Back when I was in middle school, some fancy Texas Instruments 83 calculators were purchased for our math classes. The best thing about these calculators was that they had a bigger screen than other calculators along with a keyboard setting. Naturally, my friends and I spent more time passing notes on our calculators than we did graphing functions. Today, math students at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, California, are using the technology in their classrooms in a much more focused way than my classmates and I did.

Six years ago, sixth grade teacher Eric Marcos, a graduate of Boston College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, helped a student with a math problem. He sent her a quick video from home that he made on his tablet PC demonstrating how to solve the equation. The student was enthusiastic about the idea of learning through video format and asked to borrow the device to make her own tutorial video, or “screencast.” Her peers quickly caught on and started making their own math videos with the tablet PC. Using assumed names, they posted their screencasts to a website created by Mr. Marcos as a way to share their work with their peers. The Mathtrain Project was born.

Today, students in Eric Marcos’s math classes continue to use various brands of computer tablets, including iPads, to create tutorials. Students can record their handwriting with the stylus, a touch-screen digital pen, to demonstrate how to solve an equation. Several of Marcos’s students have even been flown out with their families to present the Mathtrain Project at big-name educational conferences such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and Building Learning Communities (BLC).

Eric Marcos had an idea: “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.” It’s safe to say that with over 500,000 views from students all around the world, his kids-teaching-kids Mathtrain Project is a profound success. Nearly all the videos for the free and nonprofit project are student-authored, and also available via YouTube as well as in podcast form.

For more information on Mr. Marcos’s work and the Mathtrain project, see