Eric Marcos - Mathtrain.tv: The Power of Kids Teaching Kids

"If you give kids a little bit of trust and let them try out some stuff, they're going to come up with fascinating things that will surprise you."

About The Speaker(s)

Eric Marcos is a 6th Grade Mathematics Teacher at Lincoln Middle School, in Santa Monica, CA. He will be joining two of the original student pioneers behind Mathtrain.tv: Camilla Spielman ("Bob") and Tiana Kadkhoda ("Paul"). Mathtrain.tv is a free educational "kids teaching kids" project from Mr. Marcos & his students, and was created to host their student-created math video lessons all in one place. The videos are offered free, "as is" (under a Creative Commons agreement); all videos are reviewed by a credentialed math teacher.

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Questions Asked/Key Comments Made

  • (03:56) Tiana and Camilla, why don't you walk us through the specifics of how this thing got started? What inspired you to start making the videos for your peers?
  • (09:41) What was really cool about getting a math video, from my math teacher, at home, was that I had his voice being able to explain every step of the problem to me....In an email, I would to be figuring out why I had to do something.
  • (11:36) I just picked a problem and recorded myself doing it. It took a few tries...but I just explained it as if I was explaining it to someone sitting next to me and it was surprisingly fun...if math can be fun.
  • (12:17) I think that's one of the reasons that this thing has gotten so huge, because all these kids are intrigued by playing with this computer and being able to make these videos and they're shown all over the world. Having that knowledge of "I have the power to do this" is so cool!
  • (12:57) How quickly did other kids jump on it and say, 'Hey, I want to be a part of making these videos?' Was it a slow build-up or was it right away?
  • (14:53) The environment created in Mr. Marcos's classroom was very relaxed in the sense that we were allowed to play with the computer. In Mr. Marcos's classroom, it was like: 'Everybody, gather around. Let's play on the computer; let's do this math problem together.' It was a really communal thing: it made everyone feel really involved and engaged in what was happening.
    • (15:30) Being able to play with my 6th grade math teacher's fancy, brand-new computer and him letting me pick it up and do whatever I want with it--that's a really big deal to me. The trust that he put on us is crazy!
  • (18:03) It was really quite the community...my job [as the teacher] was to keep staying out of the way.
  • (18:40) A lot of schools and a lot of parents are somewhat restrictive around this sort of technology and social media. Did you get--in the beginning, or at any time--pushback or questioning about this?
  • (22:32) Camilla and Tiana: did the other kids come up and ask you, 'Hey, I want to do this, I want to be a part of this'? How did it grow and snowball? Did you guys have to lead it for a long time?
  • (23:32) No one had to work to get other people involved. The people who were interested made it on their own. [...] Everything would be done after school, on our own will...If Mr. Marcos had said 'This is your homework, you have to do this as an assignment,' I would not spend nearly as much time putting those colors in or all these extra, fun add-ins. I could make that video in 10 minutes, but instead I chose to make it for two hours because it was something fun for me.
  • (26:49) Mr. Marcos would let us know: 'this person in this state, this teacher is doing what we're doing now'. That part was a separate motivation just to know that people started doing the same thing because they saw what we were doing...That's the part that gave me the warm and fuzzies inside.
  • (29:43) We call it "the kid language." It's vital to have students explain to other students because you grow up and you learn things in the same era in the same way. So, when you're explaining it to somebody, you're explaining it in a way they're going to understand. They have almost their own language.
  • (35:30) I found very quickly that it was important to trust [the students]...it got to a point where they would self-regulate. Giving up control can be a difficult thing but it's been working out.
  • (38:14) What would you guys say would be the most compelling reasons for other classrooms or other teachers to adopt this kind of approach?
    • (38:35) Not only have I learned math through this, but I learned the way that I like to learn: being able to have a community environment in a classroom instead of a teacher at the board and me timidly sitting in my seat. The classroom should be me being able to go up to the board, me talking to my teacher, and having a discussion as opposed to just listening to someone talk at me.
  • (44:19) Being called on in class can be really intimidating to some people. Being able to kind of hide behind this computer with our fake names, it makes it way easier to perform at our best.
  • (47:35) Do you think that kids teaching kids is something that should happen through high school and college? How important is that, do you think?
  • (51:23) The really important think about kids teaching kids is that they can understand things in the same way, and I don't believe it takes away from the teacher's time. I think it can be used at any level.

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