HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – At just 14 years old, a Lakeside High School student in Hot Springs is developing a game to teach students math. That in and of itself is impressive, but he’s also making sure a group that’s often overlooked gets to play, too.

Hands on the keyboard and eyes glued to the screen, freshman Bryant Pennington works on his project for East Initiative at Lakeside High School in Hot Springs. This class, however, uses a different algorithm than most and puts the mouse in the hands of the students.

“When they walk in for the first time, I ask them ‘What do you want to do? What do you want to pursue? How do you want your education to be?'” East Initiative teacher John Stokes said.

Stokes lets his students pick their own project they work on throughout the year. It has to be centered around technology, critical thinking and problem-solving. Pennington added another layer to the assignment.

“He’s like ‘I think I want to build an inclusive game centered around math,'” Stokes said.

To build a game that can be played by everyone, including those with special needs, Pennington teamed up with the special education department and paired with Christian Wilson and his teacher Katy Boles.

“She sent me some of the math worksheets they were working on,” Pennington said.

He focused on the bones of the program, noting that it had “a lot of code.” That code includes everything from the text boxes to the colors.

“This changes the color of the box when you click on it,” Pennington explained. “This checks your answer and makes the box appear that tells you whether you’re correct or incorrect.”

He then shares the game build with Wilson and Boles, who are in charge of testing it out and making sure it’s fun and easy to use.

“Just to see a student that struggles and, you know, almost dreads that class period to come up, to see them enjoy it now because they have something that makes it fun, I mean you can’t ask for something better,” Boles said.

That’s exactly what’s happening for Wilson. He learns more and more each time he logs on.

“I’m proud of myself that I can do math,” Wilson said.

As Wilson and Pennington continue to work together to build this game for all students no matter the level, they are also building a connection that extends beyond this screen.

“They’ve developed a friendship over this,” Boles said.

The game is still a work in progress, but Pennington said when he’s done he hopes to have different types of math and different difficulties.