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Girls Who Code and the Importance of STEM

Posted by Laura Willson

Jul 29, 2014 6:00:00 AM

It’s no secret that the fastest growing jobs in the world are those that require deep educational qualifications and specific skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  I was first introduced to STEM and its importance from my guidance counselor who told me and the other girls in my class about the New York City program Girls Who Code (GWC) at the end of my sophomore year of high school.  I had no idea what Computer Science was but I wanted to challenge myself and try something new; I wanted exposure to a new world.

After applying and being accepted to GWC, I attended the eight week summer immersion program where I learned how to code in various languages, such as JavaScript, Python, C, CSS, JQuery, and HTML. I also met many professionals, learned how to communicate with them, and went on various field trips, some of which included Google, Twitter, and Palantir.

                                    A picture of Laura's final project from Girls Who Code

Not only did I learn how to code but I also learned that more girls are needed in the field of computer science. There is a gender gap in computer science and we need more people like Reshma Saujani, the Founder and CEO of GWC, to speak about the importance of getting women involved in STEM.

Coding is important
because it makes it possible for us to create computer software, apps and websites—it involves both problem solving and programming in different computer programming languages. A person who knows code might get a job creating and designing games or in creating programs in the medical field, for example in treating diseases. After learning this, I thought about my grandfather, who died from Alzheimer's, and about how I might come up with a treatment one day.

There is definitely a connection between the math and coding.  Without math, you cannot code.  There is always an equation or two needed to code, which I see as kind of like a game. Math is an essential component to coding and is used in many program languages, because programming assigns variables to certain functions when creating a project.

Computer science programs are important to have in every high school because they will expose students to STEM fields. More importantly, young women need to be exposed so they will have an interest in the STEM field and close the gender gap. While attending GWC I heard from many women professionals say that they have faced criticism for being a “girl who codes.” They have dealt with that by continuing to code and not listening to what others, have to say. I personally have not faced any criticism for being a girl who codes, but if I do I know I will deal with it the same way. 

Now that the GWC program has finished, I am currently involved through the GWC club I started in my school. I have been surprised by the amount of girls who were hungry and eager to learn how to code, which just goes to show that the gender gap has nothing to do with interest or ability, but a lot to do with opportunity and cultural expectations. 

I have received a tremendous amount of support from Reshma Saujani, the founder of GWC, from Sean Stern, the teacher who taught me how to code during the GWC, and from Martina Sturdikova, who taught me how to code in the GWC club in my school, and also from my mom! All these people and many others have supported and encouraged me to continue coding and even pursue a career in computer science. Without these people, I probably would have quit coding a long time ago, but they have pushed me to go further and not quit.

Reshma has been an inspiration to me because she has paved the way for young women in high school to learn how to code, and she has helped to try to close the gender gap. She has encouraged all the girls in GWC to be part of the technology industry, and she mentioned that failure is always important to have in one’s life because we come back stronger and learn more from our failure. 

Young people, especially those in high school, who are interested in getting involved in coding should either take a computer science class if their school offers one, or apply to a computer science program. The two programs I know that are really good for anyone interested in coding are Girls Who Code, which from the name you can tell is only for girls, and NYC Generation Tech, which is for both girls and boys.  

College is right around the corner for me. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do when I finish college, but I’m passionate about coding and plan to major in computer science and pursue a related career.

About the Guest Author

Laura_Willson_Blog_1Laura Willson is a high school student from New York City. She recently won an award from the Double Discovery Center at Columbia University for her dedicated participation in DDC activities and events. Laura is part of Girls Who Code, and founded a Girls Who Code club at her school. Check out her blog at


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Topics: Resources, About Us & Our Community

The 5 Benefits of Blended Learning

Posted by The LearnBop Team

Jul 23, 2014 8:30:00 AM

5 benefits of blended learning

It’s no suprise that everyone learns differently.

Education leaders have tried a range of different teaching methods in order to properly tackle this hurdle. One relatively new concept that is catching on rather quickly in classrooms across the country is blended learning.

Also known as hybrid learning or classroom flipping, this form of teaching combines traditional classroom instruction with online educational materials such as notes, audio lectures and PowerPoint presentations. Due to an increased prevalence of digital media use, integrating online resources for homework assignments is a great way to engage the student inside and outside of the classroom.

In this NPR interview, a Colorado teacher highlights how important it is for teachers to understand that it is the 21st century and educational methods are now changing along with the times. Blended learning or flipping the classroom is a great example of this shift. 

Below is a quick list of 5 benefits of blended learning:

  1. More Parental Involvement: Parents can listen to and watch the teacher's lectures with the student at home. This allows parents to help explain any of the topics to the student if he/she is having difficulty understanding what is being lectured. 
  2. Convenience: As mentioned before, with the boom in digital media and technology, students today are spending much of their time with their smartphone and tablets. Providing digital educational tools gives the student more opportunities to spend learning and understanding the material, as they can take it with them whereever they go.
  3. Skill Building: Blended learning isn't just about the digital advantages! By keeping face to face classroom time in the curriculum, students have the opportunity to engage with classmates and build presentation, speaking, and listening skills as well.
  4. Maximized Use of Time: Because students have the opportunity to listen to and takes notes on lectures prior to class time, teachers can maximize time spent in the classroom by focusing on answering questions and ensuring that the students have a strong grasp on the material.
  5. Addresses Different Learning Styles: Discussions and topics are disseminated in a variety of ways, allowing for multiple types of learning needs to be met. 

Although educational trends will continue to change with new research findings and technolical advancements, blended learning is still a great option for preparing students for future success!


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Topics: Teaching & Learning

6th Grade Math Problems: Common Core Alignment

Posted by The LearnBop Team

Jul 16, 2014 8:00:00 AM

6th grade math problems

The Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and ELA, English language arts/literacy. These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. To date, the majority of U.S. states have adopted or are beginning to adopt these standards in the classroom.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative aims to make them the same for all education systems.

What Do the Standards Look Like?

The Common Core State Standards are consistent, clear benchmarks for English language arts and mathematics. These two subjects are the focus of CCSS because they provide skill sets necessary for success in other areas of study as well. The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council for Chief State School Officers have started the initiative and continue to lead with the assistance of teachers, parents, and school administrators across the country to completely standardize benchmarks for students’ learning goals.

How the Common Core Works

The uniform benchmarks set by the Common Core State Standards ensure that all students will develop the necessary skills and knowledge for them to succeed in college and life after graduation. Regardless of where a student lives, these clear expectations have been matched up against workforce training programs, and college and employer expectations. Additionally, the Common Core allows state school systems to collaborate on tools and policies including:

  • The development of textbooks, digital media and other teaching materials
  • The development and implementation of common comprehensive assessment systems that replace existing state testing systems used to measure annual student performance and provide teachers with feedback
  • The development of tools and reinforcement to help educators and schools provide the means to ensure students are able to learn and understand the new standards

These opportunities for educational collaboration can help promote preparedness among students for future collaboration within the workforce in the U.S. and abroad.

common core 6th grade math problems

6th Grade Math Problems: What It All Means

To give you a better understanding, here is an example of Common Core standards for 6th grade mathematics. At this grade level, there are four critical areas that should be focused on in class. These areas include topics of ratios and proportional relationships, the number system, expressions and equations, geometry, and statistics and probability.

Four Critical Areas

  1. Students build an understanding of how to connect ratio and rate to whole number multiplication and division using concepts of ratio and rate to solve problems.
  2. Students develop an understanding for the concept of dividing fractions based on the relationship between multiplication and division. Additionally, students use their understanding of number ordering including rational numbers and negative integers.
  3. Students begin to comprehend the use of variables and write and evaluate mathematical expressions and equations that correspond with a given situation.
  4. Develop an ability for statistical thinking through understanding data distribution

With 6th grade math problems utilizing these concepts consistently across the country, parents can have a better idea of where their child should be academically and students can be better prepared for life after high school graduation.

Read more about the math standards here.

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Topics: Implementing the Common Core

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