SOMERS, N.Y. – Nitin Seshadri believes that students teaching students can often be the most effective way to learn.
That’s why the eighth-grade Somers student created Project: Mathematica, a website dedicated to helping his classmates understand the topics they face in math class.
He came up with the idea last year when his teacher, Rob Paulmeno, saw Nitin intently writing something on a piece of paper after finishing his homework. Curious, Paulmeno asked Nitin what he was writing.
“It was a set of directions to do algebraic calculations on the graphing calculator,” Nitin said. “He asked if he could have the sheets and kept them with him for a few days.”
A week later, Paulmeno approached Nitin and, knowing his interest in computers, asked, “Why don’t you make a website for algebra with all this information?” And, just like that, Project: Mathematica was born.
Between seventh and eighth grade, Nitin began adding more and more content to the website. All information posted on the website was sent to Paulmeno, who verified that it was correct. Nitin also sought out the advice of an MIT graduate, whom he met last year at a campus event. The graduate encouraged Nitin to work on making the website more user-friendly.
“The mission of Project: Mathematica is to help kids with the challenges faced in mathematics,” Nitin said. “Project: Mathematica is founded on a student-to-student model: it is written by a student and made for students. Therefore, it uses language that is easy for students to understand. This way, students don’t have to waste time looking for sources to learn a new concept.”
As a math student, Nitin said he knows how important it is to learn a concept thoroughly in order to master it.
“If a student does not understand a concept, further lessons become very difficult to imbibe,” he said. “This is why I feel it’s important to help my classmates because they may want to learn something and may not understand it thoroughly, and if they continue to not understand it, it may come back to bite them later on.”
Nitin said the site also benefits students who feel more comfortable asking for help from a peer than from a teacher. With his website, Nitin hopes to help students better prepare for Regents exams.
“I’ve heard from many classmates and even sixth graders saying that my website has helped them tremendously,” Nitin said. “Most kids carry a cell phone and since my website is also available as an app, it’s very easy to use on the go.”
In fact, students who live down the road from Nitin have come to his house to view the website after hearing about it in school.
“That was a pleasant surprise,” Nitin said.
The positive feedback inspired Nitin to make presentations about his website at the Somers Library. After that, he began algebra tutoring sessions at the library. During the sessions, geared toward students taking or planning to take Algebra I, Nitin provides solutions for common algebra problems and also helps with homework. His next two sessions at the library are 3:15–4:30 p.m. Mondays, March 6/20.
“It makes me feel happy that I created this website and is what motivates me to keep working on it and adding newer topics,” Nitin said.
The website has also received rave reviews from teachers and administrators. Nitin presented his website to the entire middle school math department and high school principal Mark Bayer. Paulmeno has asked his current algebra students to use the website as a reference in class.
Nitin thanked his parents for supporting Project: Mathematica. “My parents are incredibly encouraging and supportive,” he said. “Without them, I couldn’t have made this website go so far as it has now.”
He also said Tara Ferretti, a Somers librarian, has been instrumental in getting his website out to the community and giving him the opportunity to conduct algebra tutoring sessions to students.
Going forward, he hopes to add more topics in geometry, trigonometry and calculus as he learns them in school.
“I would like to spread the knowledge to other students in other communities as well so they become more confident with mathematics,” he said.