Makey Makeys, Circuits, and Coding in the classroom.

I launched an ambitious project for my class combining the following elements that align with the new Science and Technology Syllabus in NSW from next year. The elements are

  • Design and Production
  • Working Scientifically
  • Circuits
  • STEM
  • Coding
  • Design thinking

Our unit was based on the Project Based Learning Pedagogy and was named A Buzz or Short Circuited. Our driving question was

How can we as game designers and scientists create a game or model that uses coding and electricity for (INSERT AUTHENTIC AUDIENCE)?

Entry Event

Our entry event was to get the students hooked on what we were doing so we launched a games afternoon where they were able to play a scaletrix set, Makey Makeys, the operation board game, or spheros.

Here are some pics from the event


The design phase was an interesting one. In hindsight, the biggest issue with the student’s designs is that they really had no scope of what they could actually do with the equipment provided.  The process of design thinking was inparticular interesting and something that I will need to recover in greater depth again.

Equipment list

  • Makey Makeys
  • Sphero
  • Chrome books
  • LEDS
  • Wires
  • Batteries


This was one of the most engaged classes I have ever seen, the students required a lot of time to make their final products but for what they produced was fabulous. The following is a list of products that the students all made.

The Final products.

Below are some pictures of the final products

  • Digital picture book complete with animations
  • Digital Game – Avoid the object
  • Garage Fruit Band Physical Game
  • Sphero Dinosaur shooting game
  • Lego robotics marble maze game
  • Musical quiz challenge game
  • Sports quiz game

Science and Technology New Syllabus NSW 2017

The Science and Technology syllabus is changing for next year. Here is my wrap up of the major changes.

The syllabus changes for next year in Science are numerous. Honestly, they are a great change not only for the better but they are also full of features that should have been implemented a lot of time ago. This is how the syllabus splits as of next year for NSW.




Science and Technology are now separate. No longer do they stay hand in hand which builds for greater understanding not only in the science sector but also the technology sector.

Skills breakdown

Design and Production

Working Scientifically

This is a fundamental change in the way that NSW does Science. We now need to include design thinking, understanding, inquiry and production within the scope of our subjects. This is a huge leap from the previous thinking was just engaging students in Science. They now need to see a whole process throughout the life and in every single subject area of Science that we cover in the primary classroom. They are also required to use a working Scientifically methodology which aligns students to Scientific thinking.

Strands of Science

Digital Technologies

Earth and Space

Living World

Material World

Physical World

The strands really haven’t changed except that Digital Technologies is now a separate strand. What does change though is that the syllabus almost forces a pedagogical approach. The approach, therefore, is aligned with inquiry or project-based learning pedagogies.

What does this mean as a teacher?

Digital Technologies is bringing coding into the classroom. Yes, that’s right from the Kindergarten level coding will now be exposed to students as they will be required to understand the basic fundamentals of technology and coding by the time they reach year 8.

Changes to Skills – The pedagogy and methodology that teachers and students follow vary slightly from previous syllabuses. Below is a breakdown of the skills and what they actually mean.

Design and Production –

  • Identifying and defining – Identify the problem and define how they will solve it
  • Researching and Planning – Using research and planning to solve the problems – I personally see this as the time for workshops and specific learning input time for scientific information.
  • Producing and implementing – Students physically producing or making mockups, experimenting, and solving their problems through their inquiry.
  • Testing and Evaluating – Testing and evaluating their solution and seeing if it was successful.

Working Scientifically

  • Questioning and Predicting
  • Planning and Conducting investigations
  • Processing and Analysing Data
  • Communicating

When you analyse the new skills that students are required to do work very much hand in hand with each other. For example, Researching and Planning in the Design and Production stage will work well with the Planning and Conducting investigations in the Working Scientifically skill set.

21st Century Skills – These now integrate easier throughout the strands and units and many of them work closely together with the other skills in design and production and working scientifically.

Inquiry Questions – For me, this means that the Science syllabus has forced teachers into inquiry-based and project-based learning within the classroom. To be honest it serves a great guide to base your unit on. I.e. How can electricity be used in a product or system (ST3-8PW-ST)


I hope this has cleared up any confusion on the new Science and Technology syllabus coming out in NSW next year. Please feel free to comment on my blog here with any questions you may have. In 2018 I’ve now converted two units to this new syllabus, click here to see my blog post about the circuits unit.

I don’t know how to teach coding

Don’t fear. I will be writing up a guide soon on how to teach coding for all year and grade levels.

Changing Growth Mindsets – Did it work

Part 4

We have noticed significant improvements in the following area’s.

  • Persistence
  • Experimenting and estimating results
  • Problem Solving
  • Reasoning
  • Communication

As students have come to better understand the influence of their disposition they will be better equipped to self regulate their learning (including how they work mathematically).

The time spent exploring and understanding not only the different dispositions but how they fit into working mathematically and how working mathematically fits within the syllabus has been invaluable and no doubt a worthwhile learning experience. Whilst it was a learning experience it also enabled me to assess the influence of working mathematically with my students. From this learning I’ve developed working mathematically learning intentions and success criteria, checklists to monitor how and when students use these skills, and finally assessable rubrics to assess properly the outcomes linked to these skills. 

The measure of success, though academically, is based on the content of what we teach rather than the way students work. Working Mathematically helps students problem solve and reason their strategies when learning. Whilst it doesn’t link directly to the content of learning how to add and subtract 4-6 digit numbers, it does allow the students a framework. The framework gives them the pathway to create mathematical hypotheses, solve their own problems by testing what went right or wrong, and reason and communicated that reason for why it did or didn’t work.

Consolidating students dispositions

Part 3

Changing the mathematical disposition of students and the way they approach mathematical problems.

Changing the mathematical disposition of students is interesting. The youcubed framework provided students with opportunities not only to work with different challenges, but with a different mindset approach with each task. To consolidate this task we asked students to create a poster that displayed their mathematical disposition. Below are a few of the best examples taken from our classes. 

By students creating their own growth mindset posters on what has changed in their own mathematical disposition it provided students with an authentic task to not only apply what they had learned, but also apply it visually (Make maths visible). 

The Next Step

The next step whilst we could definitely attribute this to both content within the syllabus and the working mathematically outcomes, however we need to analyse exactly where this fits within the working mathematically framework and content strands to see if this really is measurable, and assessable.

Part Four

Working Mathematically and Growth Mindset

Part 2

How does a change in mathematical disposition and working mathematically work together? 

To tackle this question it is necessary to completely strip down what working mathematically is and how it fits not only within the curriculum but also within the content. The statements and definitions of working mathematically can be stripped back to the most basic of elements. Working Mathematically is divided into 5 different areas. 

  1. Communicating.
  2. Problem Solving
  3. Reasoning
  4. Understanding 
  5. Fluency

To further understand exactly what is required when working mathematically and to understand what we are looking for in students the working mathematically detailed descriptions were used to build Learning intentions and Success Criteria for each element.

To download for free click here

Within our grade team, this deeper unpack led to  a greater focus on Reasoning,  Problem Solving and Communicating.  This is because the skills that students display from the core of the Youcubed framework  actually work hand in hand with working mathematically. 

  1. The many ways we see mathematics. – Problem solving
  2. Mistakes are beautiful things. – Reasoning
  3. When you believe, amazing things happen. – Problem Solving and Understanding
  4. Conjectures, creativity and uncertainty – Problem Solving and Reasoning
  5. Engaging visual pathways. – Problem Solving, Communicating, Reasoning, Understanding
  6. Strategies for learning maths. – Reasoning and Fluency
  7. Speed is not important – Problem Solving, Fluency, Reasoning
  8. Our brains constantly change and grow. – Problem Solving and Reasoning
  9. Believe in yourself. – All five areas 

This led to – the influence of working mathematically when students are tasked with problems.

Part 3

Growth Mindset with Mathematical Dispositions

During our professional learning, our leadership team challenged us to develop our own PBL style driving question and mini project to present. In developing the driving question, it made me stop and evaluate exactly what I wanted to achieve or change with students from the beginning of the year. Throughout my teaching so far, I’ve noticed that mathematics anxiety is possibly the single most achievable change I can make to students mindsets. To develop be able to develop my students’ attitudes towards mathematics, I have dabled in the “Growth Mindset” use before within my classrooms, but I wondered what would happen if I was persistent in the use of the Growth Mindset disposition all year. 

At the beginning of the year, we started our mathematical learning in the classroom with the Jo Boaler – Youcubed website. To be honest it was an extremely eye-opening experience not just to teach, but to experience as a learner. It is based on growth mindset pedagogy and its influence on a learners ability in Mathematics. The main idea being that Jo Boaler challenges the myth of “I’m bad at math“.

The Youcubed work falls under these categories.

  1. The many ways we see mathematics.
  2. Mistakes are beautiful things
  3. When you believe, amazing things happen
  4. Conjectures, Creativity and Uncertainty
  5. Engaging Visual Pathways
  6. Strategies for Learning Math
  7. Speed is not important.
  8. Our brains constantly change and grow.
  9. Believe in yourself

There is a lot of evidence based on information and research behind the work students do. This can be broken into two different realms.

Displaying student voice and experiences

It is important to show students voice throughout this learning experience and display their work.

The Two Approaches

The first approach in terms of activities are either mathematical puzzles (1 cut geometry) or challenging questions such as Peter Sullivan’s approach, where students prefer math when you let them figure it out. These are fantastic learning opportunities for students to improve their knowledge and a deeper understanding of mathematics. 

The second approach is providing students with evidence-based research; videos that are student friendly explaining having an open mind or growth mindset. 

I believe it is the key to the whole learning experience.

The tasks are challenging, not just a little challenging, they are quite challenging for myself. So much so when we’ve posed these problems it has been totally and utterly important for the students to be able to walk away understanding that they don’t know the answer (Remember speed is not important)  That said I’ve gone of and then either worked on it for hours afterwards at home or asked some of my friends that are mathematicians how we solve the problems. 

Part two