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Do You Know Blue?

June 23, 2015

Does anyone else remember Do You Know Blue? The lesson/activity/website put together by Dan Meyer, Dave Major, and inspired by Evan Weinberg? Do these posts ring any bells?

Well, I remember Do You Know Blue? because I still use it to teach a unit on number systems in a computer science class that I teach every summer. And I  have been terribly upset because www.doyouknowblue.com is DEAD! It’s disappeared into the ether leaving me without an amazing amazing resource.

So, like any good programmer, I made a new one and you can find it, in pieces, with instructions, here.

To be clear: this is a big deal to me as a computer science teacher because one of the fundamental problem-solving strategies for a programmer is “how do trick this computer into doing something that I do naturally?”.  This is at the heart of almost any programming endeavor and is a huge roadbloack to students. This is an amazingly difficult, fundamental, painstaking problem and simultaneously the source of every aspect of joy that comes from programming something correctly – tricking the computer to doing what I want it to do is the cause of 100% of the times I’ve hit my head on a lamp as I’ve leapt from my seat in celebration. But, getting students to appreciate how big a deal this is – that it takes hidden acrobatics to do even the simplest things – isn’t always an easy sell.

Which is what makes Do You Know Blue? so amazing – it effortlessly prompts students to consider how many hoops we need to jump through just to do something that we, as humans, do effortlessly. It emphasizes how easy it is for us to take for granted something that computers have absolutely no way of understanding (until we trick them). And further, the solution to this problem is completely disconnected from the concept of ‘color’ – we’re just manipulating numbers in a strange way that, in a happy accident, does what we want it to do (related: simulating dice rolls, simulating computer choice, anything having to do with computer graphics). These are big ideas.

But here’s the sad part: my version of Do You Know Blue is so unbelievably inferior to the original website that it breaks my heart. The original website was almost a precursor to the peer-interaction, scaffolded, seamless lessons that Desmos is producing like a boss. My websites work for me and the lesson I need to use them for, but that’s it. I don’t even know if they work on other internet browsers – I just use Google Chrome for everything. But, there they are, the 5 pieces of Do You Know Blue? that I’ll use again in a few weeks when I teach this class.

But, if you know any hungry techy developer folks who may want to take this and make it better, more interactive, more seamless, less clunky and boxy, then that would be a wonderful byproduct of having this out in the world. And I hope someone does make recreate the old Do You Know Blue? progression, because it was awesome and why should awesome things disappear from the world?

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From → Math

One Comment
  1. *wipes a tear*

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