Algebraic Videogame Programming

Bootstrap is a curricular module for students ages 12-16, which teaches algebraic and geometric concepts through computer programming. At the end of the module, students have a completed workbook filled with word problems, notes and math challenges, as well as a videogame of their own design, which they can share with friends and family.

Our mission is to use students' excitement and confidence around gaming to directly apply algebra to create something cool.

We work with schools, districts and tech-educational programs across the country, reaching hundreds of teachers and thousands of students each year. Bootstrap has been integrated into math and technology classes across the country, reaching thousands of students since 2006. Most teachers have also attended a Bootstrap Workshop, where they received specialized training to deliver the class.

3-Day Open Enrollment Workshop

We're thrilled to announce our biggest workshop of the year, held at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science on August 5th-7th. Most of our workshops are offered through school districts or partner institutions, but we want to make this PD available for everyone. If you've wanted to attend our PD in the past, this is your chance! We're grateful to Stephanie Weirich and others at Penn for their support, enabling us to open Bootstrap to educators everywhere. Join teachers from across the country, and discover how to bring Bootstrap to your classroom, afterschool program or summer camp. Register now!
Bootstrap is proud to partner with two leading organizations: and CSNYC. and CSNYC allow us to bring our professional development, materials and support to teachers in New York City, Chicago, Charles County, MD and Broward County, FL during the 2014-2015 academic year. To stay on top of our workshop schedule for the summer, please check out our workshops page, and stay tuned for more exciting announcements!

For Math Teachers

Unlike most programming classes, Bootstrap uses algebra as the vehicle for creating images and animations, and is designed from the ground up to be aligned with Common Core standards for algebra.

Bootstrap also builds in a pedagogical approach to solving Word Problems called the Design Recipe. Students solve word problems to make a rocket fly (linear equations), respond to keypresses (piecewise functions) or explode when it hits a meteor (distance formula). In fact, this same technique has been successfully used at the university level for decades.

For CS Teachers

Knowing how to write code is good, but it doesn't make you a programmer. In addition to learning a full-strength programming language, Bootstrap teaches solid program design skills, such as stating input and types, writing test cases, and explaining code to others. After Bootstrap, these skills can be put to use in other programming languages, letting students build on what they've learned.

A Note for Parents

Before algebra, your child's math homework was all about computing an answer, by adding, subtracting, solving, etc. Once Algebra introduces functions, however, everything changes. Rather than "solving for x", they'll be asked to think about whether a function f(x) is linear, how many roots it has, etc. The jump from "getting the answer" to "describing a function" is challenging for students, as it requires them to think more abstractly than ever before. Algebra isn't just harder — it's completely different.

Unlike Python, Scratch or Javascript, functions and variables behave exactly the same way in Bootstrap that they do in your child's math book. Bootstrap focuses on order of operations, the Cartesian plane, function composition and definition, solving word problems and more. Instead of using the Pythagorean Theorem to calculate the heights of ladders leaning against walls, students use the same class time to determine the distance between characters in their game and make them collide. By shifting classwork from abstract pencil-and-paper problems to a series of relevant programming problems, Bootstrap demonstrates how algebra applies in the real world, using an exciting, hands-on project.


Our team

Bootstrap was created by Emmanuel Schanzer, building on the work of Matthias Felleisen and Program By Design. Emmanuel holds a bachelors of Computer Science (Cornell University) and a masters of Education (Harvard), having worked in the software industry for a number of years before becoming a math teacher. The Bootstrap team now includes Kathi Fisler (WPI), Shriram Krishnamurthi (Brown), Emma Youndtsmith (MA Regional Manager), and Rosanna Sobota (NY Regional Manager), who work together to build curricula, software, and professional development for teachers across the country.

Our Supporters

We would like to thank the following, for their volunteer and financial support over the years: Apple, Cisco, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), Facebook, Google, as well as the Google Inc. Charitable Giving Fund of Tides Foundation, IBM, Jane Street Capital, LinkedIn, Microsoft, The National Science Foundation, NVIDIA, Thomson/Reuters, and the generous individuals who have given us private donations.

You can directly support Bootstrap by making a donation to the project. All donations are tax-deductible.