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Everyday Heroes: Eric Marcos, Ed.M.'03

Posted: August 27, 2008

By Molly Donovan

Eric Marcos and studentsEric Marcos with his students Camilla (left) and Aleya Spielman "Everyday Heroes" is a continuing series that tells the stories of Ed School alums who are focusing their considerable talents and efforts on teaching, administration, counseling, and other areas that impact students and their learning on a daily basis. These are the people, as we noted in a 2003 Ed. magazine feature, "leading our nation from its classrooms."

Eric Marcos’ website is a little like him: fun, engaging, and all about the kids. 

Mathtrain.com is a splashy assortment of bright, kid-friendly colors, pictures, links, and, above all, “mathcasts” – instructional math videos made for students, by students. Despite the overwhelming publicity the website has received both nationally and internationally, it remains first and foremost a forum for student learning and creativity.

Marcos, Ed.M.’03, a sixth-grade teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, Calif. and Mathrain’s creator, never expected that what started out as his classroom website would to get so much attention. “I knew I wanted it to be a destination, but I didn’t just want it to be a teacher’s boring website,” he explains. 

Since his time at HGSE, Marcos has sought ways to help his students apply the skills they acquire. “One of the things that I learned [at HGSE] was to adopt a student-created atmosphere for teaching, as opposed to the top-down or teacher-directed model, and so I did, and I have, and I am,” Marcos says.

With Mathtrain, Marcos’ students create their own atmosphere for teaching and learning. Using Marcos’ tablet PC, a laptop computer with a rotating screen on which users can write with a special pen, and Camtasia Studio’s recording software, the students create videos that explain math concepts ranging from solving proportions to finding the slope of a line. His students love both the fun of using the tablet and the thrill of playing teacher to help others learn.

“I think doing the videos is fun, and I know that they're helpful to other kids,” says Camilla Spielman, a former student of Marcos’ and the creator of several mathcasts.  Her older sister, Aleya, agrees. “They’re fun and they’re helpful, plus, it’s actually good for the person doing the video, because you get a better understanding of the subject that you do.  So you’re kind of teaching it, but you’re also practicing.” 

This give-and-take of teaching and learning was exactly the kind of atmosphere that Marcos wanted to create.  “I didn’t want to be like some of the teachers I had,” Marcos says.  “They were very teacher-directed, and it wasn’t always that exciting.”

Marcos’ idea seems to be working. Since the introduction of the tablet PC, participation in Marcos’ class has skyrocketed. “In the old days [before Mathtrain], it was [just] math. It’s sixth grade, it’s middle school, [I’d ask,] who wants to come up to the board and do a problem? You get some students,” Marcos says. “But once I had this whole thing, I was literally overwhelmed at times with how many students would put their hands up, almost falling out of their seat, because they wanted to come up to the front…even students who were seemingly quiet at one point, all wanted to come up.”    

Students throng after school for hours to do homework and record mathcasts on the tablet PC. Though students crowd around the computer on a daily basis, Marcos has never had problems with vandalism or carelessness toward the equipment. Simply by respecting his students enough to trust them, Marcos has garnered their respect, for both himself and for his property. “He kind of lets you do what you want with the computer,” says Aleya. “It doesn’t feel like it’s a teacher’s computer, like you have to do this, you have to do this, it kind of feels like it’s your computer when you’re on it and so then you know if it was yours you treat it with like a lot of respect.” 

With the help of his friendly attitude, his evident love of teaching, and his kid-approved gadgets, Marcos has created a tight-knit little community at Lincoln Middle School. “There was a community kind of developing,” Marcos says. “And remember again, it was sixth grade and a math class, and these were kids wanting to be there for hours after school…. It’s beneficial. I can’t imagine it’s not. It’s very powerful.”   


Other Everyday Heroes:

Frankie Cruz, Ed.M.’06

Camsie Matis, Ed.M.’05

Rob Stein, C.A.S.’93, Ed.D.’01


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