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Teachers and high school students alike may struggle to solve this equation: math + X = fun.
But five students from Jamestown and Lafayette high schools are hoping their solution for “X”– a math game and lesson app – will earn them the title of best in the nation in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.
“I think they have taken on a problem millions of kids face: You like phones; you like games. Let’s use that as a medium to make math more than something you study in the past,” said Sridhar Chinnabhandar, the students’ computer science teacher at the Governor’s School for Science and Technology.
“They’re trying to solve a problem [that] people have and, if done, will really bear fruit for a long time,” Chinnabhandar said.
Tim Felbinger and David Thames of Jamestown and Noah Miller, Dominic Abbondanzo and Joshua Peterson of Lafayette came together at the Governor’s School to create the Math I/O app.
The app is inspired by the Math I/O website, which a small group of Jamestown students with a passion for programming first created in 2013 after teacher Jonathan Upperman encouraged them to develop math games for high school students.
The website features games that teach complex math concepts through interactive themes like dart-throwing and space exploration. The games are tied to math lessons that are intrinsic to winning the games and succeeding in the classroom.
The proposed app includes mobile versions of the games and lessons, as well as leaderboards to encourage students to compete with each other and beat their own high scores.
“What we want to move toward doing more is building a game that’s fun in general and incorporating math into it,” Felbinger said. “We want this to be something students want to do.”
The five students had started working on the app as a side project, but the effort was accelerated when Chinnabhandar suggested they enter the Verizon Innovative App Challenge.
The challenge encourages middle and high school students to create an idea for an app, which Verizon Foundation partners will help them develop, build and publish if their submission is selected as a national winner.
Felbinger and Thames said the team started working on the application materials, including essays, graphics and a video, in October and submitted their entry around Thanksgiving. They found out they were named best in state Jan. 6 and then best in the northeast region last week.
“To get exposure like that is really difficult to do, and this did that,” Thames said.
The team will present the app to be judged during a webinar today. The best in nation winners, which will include one middle school and one high school project from each region, will be announced Feb 2.
All best in state winners are eligible to win the Fan Favorite award, which includes the same prizes as the national winners – in-person and virtual training to build their app, Android tablets for each team member, opportunities to present their app at the 2016 National Technology Student Association Conference and a $15,000 grant for their school.
Felbinger said Williamsburg residents should vote for the Math I/O app because it could one day be used in their math classrooms or their children’s classrooms.
“The concept of helping students along the way, I think that’s a good cause,” Felbinger said
To vote for the Math I/O app, text “mathio2” to the toll-free number 22333. Voting closes Jan. 30.