Sixth grade students at Lincoln Middle School (LMS) are making “mathcasts,” or podcasts that explain how to solve math problems to other students.
The mathcasts were the brainchild of sixth grade LMS math teacher, Eric Marcos, and he and his students’ achievements were mentioned by educational tech guru Alan November in his keynote address last October at the Los Angeles County 21st Century Learners Symposium.
Marcos told the Mirror the idea evolved after he began using a tablet personal computer (PC) in class instead of using a blackboard or projecting information by using an overhead projector. Marcos noticed that using the tablet “transformed my teaching” because he could have the students write on the screen, project what was written, save, edit, search or print what was written, and e-mail the notes from a lesson to those students who were absent. In addition, his students “were fascinated and excited by the tablet PC. They wanted to write on it, touch it” and started hanging out after class so they could use it.
About a year and half ago Marcos made a movie using the tablet on a problem that students could watch on the Internet. This was much easier than the old method he was using to explain homework problem solving that involved typing the problem’s steps into an e-mail because by using the tablet he could also problem solve by drawing pictures. This idea then evolved into a free interactive website where students could go to help each other that is now called Mathrain.com. He added the site is like a “clone of Youtube” and at the site students “can rate the videos, comment on the videos, upload additional math videos, and download podcasts from the site.”
Marcos also mentioned that the students make math videos without scripts and because they appear on the Internet to a global audience it makes them really think about what they say. Making the videos also causes the students to go into more depth about their understanding of the problem and it causes them to learn how to explain their solution with clarity. In order to protect the students their faces are not shown and their real names aren’t used.
So far videos have been made about algebra, fractions, and ratio problems, and more are being made all the time. Right now, Marcos is in the process of “building a video library.” Marcos also mentioned that another result of the success of the mathcasts is that the “entire math department at LMS is excited about this” and wants all classes to make videos as an addition to the curriculum.
The Mathtrain.com site receives, according to Marcos, over a quarter of a million hits each month. This summer Marcos will be presenting a workshop titled “Kids Teaching Kids: Empowering Students Through Screencasting” at the 2008 Building Learning Communities (BLC) Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.
“The students are really the ones that are driving the mathcasts. I’m just the conduit. What’s so important is that the kids love it,” Marcos emphasized.