Interview with WGBH Innovation Math Challenge Winners, Andrew Przybylski and Rebecca Schmitt.
Tell us about yourself — what are some of your hobbies?
We are both full-time electrical Engineers. We like to dance the Tango and Waltz, puzzles, archery, and being out in the sun. During the winter months, we to like to do plasma optimization projects and other fun engineering-related activities.
What drew you to the challenge?
We enjoy helping younger kids learn, and as engineers, we want them to be successful in math and understand how important it is and that it doesn’t have to be “boring.”
What is your favorite part in Make it Math?
Our favorite part was when we had a younger audience try the program and saw that they were able to have fun with it, which was what inspired us to complete the project.
How did you choose your topic and what was the reasoning behind the theme?
When we saw there was a contest, a connect-the-dot game immediately came to mind. We chose that game because it’s a fun activity for boys and girls of all ages. We also tried to choose pictures that would be appealing to everyone.
What was your brainstorming/creative process like?
We bounced ideas back and forth and tried to make enough variety to appeal to a wide range of people. We also focused on the web-based section only until we knew we had enough time for the print-out version as well.
What are some ways you use math in your everyday life?
We are electrical engineers and use it every day at work. We also apply math in our personal projects at home.
What do you think would make more kids interested in math?
We think kids would be more interested if they focused on the core foundations and ignored all convoluted “tricks” and shortcuts. Math is not simple memorization — trying to memorize every trick takes away from the basic knowledge. This in turn reduces kids’ interest because it becomes too difficult.
How was the collaboration? What roles did you each take on?
Rebecca came up with the design and developed the algorithms for automatically-generated randomized math problems, and Andrew developed the user interface.
How would you like your resource to be used in the classroom?
It could be used as a group competition but is designed mostly for self-competition and as motivation to keep getting better at basic math skills
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
We work well together, and this was a great opportunity for us to share in our excitement to teach kids about math. We will also be getting married this summer!
What is one thing you learned from your Innovation Math Challenge experience?
Even with the toughest audience during our testing phase, we were able to make math fun for them.
What advice do you have for future challenge entrants?
Plan ahead, and create development milestones in order to balance your work.