Friday, March 7, 2008

Mathcasts: Kids Teaching Kids

Sometimes, the expert that a student needs contact with is a knowledgeable peer. That's the idea behind Mathcasts, a series of online videos available at YouTube, TeacherTube and In each video, a middle school student guides viewers through a particular type of math problem step by step.

In the Santa Monica Daily Press, Melody Hanatani reports on the beginnings and popularity of the Mathcasts, which began appearing online a year ago. The videos started on the tablet PC of Eric Marcos, a math teacher at Lincoln Middle School. Though the Mathcasts are just one option in a whole range of online sources available at Marcos' site,, the Mathcasts have been the most popular, garnering the attention of educators, publications and students across the United States. Students use them to review concepts when needed, to brush up on skills, or to help with homework:
“When I do my homework and I don’t get something, I can always go on and find out (how to solve the problem),” Emily Claus, a sixth grade student, said during class on Monday. “Then all of a sudden, it makes sense.”

The Mathcast has become a daily ritual for Matthew Cianfrone, a sixth grade student who reviews the day’s lessons online.

“It’s easier and more fun than to just look at a textbook,” Cianfrone said.
Most of the Mathcasts have been made by Aleya and Camilla Spielman. The very first Mathcast, which debuted on Valentine's Day last year, featured Camilla, using the pseudonym "Bob," discussing proportions. In a more recent Mathcast, Aleya, using the pseudonym "Billy Billy," talks viewers through adding fractions with different denominators. The girls rightly credit the success of the videos to the "kids teaching kids" concept behind them. Tiana Kadkhoda, a former classmate who made 6 Mathcasts herself, said, "When a kid explains something, it’s different than a teacher...We’re at the same level of intelligence and our brains work the same way.”

Another math teacher at Lincoln, Rose Supangan, used a Mathcast in her pre-algebra class and got very positive reactions. “All of the kids were so excited to do the problems,” Supangan said. Eric Marcos will soon travel to two educational conferences to present "the kid-driven Mathcast concept" to an even larger audience. Perhaps this student-driven video concept can expand to other subjects, like language arts or foreign language.

SOURCE: "Kids use latest technology to help one another excel" 02/26/08
photo courtesy of foundphotoslj, used under this Creative Commons license


Tim Fahlberg said...

It's great to see such interest in mathcasts. You can find many more mathcasts created by children, students, and educators at

These ones, created by 3rd graders, are especially good:

We have a pretty neat free project going for K-7 math that uses VoiceThread. See

I've been helping teachers create and share mathcasts for about 11 years now.

Some of the benefits of mathcasts are given here:

So mathcasts have been around for many years but it wasn't until Mary Marotta suggested the term mathcasts about 2 years ago that we started calling them this (before this we called them Whiteboard Math Movies).

BTW: An inexpensive (< $50) graphics tablet is the least expensive tool and still excellent tool for creating mathcasts. See
I still use my Tablet PC to create mathcasts but I prefer using a graphics tablet (an Adesso CyberPad or InterWrite pad) now actually.

Here's a good resource for people who want to create their own mathcasts:


Tim Fahlberg
Mathcast Pioneer

Dedra Johnson said...

Wow, Tim! Thanks for all the great links and background on Mathcasts. I regret not including more of the history of them. A double thanks for your help there.

As more and more classrooms get "wired," I think interest and enthusiasm for these tools will grow.

Thanks, too, for the equipment advice! One of the great things about Mathcasts and similar student-to-student teaching is that the student teaching learns at the same time, and learns much more than if he or she were given a test, extra worksheets or other kinds of drills.

And as a parent of a fifth grader, I am thrilled to see these tools. Fifth grade math seems a lot harder 30 years out!

mr marcos said...

Thanks for the posting this article.

And by the way, nice to finally meet you Tim! I'm Eric Marcos.

I recently presented at a conference and mentioned your name because I had heard about you and all your mathcast work. I even wanted to get my students involved with your "Mathcasts 500 Project". That's an excellent project idea.

Anyway, I agree that it is great to see such interest in mathcasts.

My students love making them and they often stay for hours after school creating mathcasts.

Thanks again, Dedra Johnson, for posting the story and thanks for introducing me to the pioneer, Tim Fahlberg!

Eric Marcos
6th Grade Mathematics Teacher

Dedra Johnson said...

Eric, thanks for dropping by! And it was my pleasure to bring a little more attention to Mathcasts. They are great tools.

Steve O'Keefe said...


Wow, I love these movies! I especially like the mathcasts with more than one child explaining a math problem or explaining how they make mathcasts. There's something about having more than one person having to "synch up" on what it is they're explaining that provides realtime clarification of the concept.

By making them express verbally what they usually do almost silently as a motor skill (drawing on a touchpad), you stimulate greater retention, verbal communication skills, and fun!

All the videos are short -- under four minutes mostly -- which is an attention span limit for watching videos on a small screen. The drawing tablet makes them more visually alive than narrated slide shows.

In my work at AuthorViews, we make a lot of videos and have made videos of several LIVEbrary authors. You can view some of our clips here:

In teaching video editing, I've found it easier to explain how to edit video if I keep it to the third-grade level. Annick Press has a book in the first season of the LIVEbrary called, Attack of the Killer Video Book: Tips & Tricks for Young Directors, by Hazlitt Krog and Mark Shulman and illustrated by Martha Newbigging, which is a wonderful quick tour of videomaking for middle school classrooms.

There's a video making lesson plan here in the LIVEbrary from the first season, and Mark Shulman is available for classroom visits through LIVEbrary On Demand, which begins next week.

The way the mathcasts are made -- and your willingness to share them so freely -- are both inspiring.

The Annick LIVEbrary