While other high school kids spend their weekends playing sports, video games and hanging with friends, two Palo Alto teenagers spend their free time teaching other kids to code.
Vineet Kosaraju, a 17-year-old high school senior, and Nikhil Cheerla, a 16-year-old high school junior, have started something of a movement with their organisation MathAndCoding.org.
MathAndCoding is an organisation dedicated to hands-on coding classes for kids, grade school through high school, exclusively taught by other kid coders, often the kids that learned to code themselves through the program.
Since they did their first class of about 20 grade-school kids at the Mountain View, California library a year and a half ago, they have now taught 1,100 kids how to code in the Bay Area via over 200 classes taught at 18 libraries. And their students have created more than 1,600 projects, they tell Business Insider.
And now, the movement is starting to go nationwide, where Kosaraju and Cheerla are teaching kids in places like Texas and North Carolina how to teach these kid coding classes, with the curriculum these two kids have created and posted to their MathAndCoding website.
“We have 31 volunteers teachers now,” Cheerla says, nearly all of them are graduates from MathAndCoding classes, who then went on and studied and did more projects on their own.
It all started as more-or-less a friendly argument/challenge between the two boys, who have known each other since they were little.
Both of them learned to code in middle school, taught by their parents. All four of their parents work in the tech industry as hardware engineers. (Kosaraju’s mum and Cheerla’s dad used to work for the same big tech company. That’s how they became family friends).
They were discussing that these days “people learn programming without the support of other people. They learn a bunch of stuff online at sites like Kahn Academy and Codeacademy,” Kosaraju tells us.
Cheerla believed that online learning was just as good as the taught-by-a-parent method. Kosaraju was less sure. So they spent an evening doing a bunch of coding classes at Code.org and concluded they were both right … and both wrong.
It was pretty easy to learn coding online, especially if you already had some skills. But there was also something to be said for having a support group, people to talk to about your project in person, ask questions and just help you get started.
So, they decided to do something about it. They called various nearby libraries to see who would let them teach a class to kids. Only one said yes, in the city of Mountain View.
They posted a few flyers at the library and nearly 20 grade school kids showed up. (Parents were not allowed to stay in the class.) They taught the kids how to use kid-coding site Tynker.
“After that first class, Nikhil and I were incredibly excited. We had successfully taught a class and helped about 20 students get their first venture into coding,” he said.
Learning to code and making friends
And it snowballed from there. “After they take our intro classes, they were wanting more advanced classes.”
So the two teens developed a more advanced curriculum that now extends across multiple fields, visual coding, Java, web programming (HTML/CSS, JS), Python, and mobile apps.
The best part is that the program is working like they imagined. These kids coders are making friends with other kid coders and creating communities to help each other as they learn.
“They stay in touch. They volunteer. It’s kids teaching kids,” Cheerla says.
Here’s where you can contact Vineet Kosaraju and Nikhil Cheerla for information about starting MathAndCoding.org classes in your area.
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