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RP4K Teacher Profiles: Quinlan Sokol

Published on July 12, 2023 | Posted in  

We have a special entry this month in our ongoing teacher profile series. Today, we’re looking at the creator of our Advanced Math and Physics for Coders course, Quinlan Sokol.

RP4K is proud to teach kids how to write computer code in industry-standard languages. We prioritize kids having fun above all but do emphasize foundational math concepts. If your child is new to computer coding, our goal is to make programming fun so they get genuinely hooked.

That’s what happened to Sokol, who is himself a former RP4K student now enrolled in the Waterloo co-op program while juggling teaching duties at RP4K. The Advanced Math and Physics for Coders he created is for older teenagers with considerable experience in coding.

Parents are right to want to expose their kids to STEM subjects and coding to see how they take to them. Students that enjoy it and thrive if they continue with the program will finish by entering Sokol’s course.

Conceptual and Applied Math

Every parent knows that coding involves math, but beyond that simple type of statement, it can be challenging for non-mathematicians to grasp the precise relationship between mathematics and computer coding.

“Kids make calculations that involve crunching numbers, but they also learn a more conceptual side of math, using trigonometry to calculate angles, and matrices for rotations. If you do get into the upper levels, math and computer science students take the same math courses. Programming is the applied side, which kids tend to like most.”

Your kids will have to do some calculations when they take the advanced level coding courses, but they also learn the broader underlying mathematical concepts.

Outside the Scope of High School Math

Parents want their children to feel confident in core subjects. It’s crucial to understand mathematical concepts and, practically speaking, it serves them well later on in school.

For students who are keen on math, parents are eager to get them lots of face time in a small classroom environment with a teacher who will show them things beyond what they’ll learn in high school. The math in Sokol’s course is stuff students may encounter in second-year university, depending on their program.

However, Sokol is careful never to overwhelm students. He breaks the material up into digestible chunks students can manage so they’re excited and stimulated but never overwhelmed. He likes to break concepts into mini games he has developed, so complex mathematical ideas are fun and easy to understand.

Students learn about math concepts they’ve encountered in school before, like the Pythagorean theorem. But also trigonometry, vectors, and matrices, which are the high end of high school. Students also learn about planar graph theory, but Sokol is careful to leave the really complicated stuff out and keep the useful material in.

At RP4K, learning to code online is always fun, first and foremost. But our sessions, especially the more advanced courses created by instructors like Quinlan, will give your child a serious leg up.

University math courses may have over 100 students. Some seminars have 300-400, especially first-year courses. Getting face-time with an instructor in a class of only four students max is a huge asset. 

The advanced mathematical concepts Sokol teaches have applications outside school, which can be fun. For example, planar graph theory can be used to prove that in the game Dungeons and Dragons, there are only five perfectly symmetrical polyhedra dice!

Where Can Coding Take You?

Students keen on wondering where computer science and programming can take them have the perfect resource in Sokol. He is currently enrolled in a co-op program that helps him alternate between absorbing computer science in an academic and professional setting.

Sokol likes to take some time out of the final class of the program to answer practical questions about what coding is like beyond high school, including what type of jobs it can lead to. He’s happy to answer any questions they have, but he makes it a point to raise the topic himself, so teenagers plotting their next moves can get practical guidance about how to navigate a quickly evolving field.

Learning coding and mathematics skills open up a lot of doors, so it’s reasonable for kids to have a range of questions. They need someone they feel comfortable speaking to when asking questions, someone with recent experience.

Technology in the Classroom

Sokol likes using modern, interactive technology in his courses, such as the whiteboard, which functions like a screen and a touchscreen on which he can chart dots, edges, and triangles, which he can then freely move and manipulate. The concepts he teaches are complex, and using advanced technology can really help.

Students can use it to work out their own examples for graph theory to model almost anything they can think of. The whiteboard makes sessions interactive, which is a lot more fun and engaging than sitting back and hearing math spoken at you! Plus, these concepts have important implications in the world of coding video games and way beyond.

It’s probably impossible to find another coding course teaching planar graphs because Sokol didn’t just inherit someone else’s syllabus — he wrote the course himself. He is bent on teaching the underlying mathematics, not just how to program video games.

“When you begin working, a lot of what they teach in coding schools isn’t going to necessarily be applicable in that job. In school, you learn how to learn.” That’s why Sokol focuses on the mathematical and programming foundations rather than the rote lessons in a specific coding language.

“The quicker you can learn, the quicker you can work.”

Everyone knows that coding imparts math skills, and students learn vital math concepts even in RP4K’s novice classes. However, there’s no replacement for the level of math that Sokol teaches.

Even parents who know they want their children to learn STEM skills and understand how to write code want different things for them because the kids have varying levels of skill and experience with digital skills. If your child is new to computers, our beginner courses will set them up with foundational knowledge, and they’ll have a lot of fun. For parents whose kids are already far along in their coding journey, Sokol’s advanced mathematics courses are just the ticket.

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