Homestudy Notes – Abbey

Design for children – Seymour Papert 1983.

  • His handwriting does not show the complexity and achievement of his programming.
  • Children learn by the experience of the world around them – learning rooted in experience.
  • What produces involvement engagement?
  • What grabs the individual?
  • A process of putting things in the right logical order, in order for people to understand it.
  • Education is engagement – making education engaging and relatable, not abstract.
  • Learning through interaction, not through sitting and listening.

Solomon, C. (2007) Seymour Papert 1983. Available from: [Accessed 30 January 2017].

Computer as Mudpie by Papert, S.

“If you look at how much children learn in their day-to-day lives, or consider the learning required for them to speak and to find their way around in space, or consider the slightly older child learning how to twist the parents and manipulate people, you will be tremendously impressed with what a remarkable learner the child is. This little being seems to learn spontaneously and joyfully such an enormous amount in so short a time.”

Conversation-of-number experiment – Eggs and egg cups:

“Much of what the child learns we don’t even notice. Piaget was able, with some ingenious experiments, to demonstrate this fact. If you place six eggs and six egg cups regularly on a table, and ask a four-year-old child, “Are there more eggs or more egg cups?” the child will recognize that there is the same number of each. But if you spread out the eggs and clump together the cups, the child will say there are more eggs. Yet when the child is a year or two older, he or she will say that they are the same. It won’t matter how you cluster or spread out the eggs or egg cups; the child will still recognize that they are the same, that the eggs have a one-to-one correspondence with the egg cups.”

Conservation-of-number experiment – Glasses and water:

“If you put one water glass next to another glass identical in size and shape, pour water into both glasses up to the same level, and say to a four-year-old, “Is there more here than there?” the child will say “No. ” The child can see that the same amount of water has been poured into each glass. But if you take this same quantity of water, and—in front of the child’s eyes—pour it into a thinner vessel so that the water now comes up to a higher level, although obviously no water was taken away, the child now thinks there is more. All four-year-old children think there is more. Who told them? No one told them. They invented it. But who told them to think otherwise two years later? Two years later, when you ask the same group of children whether or not you poured more water into the tall thin glass, they will say, “No. It’s the same. You didn’t put any in, or take any away. It’s the same”.”

Conservation-of-number experiment insights:

“No one taught children to say that there was the same number of eggs as egg cups, or that the same amount of water existed whether it was in a short fat glass or a tall thin glass. After a certain age, they just knew it was the same. It is clear that no one taught those children anything, and yet they learned something.”

The Dilemma:

Children are incredible learners, however, when they reach the age where they go to school some continue to learn, and some struggle. Papert’s theory is that “some things—models, materials children think and learn with—are embedded in the natural environment of the child”. For example, children are not taught to speak, they learn how to speak naturally.

“What is learned during the concrete stage (natural learning) and what is learned during the formal stage (formal education) depend upon the world in which we live.”

As computers at the time where clear to be a thing of the future, Papert came up with the idea of “integrating a programming language with the concrete world (natural learning) of visual events, making graphics available through “turtles,” making programming and all the mathematics and conceptual events programming entails—making that concrete instead of abstract.”

The goal of Papert’s idea “turtles” was to fill all of the gaps. Traditional ways of educating children is to give them unimportant, uninteresting tasks on little pieces of paper, instead of allowing children to get up and learn and interact with what they are trying to learn.

Turtle Geometry:

“The turtle in turtle geometry is a drawing instrument attached to the computer. It can be either a little robotic turtle that carries a pen underneath itself and moves around over a large sheet of paper, or it can be a little “character” appearing on the screen. As the child causes it to move across the screen, the turtle draws a line of light, in either black and white or color.”

Experimenting with the turtle:

“To make the turtle move forward, the child might type on the keyboard something like FORWARD 10. The turtle moves forward a short distance on the screen, leaving a short line. Perhaps the child is disappointed with the small size of the line; with minor experimentation, the child discovers that typing FORWARD 50 produces a larger and more satisfying line. Perhaps later, the child will experiment with combining the forward instruction with a much larger number, say 10,939, and discover that the turtle then begins spinning “around” the screen, rushing to one edge of the screen and reappearing on the opposite edge many times, until that particular forward instruction has been carried out.”

“If the child is interested in drawing a square, eventually, he or she will discover that typing in RIGHT 90 will give a “good” corner, a right angle. Perhaps the child plays with the following set of instructions: FORWARD 50, then RIGHT 90, then FORWARD 100, then RIGHT 90, and finally FORWARD 50. The child looks on the screen and sees something remotely resembling a square, but it’s not yet a closed figure. Continuing to experiment, the child tries RIGHT 90 and FORWARD. The figure still is not closed, and the child finally learns to close it with an additional FORWARD 50.”

“The result, of course, is a rectangle instead of a square. And it may take a good deal more play, and trial-and-error experimentation before the child finally recognizes, at least at an intuitive level, that a square is a figure with four equal sides and four right angles.”

“We can see the computer as a cultural event that is coming into the life of the child, and that can change the relationship between learner and the subject matter being learned.”

Papert, S. (1984) Computer as Mudpie. Available from: [Accessed 30 January 2017].

munakatay (2011) A typical child on Piaget’s conservation tasks. Available from: [Accessed 01 February 2017].

Homestudy Notes – Lucy

Computer as Mudpie

Both the paper and video was about designing education for children.  How to make it easier to teach children mathematics (with “turtles”), based on the fact that they learn intuitively from an early age and formal learning, such as mathematics is forced upon them.

It was said at the beginning of the paper that children at an early age learn without being taught things such as conservation-of-number.  During Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert’s observations and experiments with children, where children were asked if there were the same number of eggs as egg cups and if there was the same amount of water in a short fat glass as a tall thin one.  Each of these experiments showed that younger children knew there was the same amount of eggs as egg cups when they were placed together, but when the eggs were scattered, they thought there were more eggs than egg cups.  When the water was in two glasses of equal size and shape, the children would say it was the same amount of water, if they watched the person move the water from the short vessel to the taller, thinner one, although they saw no extra water was added, they thought the tall glass had more water in it.  The children were asked these questions over several months and after about two years, they were able to see that the two amounts were the same without remembering their previous answers and when shown footage of them giving the wrong answer, they said it was faked.

The “turtles” teach the children mathematics by drawing paths on paper or on a screen by entering lengths and angles, so the children work out things such as a square has four equal sides, with four equal angles of 90 degrees (or steps).  They also teach the children to think mathematically, but without all the jargon that comes with mathematics.

Going by what Papert has written and said, I have written a list of how intuitive learning can be more beneficial:

  • Learning intuitively with physical objects can be more beneficial than abstract teaching with pen and paper.
  • Children should be given access to computers without restriction so that they can learn by experimentation.
  • Because children are learning more through experimentation than the formal methods of teaching, they will retain more, as they have found their own answers.

Papert, S. (1983) Computer as Mudpie. Available from: [Accessed 30 January 2017].

Solomon, C. (2007) Seymour Papert 1983. Available from: [Accessed 01 February 2017].