EP 160: Teaching Math the Right Way with Welch Labs

There are few resources in place for people to learn difficult and complex material, especially when it relates to mathematics and technical subjects. All too often, textbooks are dense and boring and avoid encouraging a deeper understanding of the subject to provide surface-level comprehension. But there’s more than just the “how” to do something — there’s the “why.” And that’s how Welch Labs was born.

A practicing engineer, Stephen Welch founded Welch Labs in 2014 by publishing YouTube videos about machine learning. The idea came about when he was having difficulty with a project on neural networks — he wanted to provide online resources so that others would not encounter similar struggles. He now creates online math content and videos for people in high school to graduate school.

His channel currently features three different series: Neural Networks Demystified, Imaginary Numbers are Real, and Learning to See. The latter focuses on artificial intelligence and computer science framed in ways that are understandable to a wide audience base. He is now publishing videos in a How to Science series, which covers topics ranging from music to more traditional mathematical concepts. The idea is to promote actual understanding of math, code, and similar concepts.

To see this in action, visit the Welch Labs channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UConVfxXodg78Tzh5nNu85Ew. To listen to the full interview with Stephen Welch, listen to the podcast below.


EP 159: 3Blue1Brown on How to Show the Natural Beauty of Mathematics

Math and art — two seemingly vastly different subjects. But despite the apparent opposition between the two, YouTuber Grant Sanderson has set out on an endeavor to combine them in his channel, 3blue1brown, named after the sectoral heterochromia that leaves his right eye ¾ blue and ¼ brown. His videos essentially animate math, providing visual depictions of the topics he covers using a Python library of his creation.

Grant studied math at Stanford University and later went on to produce content about multivariable calculus for Khan Academy. Eventually, his love for mathematics (and passion for teaching it to others) led him to create 3blue1brown, which has now amassed over 800,000 subscribers.

His videos vary in focus. Many discuss topics that are typically not covered in traditional math classes, such as topology, Bitcoin, higher dimensions, and more conceptual subjects (an example being a video entitled “What does it feel like to invent math?”). But he also has series that are oriented to students learning particular math topics, such as calculus and linear algebra.

Grant’s goal is to “bring life to math,” animating it in both a literal and figurative sense. Math can be difficult and hard to fully comprehend, but displaying it with visuals and graphics allows him to break through such a learning barrier and help viewers understand math as they should. By looking at problems through a different lens and in a new format, complex solutions don’t seem so daunting and instead become enjoyable.

To explore and subscribe to 3blue1brown videos, check out the channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYO_jab_esuFRV4b17AJtAw.

To learn more about Grant and 3blue1brown, listen to the full interview below.


EP 158: Turning History into Music with Mr. Beat

What’s the easiest way to remember everything you need to know about the Red Scare? Set it to the tune of “Call Me Maybe” and replace the lyrics with a slew of facts about that moment in U.S. history, complete with a chorus featuring the line “Commie maybe.” This is just one of many historically themed music parodies that content creator Mr. Beat has released. Others include the causes of World War II to the tune of “Hotline Bling,” Napoleon to the tune of “Celebration,” and the Great Migration to the tune of “Good Vibrations.”

Mr. Beat began his channel in 2009 and has since amassed more than 22,000 subscribers. But his parodies are not the only content he makes: he also has original songs about different periods in United States history as well as videos explaining the presidents and various Supreme Court cases. His goal is to create videos, often featuring music and song, to make history and geography easier to learn and absorb.

As a teacher in Kansas, Mr. Beat has had plenty of experience recognizing that his students were not as engaged with history as they could be. His channel was an attempt to change that, an endeavor that we here at Scalar Learning are just as dedicated to.

To view and subscribe to Mr. Beat, visit his channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/iammrbeat/featured. To hear the full interview, listen to the podcast below.


EP 157: Bridging the Communication Gap between Colleges and their Students

In an age of technology and the Internet, it might seem contradictory that college students are feeling increasingly disconnected from their schools and administrators. Over half of emails sent to students are left unread, and nearly 80% of students think that schools can improve their college experiences by improving communication. This disconnect can be partially attributed to a lack of proper communication services, as students tend to gravitate away from email as their primary form of communication. Apps on the market are too cluttered and confusing to use, leading to an even greater divide between universities and students.

But DubLabs is trying to reverse the trend of low student engagement. Since its founding in 2012, over 150 colleges now use DubLabs to keep millions of students engaged with campus life.

DubLabs’ approach centers around simplicity: an app that’s not “overloaded with features” and instead has a “dynamic feed-based interface” that is familiar to modern students. The app features two-way chat and notifications customized to each student to make staying connected easier than ever, allowing students to stay in the loop. They have access to their schedules and grades and can contact advisors and administrators quickly and easily. Instead of struggling to figure out what’s located where and how to access certain features, as was the problem with many other apps, everything is organized into a dashboard that simplifies things immensely.

When students feel disconnected and unable to communicate with their faculty support systems, grades drop and motivation is lost. But with DubLabs, the ability to connect leads to a heightened capacity to succeed.

To learn more about DubLabs, visit their site at www.dublabs.com. To listen to the full interview with Chief Strategy Officer Chris Hopkinson, check out the podcast below.


EP 156: A Way to Optimize Teacher Development

“School leaders spend nearly 10% of their time each week managing the mountain of paperwork that comes from teacher observations and feedback.” That can add up to as much as six hours a week dealing with feedback from countless sources across numerous locations.

But leaders shouldn’t have to waste valuable time on spreadsheets and data — it was from this simple premise that Whetstone Education was born. Founded in 2010 by two school leaders fed up with the nightmare of state reporting while tracking mounds of teacher feedback and data, Whetstone has since grown to a platform used by over 500 schools, resting on a foundation of providing an easy place for schools to store data on performance, observations, and feedback while also enabling administrators to spend more time with teachers and students.

The platform allows schools to work with data analytics to provide professional development and advice for growth that is backed by more than just word of mouth and “a hunch.” Instead, actual reports allow for feedback that makes sense. Whetstone’s algorithm uses both quantitative and qualitative reporting to home in on exactly what teachers need to improve upon and where instructional time can grow. The information is easily shared with teachers, thanks to video coaching and live connections to teachers. But the platform is still customizable to ensure that each school is getting exactly what they need.

This week, we spoke with Michael Richard to learn more about Whetstone and its implementation of technology to make education a more manageable. To learn more about this revitalization of teacher development, visit https://www.whetstoneeducation.com/ or listen to the full podcast interview below.