# Teaching functions

I think my group of third graders would like a more current song. Recently, we finished up a unit on Ancient Mali. In order to help the kids learn the curriculum, I found a song on YouTube that had changed the lyrics to “Up Town Funk” to words describing Ancient Mali. I would utilize that song in the function “songwriting” lesson.

I tred to use certain scenarios in discussing functions. Just like referring to a certain job. For instance a driver of a vehicle. When you want to drive you jus call the driver

I teach Kindergarten so songwriting or lyrics is not something they have seen explicitly. I think to introduce functions I would tie it into math. In kindergarten we talk about how to represent a number in many forms; i.e 5 objects or circles can be represented by the number 5…each written numeral has a pre-agreed function.

In an advanced class I would give it a try with tinkercad to introduce functions. I just discovered that you can do block coding with tinkercad. An example of tinkercad could be analysed. As a next step the students would design something small and simple themselves. For that project they would need to pre-think the problem, break it down in smaller problems which they might want to create a function for.

I love the example of “Old MacDonald” in the video. I teach Kindergarten so this is a perfect way to explain!

I teach first grade. I would take yarn, cherrios and fruit loops and use them to create a segment pattern for them to follow to make a necklace.
example C-C-F-F-F-C-C-F-F-F
They can make a necklace but they must figure out how to write the code first. using function to reuse the segments that repeat over and over. I would partner them up to work together. I would walk around listening to conversations, looking at their Mood Monitor on their table to see who may need more specific direct help. I would encourage those that get it done first seek for another group they may help with. Everyone would have opportunty to make their necklace.

I would probably introduce functions by reading a story that had lines that repeat over and over again.

I would probably introduce functions by reading a story that had lines that are written many times throughout the story

I really like the math connections of teaching functions with parameters. We do things like this teaching math all the time, but don’t often connect it to other things. So I really like the lesson with the different songs because I think that makes this concept much more real for kids.

I teach high school math, and a “real world” way that I might incorporate the idea of functions into my class would be to compare it to something that we do all the time. Functions are used in coding so that programmers don’t have to rewrite the same thing over and over, and spend unnecessary time explaining the same thing. I would compare this to the agenda that I have posted in my classroom every day when students walk in. At the beginning of the year, I explain what the different parts mean, and then each day, I don’t have to describe it again and again. So, for instance, when students see the first thing listed on the agenda is “Warmup” they know this means to get their Chromebooks out and complete the activity - I don’t have to explain it and they don’t have any questions about what to do, as they already know what it means, because we repeat it daily.

My school uses Go Noodle for movement breaks, and our students really enjoy them. So many of the breaks are actually a great representation of functions, as parts repeat over and over multiple times. I think they would really relate to demonstrating functions that way before diving into coding functions.

How would you explain the concept of functions to your students?

Explain that it is like a chorus, it is what we call a code we can use over and over again.

The concept of functions can be a little tricky for 1st grade vocabulary. I teach this idea by using the word “Routine”. Throughout our day, there are several tasks that we need to get done each day. For example, every day we have the same “Morning Routine.” Within our “Morning Routine” we need to unpack, make our lunch choice, turn in our folder, and begin our Morning Work. Rather than writing out all of these tasks on the board, our Daily Schedule just says “Morning Routine.”

I also allow my students to create their own Routine. The first one is their “Getting Ready for School Routine”. I like to start with this one because it is usually something they are familiar with and it is slightly different for each student. Later in the year when we are learning how to tell time we substitute the word “Routine” for “Schedule”. Once we have built up theses concepts, it is easier for my students to understand how the word “Function” means several tasks within one setting or part.

Mrs. Hastings, I really love this idea! I’ve never thought of using Go Noodle in this way. My first graders love using this site for movement breaks as well. This would be a really fun and engaging way to look for repeats of the chorus / function. This would also add a great kinesthetic learning element as the kids find the functions of the dance moves. Thank you for the great idea!

Robin,
I like your ideas about how to make the terminology easier for primary students to understand. Using their every day tasks in the classroom would be something the kids can name and do at the same time in order to reinforce the idea of a function. Singing familiar songs with an easy to distinguish chorus is another strategy I would use to teach the concept of function.

I would link the activity to maths and repeated addition and the function of multiplication. I would also use music and creating their own music to identify the function or chorus.

I have always been a fan of Victor Borge and his skit about Phonetic Punctuation. Basically, he tells a story and applies sounds to the punctuation. He has a system and he explains it. Then, he reads a story with the sounds. It is funny and engaging and only about 5 minutes. I would play this for my kids and make the connections that rules can be repeated and followed throughout a program much like a story in Victor Borge’s way.

I have a Grade 3 class and the concept of using the suncatcher was a really simple way of introducing the repeated steps. Because my learners enjoy singing, the idea of functions being like a chorus was a really smart way if them relating to and applying functions in a real world context.
Thanks for the ideas!

I think explaining that functions are similar to loops, but that within the “loops” things are allowed to be changed. I really like the idea of using songs to introduce this to students.

I teach a multi-age class of 4/5/6 graders.

I do like the idea of relating functions to the chorus of a song like suggested in the unplugged lessons. I also think it would be helpful to relate functions to routines we do in class. For example, students in my class know the routine for lining up. It is multiple steps, but I do not need to write line up on our schedule every day because students understand the function - a group of steps you would repeat multiple times.