About Daniela Leone

teacher at Istituto Comprensivo 21 Bologna https://www.istitutocomprensivo21bologna.edu.it/

Learning math with robots


In the last 2 years, students of IC21 lower secondary school in Bologna (age 13) attended their classes with several restrictions due to pandemic; cooperative learning helped to engage them after a longtime isolation experience.

In order to help students learning math curriculum contents, collaborative activities were designed with Lego WeDo2.0 © educational robots.

The contents selected from the math curriculum of the lower secondary school are:

  • measuring circumference
  • value of π (PI) with appropriate rounding
  • measuring the circle area
  • measuring speed in linear and circular motion

The activities were designed and implemented in collaboration with Drs Lorenza Prencipe, who has presented her dissertation in Mathematics Education at Bologna University on March 25, 2022. IC 21 school is accredited as a training venue for Bologna University students.


Resources used for the activities are: 

  • educational robots Lego WeDo2.0 ©
  • chromebooks with the Lego Education © app to program the robots
  • worksheets with driving questions to report observations, data and conclusions 
  • millimeter paper and other measurement tools (ruler, chronometer, goniometer)
  • instruction slides shared in Google Classroom
  • assessment rubrics regarding the learning outcomes and the collaboration skills

Students worked in groups of 3, distributing roles as building the robot, programming the robot motion and measuring data.

Students used two different models of robots for the linear motion (rover) and for the circular motion (satellite). The instruction provided in the Lego website was used to help students in building and programming the robot; the lesson plan was replaced by our own contents.

Students’ work

For the circumference measurement, students prepared the rover model with a pen and a reference mark on a wheel, and programmed its motion to draw a line as long as a wheel circumference. They measured both the line length C and the wheel diameter d in order to compare the rounded value of π with the ratio C : d.

diameter measurement
line drawing

For the circle area measurement, students prepared the satellite model with a pen and programmed it in order to draw a circle on the millimeter paper. They counted the cm2 included in the circle and compared this approximation to the area calculated by measuring the radius (distance from the center to the pen).

circle drawing
area calculation
circle area

For the linear motion activity, students prepared a unit line on paper sheets and programmed the rover model to run on the line with a chosen engine power (according to the programming app).  They measured time and distance in order to calculate the speed and made a distance-time plot.

reference line
time measurement

For the circular motion activity, students prepared an angle plot on a paper sheet and programmed the robot to move around its center. They measured the time needed to make a 360° angle and found different angular speeds depending on the programmed engine power.

For each activity, students used intructions and worksheets shared in Google Classroom. Here are some examples (in italian):


For each student, we prepared rubrics for formative assessment, written and oral tests and peer assessment tools.

In the students worksheets the answers were analyzed, dividing items into comprehension, mathematical skills, and critical thinking about mistakes and approximations.

As a peer assessment tool, a rubric with 3 levels of performance was provided to groups: students of each group had to report their observations on the third one based on the role taken in the group (building, programming or measuring).

In further problem solving tests, students had to apply math contents connected to the activities, in order to evaluate their comprehension of the properties involved.

In oral tests, students had to explain the activities using their own description of the working phases, measured data and conclusions, in order to assess communication and reflection skills. Presentations prepared in this phase were also a useful trial for the finale exam.

This activity has given students the opportunity to explore math in active and collaborative situations, and to develop further skills besides mathematical reasoning: problem solving in a real-world context, critical thinking, and cooperation in team working.

students questionnaire 1
students questionnaire 2

roBOtour: animated city guide made with models, mBot and Makey Makey

school: IC21 Bologna, club Girls Code it Better

dates: november 16, 2021-may 7, 2022

Girls Code it Better” is a national initiative aimed to reduce the gender inequality in STEM studies and careers. The project has been active since 2015 and this year 82 schools are involved.

When students are in the age range from 11 to 13, their future career choice may be supported by an experience that encourages them to approach STEM studies with more self-confidence. This is why the project addresses girls in the early years of secondary school, and engages them in science and technoogy active learning.

Each school has its own “Girls Code it Better” club, and up to 20 girls can participate; they meet together at school once a week, and develop a project based learning activity based on STEM.

The girls club must carry on their project, from idea to product, in a complete project based learning cycle; each participant takes a role in the project management, depending on their interests and skills, in a cooperative environment; at the end they present their work in a national event and in local school events. 

IC 21 girls code it better club

In the first phase they started exploring the school’s lab equipment, guided by a teacher and a professional maker: 

  • how to program a mBot with mBlock
  • how to make circuits with Makey Makey boards programmed by Scratch
  • how to design 3D models with Tinkercad

In the second phase they discussed what to do with these tools, preparing charts to explain their proposals in detail. The ideas must be selected taking into account their feasibility, time and resources needed. 

The club agreed for  a city guide for kids, animated by Scratch, inspired by the “city red bus” tour of Bologna.

ideas for the project

A group of students took the role of programmers and prepared the Scratch scripts that explain history and curiosities about 10 points of interest in the city. 

After programming the single scripts, they have been added into two Scratch projects run by two Makey Makey boards. Each board controls 5 Scratch animations. Their connections are in the following sketches:

links for Scratch projects run by board 1
links for Scratch projects run by board 2

The Scratch projects run by the two makey makey boards are published  in the Scratch website at this link:

https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/667700972 makey makey board 1

https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/667712780 makey makey board 2

The gallery with all Scratch projects of the club is club 2021-2022 – Scratch Studio (mit.edu)

For the mBot guided tour, another group took prepared the models for the city point of interests, with two main “Porticoes” on both sides of the street, that hide the Makey Makey boards inside them. 

The wires connecting the board to the “bus stops” are hidden by carpets simulating the street, and the terminal contacts are aluminum pads. When the mBot is driven onto a couple of conductive pads, its contacts close the circuit making the Scratch animated guide run, according to the path sketch below. 

path sketch for the city tour

Here is a picture of the whole setting and a short video of a trial.

set up of the project
testing phase

The students have been working together since November 2021; they meet at school every tuesday after classes from 2 to 5 p.m. On April 26, their work must be completed and tested. It will be presented at the national project convention on May 7. After this online event, there will be a local exhibition in Bologna called School Maker Day , where students from the whole region show their STEM projects.

Remote photo hunt with Zooniverse

Author: Daniela Leone

Resources and tools

In this remote activity, my students used the Zooniverse and Wikispecies websites. To create and share content they used G-Suite apps Google Sheets and Jamboard.

The learning goals were to classify animals and represent data with charts, get informed about environmental research projects. The age of students: 11-12 years old.


Engaging as many students as possible is more challenging in remote activities. Collaboration in groups is also weaker due to distance, different devices and time organization. The goal of this activity was to encourage everyone to give their contribution starting from a simple task.

We started presenting the Zooniverse website, inviting volunteers to help a research project by processing part of the data. We chose the Wild Mont-Blanc program, that studies animals’ distribution by analyzing the images made by a camera trap. Pictures can be checked in a simple way by users, following a guide to recognize the species and provide some related details. For this trial, students did not need to register on the website, but if they got interested, they could create an account later on and keep collaborating to research projects.

classroom assignment
Example of classroom assignment
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Geometry and optical illusions

Author: Daniela Leone

Methodology and tools

This is a remote learning activity, developed in March 2020 with 1st-grade students of IC21 Bologna lower secondary school.

The tools used are GSuite for Education, GeoGebra and Go-Lab resources. The activity is based on Inquiry-based Learning methodology.

Students had a little experience with GSuite, Go-Lab and GeoGebra but no experience of learning from home. To be able to communicate we used GSuite tools (email, tutorials on Google Classroom, Google Meet calls).

The Go-Lab Inquiry Learning Space used for the activity is a translated version of the French ILS “Changer de perspective” created by Valentin Roussel.


Thanks to the author, the ILS was useful to guide students in discovering basic geometry in a playful way: it aroused their curiosity about the features that add special effects to images. The questions helped students to reflect and recognize the main properties of parallel and perpendicular lines, angles, areas, by manipulating dynamic figures. The images included in the ILS were inspiring for students.

At the end of the translated version made for the IC21 school, I added an extra task for my students: they were asked to make and share their own images containing optical illusions or special effects, using the GeoGebra Geometry App. 

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