‘Algebra Nation’ video personality motivates Crestview students

CRESTVIEW — Zach Stepp, an Algebra Nation tutor renowned online for his effervescent personality, made a whirlwind tour this week of area middle and high schools, sharing his trademark enthusiasm for math during half-hour appearances at each school.

“He’s dynamic and he’s personable,” Shoal River Middle School honors algebra teacher Christal Pruitt said. “The kids love him.”

They demonstrated that love with cheers, gymnastics and shrieks of welcome as the 6-foot, 5-inch video star strode into the Mustangs’ gym, where, responding to a student’s request during a question-and-answer session, he even took a leap at the basketball goal rim.

“He’s cool,” Mustang seventh-grader Aaron Schlipp said after getting Stepp’s autograph in his Algebra Nation workbook.

FREE STUDY TOOLS

The University of Florida program closely mirrors statewide classroom curricula, and provides students and teachers additional resources for teaching the subject.

The program’s interactive website and workbooks, more than 200,000 of which are distributed statewide, are free to participating schools.

Students can seek clarification of algebra concepts 24 hours a day, and by taking cell phone pictures of their problems, receive tutoring from UF math faculty.

Students are encouraged to help others around the state by posting tips and help to the website’s wall. But neither the students nor the faculty monitors may actually solve other students’ homework for them.

“If they post a problem, other kids may offer their solutions,” Pruitt said.

KARMA POINTS

Students receive “karma points” for interacting with the site, and can win an iPad Mini at the end of each month for accumulating the most points in the state.

“It encourages students to be active on that wall and ask questions and answer questions and be engaging in algebra,” Stepp said.

“Middle school karma points are always just a little bit higher than the high schools,” he said.

Students can also take practice end-of-course exams on the site and discover their weak spots, then seek online help.

“That end-of-course exam is just about a month away,” Stepp said. “At this point in time, I feel this (his appearances) is an inspiration, a push, to help them succeed with that exam and move on to the rest of their mathematical courses.”

Algebra Nation apps are available for students’ iPhones or Android phones, so “when they’re on the school bus or at lunch, they can be working on homework,” Pruitt said.

Email News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes, follow him on Twitter or call 850-682-6524.