Education Technology

Math in Motion — 5 Educators Using Robotics To Teach Math

Posted 04/04/2023 by Harshal S. Chhaya (@hschhaya)

Calling all math teachers out there! April 8–16, 2023, is National Robotics Week (RoboWeek). Are you ready to join in on the fun and inspire your students?

The mission of National Robotics Week is simple: to inspire students in robotics and STEM-related fields and to share the excitement of robotics with audiences of all ages. Texas Instruments can help you, inspire your students, with the TI-Innovator™ Rover (Rover) programmable vehicle. It’s fun, it’s cool, and best of all, students of all ages with no prior coding experience can get the Rover to move and follow their coding commands in just a few minutes!

Let’s take a look at a few specific activities where educators are effectively using the Rover to elevate student understanding and engagement in both math and science.

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Activity #1: Students using Rovers in reflections and transformations in geometry

Educator: Michael Hlavacek — Crystal Lake South High School, Crystal Lake, Illinois

Objective: Students were given a drawing of half of an animal face (example: elephant and wolf), and they had to physically measure the lengths and interior angles of that half-drawn face. They then had to code that to scale on the Rover to recreate the drawing. Finally, to earn full credit, they had to determine how to code in the rest of the face, creating the reflection over the axis of symmetry of the face.

The TI-Innovator™ Rover drawing a series of geometric shapes using coding.
The Rover also includes a pen holder so students can “draw” the output of their scaled geometric shape as the Rover follows their commands.

“I believe the lesson allowed students to understand coding a little better, learn to problem-solve, understand a little bit more about the complexity of coding and codes that they encounter through simple things such as their phones.”

A wolf head drawing created by using the TI-Innovator™ Rover and coding.
Students create the full head of a wolf by creating a reflection over the axis line of symmetry.

Try this with your students:
  • For the If-Then Story/ Picture student activity sheet, complete with Grading Rubric for the TI-Nspire™ CX family graphing calculator, download it here.
  • For the Reflection/Dilation continuation of the project, download it here.

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Activity #2: Exploring interior and exterior angles using the Rover

Educator: Casey Gannon — Greenville High School, Greenville, New York

Objective: The Rover can be used to introduce interior and exterior angles by having the students make Rover draw a square and then a triangle. The students pick up very quickly that the 90 degrees for a square is the same inside and outside. However, for drawing a triangle, they need to make the Rover turn the exterior angle.

A student programming at TI-Innovator™ Rover using a TI graphing calculator.
Students in Ms. Gannon’s class using Rover to draw squares and explore geometry.

Students were also challenged to draw a Christmas tree around the winter break. Ms. Gannon even had elementary students (second/third grade) come to work with her class to practice their measuring skills and code the Rover. One of the real values of the Rover is its accessibility to a wide range of ages and abilities! And it was designed specifically for use in education.

A TI-Innovator™ Rover drawing a programmed shape of a Christmas tree.
Getting festive with Rover!

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Activities #3 and #4: Coordinate planes, ratio and rates, and music too!

Educator: Susan Reeve — Manlius Pebble Hill School, Syracuse New York

Objective: Students explore graphing in the coordinate plane using Rovers by programming them to find points and objects using different commands such as going forward, left/right and backward.

Here, the Rovers were used for two different “major” activities in Ms. Reeve’s sixth grade math classes. The first is for graphing in the coordinate plane. Without knowing much about the coordinate plane, the students experimented with going forward, left, right and backward.

“The students really benefited from coding and seeing how the Rovers moved to understand the coordinate plane.”

Students using a TI graphing calculator and TI-Innovator™ Rover to graph on a coordinate plane using paper.
First Rover driving experiments on the coordinate plane.

The class then did a lesson on graphing ordered pairs and then used the Rovers to find points and move objects using the coordinates.

After coding in Scratch and using the code to draw polygons, the students then coded the calculators to have the Rovers draw regular polygons on a piece of paper. In the future, Ms. Reeve plans to give students the challenge of drawing a picture with shapes using ordered pairs.

Students using a TI graphing calculator and TI-Innovator™ Rover to draw graph ordered pairs using a sheet of poster board.
Students drawing polygons with the Rover and ordered pairs.

Objective: Exploring ratio and rates unit by using the distance = rate x time activity where students are challenged to try not to hit the animal that is placed randomly on a number line. The students get a great hands-on experience of the value of testing, accuracy, outside things that affect the outcome, and what rate really means.

Students using their Rovers.
Students drawing polygons with the Rover and ordered pairs.

Students can also use the TI-Innovator™ Hub to code music. Students can see the ratios between the notes and code a song on the calculator that they play on the TI-Innovator™ Hub. What teen or preteen doesn’t love music?

Check out some guided activities on exploring music in TI Minutes of Code (for Python and TI-Innovator™ Technology), Unit 2, Skill Builder 3 and Application activities for either the TI-84 Plus CE or TI-Nspire™ CX II graphing calculator.

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Activity #5: Polar coordinates

Educators: Matthew Bennett and Tori Wilson — Mill Creek High School, Hoschton, Georgia

Objective: Students will use the coordinate-based commands to learn about polar coordinates and how to convert between rectangular and polar coordinates. Students are given a program like the one below and they have to write an equivalent program using the polar coordinates. The proof is when Rover’s movements are identical in the two programs.

TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculator with code for converting numbers.
A TI-Basic program for TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculator helps students convert between rectangular and polar coordinates.

They also use Rover in an activity that connects math to aerospace engineering.

In this case, students choose a real-time orbit from Rogue Space Systems Corporation’s real-time orbital data. They then use their knowledge learned in the math and aerospace engineering unit to create an ellipse formula. That formula can be solved by Rover to draw a scaled orbit on poster paper. The students also learn how to use loops in their code as the Rover steps through their formula to solve for the next location.

Note: Both these activities are part of a ninth grade curriculum in the EPIC program. EPIC is built upon learning strategies that are experiential, project-based, innovative, collaborative and cross-curricular.

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Why you should try out the Rover in your classroom:

  • Robots are relevant. They are increasingly used more and more to improve efficiency. Robotics are the future. Robots in the classroom also increase understanding and engagement.
  • The Rover is accessible. The Rover was designed specifically for use in education and is suitable for use with students in early elementary grades through high school. They can also be programmed using TI-Basic or Python coding languages.
  • They are beginner friendly. The Rover does not require a computer to program. Students with no experience quickly pick up how to use coding commands to move the Rover.
  • The Rover encourages problem-solving. When a program works unexpectedly, students can correct logical or syntax errors immediately with their TI graphing calculator. Students see the immediate impact of their code on a physical device.

To learn more about Rover and all it can do, visit

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Get started using Rover

These are just a handful of examples of how educators are using the Rover and its math-friendly capabilities to help their students understand mathematical ideas.

If you are an educator and want to learn more about robotics, coding and how you can use them in a core subject like math or science, reach out to us at

Finally, here are a few introductory tutorials for students and educators to get familiar with the Rover and its programming:

  • 10 Minutes of Code: Engage students in an easy entry into programming with short activities that help spark interest in coding, computer science and robotics.
  • Math in Motion: Students use pre-made programs in these activities that use Rover to teach angle measurements (geometry) and intersection of lines (algebra I).
  • Math in Motion Plus: Students write their own programs in these activities for algebra I — the coordinate plane, collinear points, equations of lines — and middle grades (Inequalities, number lines).

There is no better time to bring robotics to your classroom than now, as it is National Robotics Week! Let us help you inspire your students with the Rover. Happy Rover-ing!

About the author: Harshal S. Chhaya is a systems engineer for TI’s educational STEM products. He also leads the company’s robotics outreach programs and works with partners to increase student participation in STEM and robotics competitions. Chhaya enjoys using advanced engineering to make education fun and engaging for students and teachers. He holds 13 patents and was elected by his TI peers as a “Distinguished Member of Technical Staff (Emeritus).”