# Python, Phi, and Portland’s own Kirby Urner

I stayed home yesterday because of and woke up again today with a sore throat. So, being the fish that I am, I swam around on the internets for a while. I don’t remember how I stumbled on it, but I ended up at Kirby Urner‘s 4d solutions and read through quite a bit of his philosophy on teaching math, geometry in particular, and his belief in the necessity of teaching programming (especially in python) with math. I’m impressed, he’s also a Portland local.

Anyway, I was inspired to brush off the ‘ol skillz and see what I could contribute. I imitated some Mathematica code I found to write the python code below. The loop finds the Golden Ratio (phi)

```a = 1 b = 1 for i in range(30):```

``` x = a + b a = b b = x print(i, x/a) ```

There were a few ideas in Kirby’s material that struck a chord for me.

So if you really want to be an effective teacher, you’ll not get in the way of students surpassing you, and understanding in ways you simply do not. Let them also teach *you*. Make it a two way street, from the get go. [cite]

That’s progress in his view. The brightest light Urner’s work set off for me is the potential value of programming in the classroom. For example, instead of pulling up the calculator I could pull up a python command line to perform basic arithmetic. Using loops, I could show students how a computer can simplify/automate long processes. ALGEBRA!! Watching computers store values in variables, and generally being able to read code that ends up looking algebraic offers nice options to extend students’ thinking. I can picture a lesson in which code similar to that above was written and then Pre-runtime: asking students the basic CS question: what’s gonna happen?

If you’re not very familiar with python, then we’ve got something in common, but this little tutorial might make it seem within reach. I used camstudio to make the capture.

phi.avi – (slightly) better quality

### 3 Responses to “Python, Phi, and Portland’s own Kirby Urner”

1. Kevin February 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm #

I’ve been using a bit of programming (on TI-83s) in my class with mixed success. I used them initially because of the small learning curve and how quickly you can go from code to graphics. With code I think its important for students to be able to produce something cool quickly. You might also try Logo as its also easy to write in but you can make rather nice designs by controlling the turtles.

By the way, I like you site design. Template or is it of your own making?

Cheers,

Kevin

2. Nick February 15, 2009 at 7:37 pm #

Hi Kevin – I use a template from Sadish Bala called MistyLook. Same one Dan uses. You definitely hit on something with the fact that code has to get something cool quickly otherwise they lose interest. At the beginning of the year I did a quick distance formula program with my geometry class. The thing I’ve been wanting to do is assign diagrams in geogebra. I figured that students would easily figure out the basics and would pick up on things like using sliders and some basic code to make a few neat manipulatives. Other than letting a bright student play around with it when he finished early I’ve not done this in class.

3. Bill Brett March 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

just typed “Kirby Python” in google. Is as it should be.