Bored of math? Download the Math Dude

Maryland county unveils an online video star with a head for math and a wealth of special effects to keep kids engaged.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

Math meets MTV. That's Mike DeGraba, a.k.a. the "Math Dude." He's the the most recent addition to Montgomery County schools attempt to get teens interested in algebra, and he's coming to an iPod near you.

The Washington Post reports that with the class of 2009, all Maryland students will have to pass High School Assessment exams in algebra and data analysis, English, government and biology, and administrators are developing new ways to prepare students for these tests.

"We're looking at ways to make learning more interactive," said Jody Silvio, assistant to the associate superintendent for curriculum.

Mike DeGraba's unconventional teaching methods are what caught the attention of the Department of Education. He dresses up as a magician to teach lessons on probability. For a lesson on multiplying polynomials, he becomes Groucho Marx.

So when Montgomery County school administrators were looking to cast someone for their math cable show and first-ever podcast, they called DeGraba.

"He's going to be a rock star," said Erick Lang, acting associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction of Montgomery County public schools.

What makes his show attractive to teens is not just his wacky costumes and delivery. DeGraba also runs different animated backgrounds. For example, when DeGraba calculates the mean, he looks as if he were standing in a bowling alley.

"This is the medium for kids," said Aggie Alvez, the school system's director of communications. "The kids love the graphics. They love the irreverence of Mike. For some kids who don't get it, it's about the way it's presented."

Students can download the weekly shows from the school system's Web site, www.mcpsmathdude.org .

"It's algebra on demand," Alvez said. "You can watch it 24-7. You can watch it once. You can watch it 100 times."
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