sun catcher activity introduces the concept in a hands-on way. I also like the idea of using songs that the students are familiar with to have them see the patterns.


I liked the video description of functions that likened a function to a sports movement in basketball. Unfortunately, basketball is not a sport my class is familiar with and I am not at all sure of sport moves in AFL or Rugby.

There are two girls in my class who like to show me a ‘move’ on the oval in play time. They leap off the bank and jump high spinning once in the air before landing. They call the ‘move’ a twirly-whirly. In teaching ‘functions’ to my class I would use this as an example. But instead of calling it a ‘twirly-whirly’ I would begin by saying each of the steps in the move. E.g. “Leap off the bank with your right foot extended, use your arms to spin your body around in one turn, now land on the ground.”

I would take the class out to the bank and tell them we are going to be like acrobats in the circus. We will all learn the same steps to a routine. As we do the different steps I will put in the steps for the ‘twirly-whirly’ but get really stressed trying to fit in all of the commands before they finish the move. Then I will say to the kids, “There has to be an easier way of telling you which move to make instead of the one I’m using at the moment. Can you give these steps an easier name?” When the class comes up with a name I will use it in place of the individual steps. We will all know what is involved but it will be easier to say.

Then we will move inside and write down and watch the video that teaches the class how to make a bead sun catcher.


K-2, and sometimes later, students are trying to increase their ability to follow multistep instructions. Routines can be identified as functions by breaking them down into their multiple steps with the function name being the identifier of the routine that has just been broken down.


I had a good experience with teaching Course 3, Stage 4, unplugged activity, Functional Sun-catchers today. My students had difficulty understanding the concept of functions and the “skills” worksheet confused them. I got the idea from the enrichment activity about using the song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” I called up 3 volunteers. I had one be “head and shoulders,” one be “knees and toes,” and one be “eyes, ears, mouth and nose.” Then I had the 3 volunteers sing the song. When I called their name, they would sing the small portion of the song that was assigned to them. I called their names in sequence so the entire song was sung. The kids got a kick out of the activity. They thought it was hilarious, and when we went back to our worksheets, I did not have one single student who was not able to complete it without help.


The function helps us save time by saving a sequence we’d like to use over and over.


I bet the 3rd grade computer class could take the idea of our repeating schedules by day, labeling the day as Function Monday at School, and then write down the routine. Because they repeat their academic classes daily, maybe that be considered a Function of Academic Classes (Reading, Math, ). We could add on the exploratory classes as simple blocks to the larger Function Monday.

I greatly appreciate the videos of a classroom at work with functions, such as Suncatchers. Having the visuals on the board, plus a hands-on activity make this more accessible to all types of learners.


I might work with the Phys. Ed. teacher to develop basketball drills that incorporate various steps and repetition. This could highlight the importance of functions and the necessity of following logical steps to achieve an outcome.


as a former science teacher and current curriculum coordinator, i see direct correlation with developing investigation procedures…helping students understand the importance of being clear and precise about each step, amount, and action, so it can be duplicated correctly by others (or by the computer!)


It is a way of refering to several lines (or events) with a short word. I like the example of the word chorus referring to several lines that are repeated without having to rewrite all of the lines of the referant.


One of the best ways I could think of to teach functions to students was using the idea of parents daily chores. Instead of mom saying Johny have you done your homework, brushed your teeth and and put on pjs. Johny knows every night he will be using the same “function” nightly so instead of mom saying blah blah blah lol she can replace numerous steps with Johny night time function :slight_smile:


Comparing coding to basic steps to be done during any problem. I agree with Eric


I think explaining that functions can save steps instead of rewriting the code every time you need it is something students can understand and appreciate. Do your students like shortcuts? I know mine do.


K-5 Art Teacher teaching functions:
When using watercolor paints, you have to do the same repetitive steps to get the paint on the paper - dip the brush in the water, dip the wet brush into the paint, paint the paper. If we were coding this we could call it watercolor painting. This is a very simple example since we could only use one color of paint at this point in our learning!


In the elementary setting, I would provide a list of directives in order. I might even point out our morning routine vs afternoon routine upon entering the classroom. Each set of directives has a title but is part of the entire day.

Morning Routine
Afternoon Routine
End of Day Routine