College Crew Makes Math Fun in 32 Hours
HOST: A very special group of Bay Area programmers will release five new math apps aimed at middle and high schoolers this month. As Lillian Mongeau reports, a dozen students produced all five apps during a 32-hour "Hackathon" at Contra Costa College.
LILLIAN MONGEAU: Alejandro Rameriz Escanellas hasn't slept for hours. He and his coding team have been up all night inventing a game that features an algebra-equation solving spaceship.
ALEJANDRO ESCANELLAS: Basically, you control a little ship that goes around in space and they have equations on top of them. And you've got to shoot the number that solves the equation.
MONGEAU: It's harder than it sounds. At least, it is for me.
Alright, x minus 1 equals three so that's four. Yes! Four x divided by two equals ten...oh, I can't do that fast enough.
Research has shown that algebra is the gateway math skill for kids hoping to go to college. The community college students in this room hope the games they're creating become an entry-point for kids who think math is boring. Their teacher, Tom Murphy, hopes the process of creating those games is an entry-point for the young programmers too.
TOM MURPHY: So what we're doing here, look, it is fun, we're having a kick. I wouldn't be surprised if it does change some of their lives. What they see as possible, what kind of career they see they can go for.
MONGEAU: Murphy says his students exceeded even his high expectations during the course of the Hackathon. Many of them had to learn the coding language they used to create the games in the early hours of the event. Then they had to come up with a concept, start coding, build the game and test it. Murphy says professionals would have balked at taking on such a big task in such a short timeframe. Not his students.
MURPHY: They don't know it's hard, so they just did it.
MONGEAU: Hasani Groce collaborated on the spaceship game during the event - which was hosted by Intel - he's got some advice for kids who want to write code.
HASANI GROCE: Do a lot of math. A lot of math. It pays. Play Mathius. Our game.
MONGEAU: Maybe, they won't know it's hard and they'll just do it. For KQED News, I'm Lillian Mongeau.