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Founder and CEO, Mathtoons Media
Three years ago my tutoring company transitioned into a software company. For over twenty years, I had built a flourishing private tutoring business, mostly focused on high school and university math, as well as SAT preparation. I was happy as a home tutor. I did a lot of traveling and was able to weave my business into a full time job with a significant student base and a waiting list. I was proud that many of my students achieved academic success including scholarships and awards.
But things changed dramatically after 2010 – which was when the iPad hit the scene. I live in Western Canada and many of my students adopted mobile technology early and with great enthusiasm. In fact, by 2011, nearly all of my students had either a smartphone, a tablet or both (mostly Apple).
Right after the birth of the iPad, I noticed that my students seemed to be doing less homework. I worried that a perfect storm was brewing. Higher workloads for teachers meant fewer hand-in assignments. Textbooks were becoming filled with more stories and appealing photographs, but at the expense of fewer math practice exercises.
By 2011, I saw a noticeable drop in my students’ core math skills (including knowledge of essential arithmetic facts). At the same time, I observed their rapid adoption of personal mobile technology and had a sense that there was a large educational shift needed or we would see a much greater decline in student math abilities. So, I applied for and received National Research Council funding, hired an animator and a developer and started an educational technology company called Mathtoons.
To date, we have developed over fourteen Math, Calculus and English practice applications, have won software awards, been featured by Apple in their educational app videos, and have grown to a mid-sized tech company with research connections at universities across Canada. We’ve had over three million questions answered in our apps and we’re currently just weeks away from releasing our next phase of software, called Practi.
Practi is a web-accessed authoring system designed to let anyone create practice quizzes and instantly publish them to student mobile devices. Our goal is to leverage students’ love of mobile technology to help them practice the skills required to achieve academic expertise.
I continue to tutor math and physics but these days I make much better use of technology. I offer Skype sessions to give students the comfort of the at-home experience, while also maximizing scheduling flexibility. If students have a quick question, I encourage them to text me and even send a photo of their solutions so I can text them personalized and instant feedback. Of course, I also use our Practi software to write personalized practice for each student. And I’m extra lucky because I get to spend every day considering the best features to encourage practice. I’m proud to say that my students today are very excited to be part of building tools for the future of learning.