Follow up #2 to John Shonder’s US weather data visulaization

Two weeks ago I saw an amazing piece of work by John Shonder shared on Twitter:

I’ve already done two projects with the boys using Shonder’s ideas. The first was just walking through his code and showing him that the underlying ideas weren’t that complicated:

Using John Shonder’s Amazing US Temperature visualization wtih kids

At the end of that project I asked the boys for follow up ideas. My younger son (in 7th grade) thought it would be interesting to look at percent change rather than raw temperature change. We did that follow up yesterday:

Follow up #1 to John Shonder’s US temperature change visualizaiton

My older son (in 9th grade) thought it would be interesting to see if we could use the data to make predictions about future temperatures. We looked at that idea today.

Since an even cursory discussion of predictions is way more complicated than I’d like a 15 min talk with a 7th grader and an 9th grader to be, I decided to focus more on best fit curves rather than on actual predictions.

A funny side note to this discussion is that when I told my older son about this change he said – “That sounds pretty hard.” I told him not to worry, that there was a Mathematica command that does the fitting. His response was “of course there is” – ha ha.

So, we started today’s project by looking at plots of some of the county average temperature data. One thing I did here was have the boys estimate what a best fit line would look like by placing a ruler on the computer screen:

Next we used Mathematica to find the best fit line to the data and used Shonder’s code to do a county by county visualization of the slope of that best fit line.

Not too surprisingly, this visualization looked a lot like Shonder’s original one and the percent change one we looked at yesterday. The fact that all three of these visualization looked pretty similar led to a nice discussion about why that wasn’t so surprising:

Next we fit with a quadratic function rather than a line. As with the fit to the line, we looked a several counties first to get a feel for what was going on:

Finally, we did a county by county visualization of the x^2 coefficient of the quadratic polynomial. Here we got a visual that looked very different from the ones we’d seen before:

I’ve really enjoyed the discussions that we’ve had using Shonder’s project. It is amazing to me how Mathematica (and Shonder’s terrific code!) makes a pretty difficult data analysis project accessible to kids.

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Follow up #1 to John Shonder’s US temperature change visualization

Last weekend we did a project inspired by this incredible data visualization project from John Shonder:

That project is here:

https://mikesmathpage.wordpress.com/2019/06/16/using-john-shonders-amazing-us-temperature-visualization-with-kids/

At the end of last week’s project I asked the boys to think of some follow up projects. My younger son thought it would be interesting to see the percent change in temperature rather than the absolute difference. We did that project today.

The boys have been hiking in the White Mountains for about a week and just got home last night. So, to start today’s project we took a quick look at last week’s project and talked about what changes we’d need to make to implement my younger son’s idea:

Off camera the boys looked up how to convert Fahrenheit to Kelvin so that we could talk about percent change. We started the second part of today’s project by looking at the code where Shonder takes the difference between 10 year averages and changing that code to compute the percent increase.

It is great that Shonder’s code is so accessible that we can make this simple change and spend time talking about math that is easily accessible to a 7th grader.

To finish, we took a careful look at the new visualization. For clarity, below the video are the pictures from last week and this week. I should have prepared both of these for the boys to see in the video, but even though I didn’t, their thoughts on the change are really interesting:

Here’s last week’s visual:

Screen Shot 2019-06-16 at 1.21.46 PM

And here’s this week’s – you have to look pretty carefully to see the differences, but I still think today’s project was worthwhile:

Screen Shot 2019-06-22 at 9.16.13 AM

Using John Shonder’s amazing US temperature visualization with kids

The videos in this project are a bit longer than what we normally do. Also the 2nd one is badly out of focus even though I didn’t do anything that I know of (!!) with the camera between any of the videos. Oh well, don’t let the length or the focus issues distract from Shonder’s amazing piece of work.

So, last week I saw a really neat tweet about a blog post on Wolfram’s site:

I started the project by showing the boys Shonder’s visual and asking them what they thought about it and what they noticed. At the end I showed them the raw data and we talked about some of the difficulties that come when you are dealing with a big data set:

Next we walked through Shonder’s blog post. I wanted to show the boys that although some of the code looks a little complicated, for the most part Shonder was dealing with ideas that were reasonably easy to understand. So, almost all of the steps and ideas in this presentation were things that were accessible to kids.

Next we stepped through the individual lines of code using our home version of Mathematica. Here we go pretty slowly and carefully through most of the code and discuss (and show) what each command does to the data. I hoped that this slow walk would help the kids see that although the pieces of the code might have looked a little intimidating, it was mostly pretty simple stuff. Happily, the boys seemed to understand almost all of the steps, which was really fun!

Finally, I asked each of the boys to think (off camera) of a follow up project that they thought we could do.

My younger son thought about making a graph showing the percent change in the average temperature. That led to a short discussion of how we’d measure that percent change, which was nice. This idea seems like one that we can implement pretty easily and should be accessible for a 7th grader.

My older son wondered if we could make a prediction about future temperatures. This idea is obviously quite a bit more difficult, but hopefully we can find a way to explore it. One thing that might be fun would be to take the first 50 years of data, use that for a prediction of the next 50 years, and then compare that prediction to what actually happened.

Anyway, we’ll think about how to explore both of the ideas in the next week:

I really had a lot of fun prepping for this project and talking about the ideas (and the implementation in Mathematica) with the boys today. It is really amazing to me that data analysis ideas like the one Shonder is sharing here can be made accessible to kids.

Playing with an amazing program on “Scissors Congruence” shared by Francis Su

I saw an incredible tweet from Francis Su yesterday:

After exploring the program a little bit last night I thought it would be really fun for the boys to play with it this morning. So, I showed them the basics of how the program works and had them each play around for 10 min. Here are their thoughts:

Younger son (in 7th grade):

Older son next (in 9th grade):

I am really happy that this program won an NSF award – what an incredibly fun way to share an advanced math topic with everyone!

Talking primes using Dirk Brockmann’s “Prime Time” explorable

I’ve been a huge fan of Dirk Brockmann’s explorable math activities since I first learned about them. The full list is here:

Dirk Brockmann’s Explorables

Today’s project was inspired by the “Prime Time” program – direct link here:

Dirk Brockmann’s Prime Time Explorable

I started the project today by asking my son to tell me some things he knew about primes. He gave the definition of a prime numbers, explained how we know that there are infinitely many primes, and talked about twin primes, though he apologized for not knowing how to prove that there were infinitely many twin primes:

Next I showed him the polynomial n^2 + n + 41 and we talked about this equation producing a lot of primes.

Now we went to the “prime time” explorable and my son talked about what he saw in the first two examples -> the Ulam spiral and the Sack spiral.

Finally we looked at the last two patterns -> the Klauber triangle and the Witch’s spiral.

Exploring machine learning with a 7th grader using Tensorflow’s Playground

Yesterday we did a project exploring machine learning using the site teachyourmachine.com.

Using teachyourmachine.com to let kids explore machine learning

My younger son was interested in doing another project on machine learning today, so we revisited an old idea and went to the Tensorflow Playground:

Tensorflow’s machine learning “Playground”

We started the project today with a short explanation of classification problems and then saw how the algorithm on the Tensorflow website solved a relatively simple classification problem:

Next we studied a slightly simpler classification problem that is the second example on the Tensorflow site:

The third example on the site looks very easy, but it got pretty interesting when we added some noise:

Finally, we looked at the most difficult classification problem on the Tensorflow Playground site -> the spiral. Even the most complicated program we could build still struggled with the classification problem here:

This is either our 3rd or 4th project using the Tensorflow Playground site. I think it is a great way to help kids see some of the basic concepts and ideas in machine learning.

Using TeachYourMachine.com to let kids explore machine learning

Last week attended a lecture by Gil Strang. He had selected a few topics from his new book about machine learning and linear algebra and the lecture was absolutely terrific.

At the end of the lecture he showed two websites that allow anyone to explore machine learning. One – the Tensorflow Plaground – site we’ve played with before:

Sharing basic machine learning ideas with kids

The other site was new to me, though -> teachyourmachine.com

If I understood correctly from the lecture, the website was actually a student project from the linear algebra and machine learning course that Strang taught last year. It is a really great site for exploring some basic ideas in machine learning.

For today’s project I explained the site to each of my sons individually, and then had them play a bit.

Here’s how I introduced the site to my younger son:

Here are his thoughts after playing with the program:

Here’s how I introduced the program to my older son:

Here are his thoughts after playing with the program for a bit: