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A first post from Fred Martin, your new University Representative

Dear CSTA members,

I am delighted and honored to be elected for a 2-year term to the CSTA board, which began this July.

I was with all of you who attended the annual conference in St. Charles this summer. Then I stayed the rest of the week for the CS Principles Summit and the board meeting.

As others have described on this blog, the annual conference was inspiring. Among all of the great sessions, one stood out for me. Floresa Vaughn (a math teacher) and Marisa Brown (a science teacher) led a conversation where they described using Bootstrap to teach mathematics to high school students.

When she introduced herself, Ms. Vaughn made sure we knew that she considered herself a math teacher, not a computer science teacher. Her interest in Bootstrap was exactly because it taught math, not computer science. As she described, statements in Bootstrap look like mathematical relationships, not variable assignments.

But also, Ms. Vaughn was thrilled by the idea of making her own video game. This was exciting, and Bootstrap would let her do it!

The two teachers work in a continuation school in Los Angeles, which is a school for 16 to 18 year old students who weren’t successful in regular high schools and are at risk for dropping out.

Floresa and Marisa work with students who have struggled with school, and particularly math. After learning about Bootstrap, and because “trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity” (their own words!), they felt empowered to try Bootstrap.

Working together, Ms. Vaughn and Ms. Brown taught a new special course based on the Bootstrap curriculum. As they described, they succeeded in helping their students discover that they have the ability to do math. And that they could even enjoy it. And they could make video games! (See more in their article in the CSTA Voice September 2014 issue.)

The teachers showed a video from their students’ final presentations, where one of the students presented her video game. They gently guided their student in discussing the mathematical properties of her game, and when she succinctly explained the ideas, the whole classroom audience cheered her success.

The video captured the teaching and learning that Ms. Vaughn, Ms. Brown, and their students accomplished that semester.

It also revealed the deep commitment that the teachers have to their students’ learning.

It was especially poignant because of Ms. Brown and Ms. Vaughn’s unwavering will to find a way of reaching students who didn’t have a lot of prior success in school.

To me, there are two lessons from this story:

First, being creative with computing is really different from other endeavors. People like making things and computing lets us make things that are relevant in today’s world (like video games). There are a lot of children (and grown-ups) who find joy and pleasure in making something that really works. There aren’t many experiences like this in the traditional K-12 environment.

Second, it all happens because of the deep commitment to your students’ learning—and your own learning—from teachers like you.

Thank you for all of your work, and I look forward to being part of your community over the next two years.

Fred Martin
CSTA University Representative


Fred I was delighted to read this post! I absolutely agree with you, the Bootstrap session was my favorite too. The passion, the enthusiasm of these two young teachers (who could easily pass as students!) are the greatest inspiration for teachers. I can especially relate to that, as I know what a challenge working in a second-chance school can be... (BTW just found out yesterday that two of our students entered University!). I have shared your post with a mathematician friend who I believe will be equally excited to introduce Bootstrap into his classes:)

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