Mi Casa volunteer and Metropolitan State College Professor Dr. Don Gilmore is a math whiz.
In fact, he’s so good he teaches math to math teachers. So you might be surprised to meet his sidekicks in the classroom – Rajon and Deon – students at Lake Middle School who attend Mi Casa Neighborhood Center every day after school.
Rajon and Deon didn’t have any experience with computer programming until Dr. Gilmore and his student assistants from the Metro State College Center for Urban Education came to the Mi Casa Neighborhood Center to start a computer gaming program. The volunteers from MSCD taught the Mi Casa kids about Alice, a computer programming teaching tool that makes it easy for students to create 3D animated stories. Rajon and Deon dove into the project and soon were creating not just digital stories, but interactive video games.
Last year, Deon and Rajon had a chance to share what they learned about Alice with a group of math teachers, who were eager to hear their impressions of the program. The teachers asked them questions about the program and the best way of teaching it to students. The kids got a real kick out of tutoring the teachers for once!
Rajon and Deon continue to be Dr. Gilmore’s valued teaching assistants. Just last month they stopped by the Office of Urban Teacher Partnerships at the Center for Urban Education for pizza and pop before heading over to join Dr. Gilmore and his Mathematics of Secondary Curriculum course. Deon and Rajon were there to help Dr. Gilmore teach the students about using Alice in the classroom.
Students from the United States have fallen well behind students from other countries in knowledge of math and science – an issue of great concern to Dr. Gilmore. “Math is part of every science. It’s incredibly important yet the traditional approach to teaching math hasn’t been successful in engaging a broader audience,” he says. “I prefer an approach where students’ learning is focused around their own thinking and ideas. There may be just one right answer to a problem, but often there are different ways to get there, and I’ve found this approach keeps students more engaged.”
Dr. Gilmore is especially concerned that many kids in the public school system – particularly low-income children at inner-city schools like Deon and Rajon – are not being given sufficient opportunities to learn about math, science and technology. That’s why the Center for Urban Education Metro State brings professors and university students into urban schools in high-needs areas like Lake in order to provide low-income children with enriching afterschool programs focused on academic success, as well as math and science learning.
At the Mi Casa Neighborhood Center, Don supplied nine laptop computers equipped with Alice and has dedicated many hours of his own time and that of his team to supporting the children in their introduction to the world of computer science. He hopes it will be the beginning of a lifelong interest in technology that will propel the students to college and into successful careers. In the meantime, Dr. Gilmore will do his part to make sure that all children, no matter their background or socioeconomic status, have opportunities to learn about the technology that underpins our modern world, as well as the math concepts that underpin our technology.