DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — Wesley Lowman said the reason he created a computer application to help elementary students improve their math skills while playing games is pretty simple.
“Elementary school is a critical time, and I see a lot of disinterest in math among students,” the Austin High senior said.
His creation — which won the inaugural statewide Governor’s App Challenge in April — is now headed for Washington, D.C.
Lowman’s app, which he has modified slightly since a committee of computer science and technology experts judged it as the best in the state, was selected to represent the Fifth Congressional District, which includes Morgan, Lauderdale, Limestone and Madison counties and most of Jackson County.
He’ll demonstrate his app in the U.S. Capitol on March 24 during an event created by the House of Representatives in 2013 and called #HouseOfCode.
“He is the first Decatur student to win at this level, and this is a wonderful opportunity,” Austin computer science teacher Brenda Richardson said. “I think his app will help students in Decatur City Schools, and I’m pushing him to make it available for Decatur students.”
DCS Superintendent Michael Douglas said he has viewed the app and described Lowman as an extraordinary student. Douglas also said the app will help students and he’s not opposed to it being available to students on their school-issued Chromebooks.
“Kids always have some kind of device by their sides,” Douglas said, adding that he didn’t know what the district had to do for DCS students to have access to the app.
Lowman, 18, wrote the app from scratch and it allows a student to create a login, username and password. Since taking state honors, he said he has created a feature that allows students to track their progress.
“I’m still working to perfect it,” Lowman said about the app, which is a math game. “Math skills are going to be critical in the future, and too many students were memorizing math for a test instead of learning math.”
His argument for more emphasis on math and better math standards has support at the state level.
Alabama students have struggled with math, and in 2017 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Alabama’s fourth graders scored above only four other states and the District of Columbia.
Eighth graders outscored students from only one other state and D.C. In the same year only 23% of the Alabama class of 2017 met the mathematics college readiness benchmark.
A task force appointed by the state school board spent two years working on new math standards aimed at helping Alabama improve its NAEP ranking on the Nation’s Report Card.
Those standards, which are supposed to identify what students need to learn at each grade level, were approved in December. They go into effect for the 2020-21 school year.
Lowman’s app is foundational, meaning elementary students can learn basic math skills such as subtraction and addition. He said it also includes some pre-algebra terminology “students are learning without knowing.”
Lowman said the app, which targets K-5 students, provides multiple modes, including a review mode for a student who is initially learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; and a quiz mode where a student can assess their understanding of topics.
“It’s a game, but students are learning,” he said.