UConn Professor Uses Social Distancing to Create Math Enthusiasts

UConn mathematics professor Álvaro Lozano-Robledo is responding to social distancing by creating videos that show the fun side of math. ()

Math may not be the first thing parents think of when trying to entertain their kids, but University of Connecticut associate professor of mathematics Álvaro Lozano-Robledo hopes to change that. He has been creating a series of videos showing kids engaged in distance learning how fun math can be.

Lozano-Robledo has created a YouTube channel called Algebra for Kids, which currently has 14 videos of basic algebra lessons.

The idea for the videos stems from the “math playdates” Lozano-Robledo would lead with his daughters and their friends during the summer. The kids would come to Lozano-Robledo’s house and do math problems together before going off to play. With in-person playdates no longer possible, the parents in his neighborhood encouraged Lozano-Robledo to hold virtual meet-ups online. He started with a small Zoom session and then decided to begin recording videos of the lessons to share with others.

“My friends were so grateful to have a little bit more to offer their kids,” Lozano-Robledo says. “I figured there must be many more families in the same situation.”

The colorful, animated videos feature Lozano-Robledo going through a lesson with his daughters or their friends using everyday items like pancakes, bananas, and hockey pucks. The video prompts viewers to pause at each problem to take time to solve them independently and then continue to see the explanation.

The channel enriches distance learning for children who are already learning basic algebraic concepts around third or fourth grade, he says.

“The videos provide a foundation that will be really useful in math classes in the next couple years,” Lozano-Robledo says. “Since they’ve already seen these things, they’ll be more motivated when they see later them in class.”

Lozano-Robledo says he plans to make four or five more videos on algebra and then to move on to geometry.

“I’ll keep going as long as social isolation does,” Lozano-Robledo says.

More than the concrete understanding of algebra these videos introduce, Lozano-Robledo wants to show how fun and exciting math is.

“If anything, I just want to show kids and adults who are very happy to do math,” Lozano-Robledo says. “My daughters and I are very enthusiastic about math.”


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