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Eye On Education: Pembroke Students Design Video Games In Math Class

PEMBROKE (CBS) -- Students at Pembroke Community Middle School don't just play video games, they create them.

Eye on Education Bootsrap Pembroke
Students at Pembroke Community Middle School use the Bootstrap program to design video games while incorporating math. (WBZ-TV)

"Lots of math went into it and quite a bit of memorizing the code," says seventh grader, Donny.

"Once you get the hang of coding, it's pretty easy," said fellow seventh grader, Samantha.

President Barack Obama wants to see more classes like this around the country.

"By reaching the White House and being recognized, it shows...that it's something incredibly powerful," says Adam Newall, a math and computer science teacher at the middle school.

"It's something moving for students and something they should all have a chance to try."

Newall is teaching the kids a program called "Bootstrap." It's a stand-alone class, but Bootstrap is designed to be incorporated into a regular math class, making computer science more accessible.

Students at Pembroke Community Middle School use the Bootstrap program to design video games while incorporating math. (WBZ-TV)

"Having students sitting in front of the computer leaves them wanting more," said Newall.

"I always wanted to make a video game and now I have and I'm pretty happy with myself," said seventh grader, Shea, while playing his politically-themed video game with images of Donald Trump, President Obama, and Vladimir Putin flying across the screen.

The curriculum teaches computer programming, while reinforcing important algebra principles at the same time.

"The beauty we have of putting Bootstrap into math classes is every student takes math," says Bootstrap co-director and Worcester Polytechnic Institute Professor Kathi Fisler.

"The students are building a video game of their own design, (and) that's what they see. But, the way that they are building the video game is by solving a series of algebraic word problems."

Fisler says teaching kids is only half the mission, while the other half is training the teachers.

"We think it's important to meet teachers where they are," she says. "Let's take a math teacher, show them a way to present computing that looks very similar to the way they present math."

The White House has launched a new initiative to bring computer science to all students and points to Bootstrap as one way to achieve that goal.

"Getting computer science in every school isn't the goal, it's getting it with equitable access to all the students, regardless of gender, race or socio-economic status," Fisler says.

And creating video games in a math class could be the successful equation.

The President is asking Congress to provide $4 billion for the Computer Science For All Initiative.

While the Bootstrap curriculum can be found free online, if approved, some of that congressional funding would be used to help train and support teachers.

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