Program teaches computer programming

Whittier resident James Baker, a veteran educator of 24 years, and colleague Dale Hulme, who lives on the North Side, have developed a math-based computer-programming course for children who read at a 6th-grade level or higher.

Baker, who has a Ph.D. in educational psychology, and Hulme, a former teacher, offer the at-home program through an educational series called the Expert Mathematician. It teaches the basics of computer programming through a computer language called Logo. Lessons are free to those who sign up by the end of the month.

Although Baker and some other Minneapolis teachers taught from the curriculum, it's independent of Minneapolis School District-distributed materials. The program's original form was developed in the 1980s and has been upgraded since then.

Drawing from key principles of geometry and algebra, it's meant to boost math skills and enhances middle school math instruction.

The program was the subject of a yearlong study conducted by the University of Minnesota. It's been featured on the U.S. Department of Education's website, www.whatworksclearinghouse.com, because children made such significant gains in their math skills. It's designed to give children easy access to mathematical ideas and disciplined thinking, said Baker. At the same time, activities should be &#8220fun and easy.”

Baker said he hopes the curriculum draws students who're interested in computing and gaming. &#8220There are kids who spend a lot of time building things with computers, and we would like to entice them into building math and computer language because it's so relevant today,” he said.

Providing a working knowledge of fundamental programming language and math formulas, children will design wacky shapes, among other exercises. Baker and Hulme developed the curriculum as a way to increase kids' interest in math and useful computer skills.

To participate, children must supply a computer and printer (for printing lessons). Although the program facilitates working independently from home or classroom, children may share their favorite projects or ask each other questions in an online forum.

Baker is currently working on a book proposal outlining the development and successes of the program. Materials may be delivered to students electronically (on CD).

For more information or to begin lessons, visit www.expertmath.org or call 872-6741 (send a message through the &#8220contact us” link. Be sure to include your contact information).