Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Justin Bieber's of Math

The current rage in math education are these short tutorial videos that explain fundamental concepts in math like the distributive property or solving one-step algebraic equations, etc. Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, is one of the largest proponents of this form of teaching, but if you search for any math topic on YouTube you are bound to find hundreds of users providing quick math lessons that students, parents, and teachers can learn from.

At Chinquapin, we decided to get in on the action, and make a few math videos of our own. Working with the 6th graders, the math teacher and I decided to let them make tutorial videos of their own with the end goal of posting them on YouTube. Of course, they loved the idea immediately, and could not have been more excited to potentially become the next Justin Biebers of math - 11 year old YouTube sensations.

We started by watching a few math tutorials on YouTube to get ideas of what to do and more importantly what not to do (there are an unsurprising number of terrible math tutorials online). Then they chose a topic they wanted to teach, got into groups, and planned out their videos from start to finish under the stipulation that they could not exceed 120 seconds. Next, we did a 'first take' for each group that the rest of the class constructively criticized. I was surprised at how adept the 6th graders were at criticizing the teaching techniques and video storyboards (probably a skill honed over years of criticizing their own teachers...). They touched on every criticism I would have made, so I basically just stepped back and let the process unfold. We filmed the first takes so that each group could watch itself on video as well, and then after another day of editing we will try and shoot the final versions.

Here is a first take video from one of the more nervous and entertaining groups:

We're clearly still in the editing phase of this endeavor - and some of us are still learning the math to teach - but I have faith that by the end of this project the students will understand their concepts well enough to teach them, and will teach them well enough to post online. As you can see from the video, they're definitely having fun and investing themselves in the project, which together go a long way to ensuring that they learn.

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