Lee Stemkoski, Ph.D., launches a new course on video game programming.

In his eighth year at Adelphi University, Lee Stemkoski, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and computer science in the College of Arts and Sciences, exudes an infectious enthusiasm for teaching.

He teaches by example. He’s a video game enthusiast whose most recent game, Koala’s Quest, has surpassed 10,000 downloads from the Google Play store. Koala’s Quest is a puzzle game with various platforms in which a player explores levels and collects coins and keys while trying to find the way home.

MathDr. Stemkoski’s learning-by-doing approach makes him popular with students.

“He has a unique personality, a very good vibe,” said Evan Leider, a freshman from Long Beach, New York, who chose to attend Adelphi and major in computer science after taking Dr. Stemkoski’s Introduction to Video Game Programming course in Adelphi’s Pre-College program in the summer of 2013. “He makes it exciting to learn.”

In Fall 2014, Dr. Stemkoski’s courses included History of Mathematics, Theory of Numbers, and Graphical User Interface Programming (writing computer programs). In Spring 2015, he’s teaching Introduction to Video Game Programming.

“I teach students how to make a video game,” he said. “We have a generation of people playing games on computers, consoles, tablets and smartphones. And computer science goes hand in hand with mathematics. Computer science is almost the formalization of mathematics. It’s very organized and the formulas have to be very precise.”

Dr. Stemkoski earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston University and thought he would become a high school math teacher. But the more he learned about math, the more he liked it. He earned a second master’s degree and a doctorate from Dartmouth College.

“Mathematics can explain all sorts of things,” he said. “The problems and successes in any civilization are sort of reflected in its mathematics and science.”

How computer science and math relate to current events is a subject Dr. Stemkoski often discusses with his students. Case in point: the hacking of the Sony Pictures Entertainment computer system in December 2014. “A lot of sensitive information was kept on servers but not encrypted,” he said. “Sony assumed the front door was locked, so it didn’t have to protect the valuables inside.”

One way Dr. Stemkoski tries to make math and computer science less intimidating is by having students listen to podcasts and watch videos outside of class.

“It gives them a sneak preview of what’s to come—this is what you’re going to learn today and this is why it’s important,” he explained. “That makes the material easier to digest, so we can spend more time in class working on the more difficult things, like solving problems.

“Something I would be excited to work on would be the development of a list of adaptive tutorials for students to watch outside of class—short videos, maybe 45 minutes or so, followed by questions for them to answer. If this section of the material makes sense, then they can go on to another short video. Face-to-face teaching gives me the power to see in the classroom if students understand the material or not. If technology can play a similar role for students outside the classroom, then that would be awesome.”

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