Ormiston College Secondary School Students Learn Math and Programming with MATLAB
Prepare students for university coursework in science, technology, engineering, and math
Integrate MATLAB into the math curriculum to introduce programming concepts through engaging assignments and projects
- Students better prepared for university coursework
- Technology easily integrated into classroom activities
- Faculty professional development advanced
Ormiston College, an independent, coeducational secondary school in Queensland, Australia, is known for academic excellence. More than 95% of Ormiston graduates are accepted into university or other post-secondary institutions. Many pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
The school fosters learning in these areas by emphasizing real-world problem-solving and the practical application of technology in the classroom. To support this approach and prepare students for further studies, Ormiston introduces students in years 11 and 12 to MATLAB®.
“Many of our graduates use MATLAB when they go to university and later on to industry, and we wanted to provide them with experience in their schoolwork that would follow through to life after school,” says Dr. Ian Thomson, head of the mathematics department at Ormiston College. “MATLAB enables us to introduce coding to a large number of students while providing them with an opportunity to take on more advanced programming challenges.”
In the past, Ormiston staff taught math using graphing calculators and spreadsheets. Workshops conducted by a local university, as well as feedback from graduates who had gone on to study STEM subjects, indicated that students would benefit from learning to apply more sophisticated technical computing tools.
The school wanted to introduce all senior students to programming, a subject that had attracted relatively few female students in the past. As well as teaching basic programming concepts, the school sought to provide motivated students with the tools to tackle more challenging programming projects. Lastly, Ormiston needed to prepare its faculty to teach the next generation of primary school students, who would enter the school already possessing some programming skills.
Ormiston College acquired a Primary and Secondary School (PASS) license, providing students and faculty with campus-wide access to MATLAB and Simulink®.
To prepare for using MATLAB in their classes, teachers from the math department and the technology and science department participated in a three-day onsite training course conducted by a MathWorks engineer. The teachers learned MATLAB and Simulink fundamentals, supplementing their training by completing online MATLAB Academy exercises.
The school incorporated MATLAB lessons into its grade 11 and grade 12 math curricula, developing assignments designed to engage students, deepen their understanding of key math concepts, and introduce them to basic programming concepts such as loops and functions.
In one lesson, the students analyzed the jump shot of basketball star Stephen Curry. They used MATLAB to plot the trajectory of a Curry shot and obtain a best fit quadratic model. They used this model to produce a 3D animation of the ball’s parabolic path. They repeated the exercise for a player who releases the ball at a narrower angle, and compared the results.
For another lesson, the students explored the Greek financial crisis, using MATLAB to generate a Lorenz curve and visualize the line of perfect equality. In a lesson on decryption, the students used MATLAB to decode messages using letter frequency analysis and matrix transposition.
In an elective course, Information Processing and Technology, a group of about 12 students used MATLAB to complete more complex programming projects.
One student, for example, developed a MATLAB application to generate Sierpinski triangles, while another developed an application that grade 11 classmates use to learn about quadratic equations by changing parameters.
A two-student team in this class wrote a simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) algorithm in MATLAB that uses data from a light imaging, detection, and ranging (LIDAR) sensor to map the classroom environment.
The school plans to integrate MATLAB into science classes and into a newly introduced STEM class for year 10 students.
- Students better prepared for university coursework. “With MATLAB, our students benefit from having a single tool for computer programming and solving problems in science, math, engineering, and technology subject areas,” says David Bunting, head of technology at Ormiston. “We’ve heard from our graduates that learning to code in MATLAB set them up for success in their first-year university courses.”
- Technology easily integrated into classroom activities. “We find that classroom activities are enhanced by the use of MATLAB without placing great demands on the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge of our teachers,” notes Thomson.
- Faculty professional development advanced. “Programming is becoming mandatory for primary school students,” Thomson says. “The work our teachers are doing now with MATLAB is contributing to their professional development and preparing them to meet the educational needs of students they will have in coming years.”