Katie’s life revolves around food.
Literally-- her day job is as a mobile caterer, where she travels the city, serving lunches to start-ups and big companies that cater fancy meals for their employees.
Her experience with food began long before that, though.
Her family owns one of the most beloved Italian restaurants in her hometown. The quaint space, delectable smells, and heartwarming vibes she gets whenever she spends time with her parents and cousins at the restaurant were some of the reasons she chose to stay in her hometown to raise her kids.
Though the restaurant is always packed with pizza- and pasta-lovers, not many saw the financial struggles that the family's endured throughout the years. Though the restaurant had been passed down from her grandparents to her parents (and hopefully, soon, to her), nobody in her family really knew much when it came to finances.
None of them had enough money to put themselves through university to attain a degree in business management, nor did they have the time to take part in a smaller course in basic financial literacy.
It got so bad that during the early 1980s recession, the restaurant was just days away from being forced to close forever.
But the family never let their customers see this side of them. Through smiles, they continued on, and miracles arose, saving the family for the time being from losing the one thing that they love the most.
It's no surprise that for Katie, money struggles were just a part of her time growing up in the family-restaurant lifestyle. Even more negative was the mere idea of her parents or cousins having to calculate profits, expenses, taxes, and growing trends in markets to ensure that their business could stay afloat for the long run. For her, everything was just about getting by, so when it came to math, numbers were always seen as working against her.
She'd been planning on taking over the restaurant when she was knowledgeable enough to do so. However, the mindset she currently had with math didn't quite set her up for success-- and secretly, she knew it. With her, successful businesses only got that way through investors and lots of upfront money. Big organizations got big because there were people who were willing to put millions of dollars into a product.
What she didn't realize was that with a simple but solid understanding and knowledge of math and finances, success would most certainly come to her, no matter how much her net worth may be.
Of course, her negative associates with money and math didn't stop at her. Her two kids, Alfie and Madeline, certainly had their stiffs with math just like their mom.
Growing up in a household where money held a negative association, the last thing that Katie's two kids could do was to face equations straight in the eye and saying, “I got this!” It was more anger, tears, and door-slamming, leaving everyone in the house all the more frustrated.
Alfie, her youngest at 9 years old, has a pretty short attention span as well as a little amount of patience when it comes to schoolwork (and especially math). When the going gets tough, he checks out and decides to do something else. On his part, there’s no effort, intention, or excitement to try to grasp a new mathematical concept. If it’s too confusing, he is out, and that's been his attitude ever since he started learning math in kindergarten.
Madeline, the eldest at 14 years old, equally had her hardships with math. As a high school freshman, entering a new school with new classes and new teachers definitely didn’t help her feel more comfortable with the subject. Change was already a difficult concept for her, so having to cater to ever-changing lessons of equations, numbers mixed with letters, and rote memorization of processes along with a new school was not how she wanted to spend her freshman year.
When we first spoke with Katie, it felt like she was in a state of loss and confusion. “I am terrified of math,” she’d told us, “but my children need help and I can’t afford a tutor for them. We’ve tried several online resources and workbooks, but so far, nothing has worked.” She then went on to say that although she tries to use outside resources, “most often home ed groups on Facebook, Google, blogs, and Youtube,” and even her “extensive bookcase,” so far, nothing worked. Whether trying a free online tutorial for math from one blogger to trying to wrap her mind around it on her own, she was stuck.
The worst part was the more she saw her kids’ grades and attitudes worsen, the more it brought her back to that one moment at the restaurant when her family thought they might lose everything.
She had the same aggravation as Alfie, but instead of being with math, it was with wanting to get a higher-paying job to help her family support the business through the recession.
She also had the same fear of change as Madeline, but instead of it being moving from middle- to high-school math, it was the thought of having to move out of their home above the restaurant into a trailer.
But now, she wanted a change more than ever.
When Katie found Elephant Learning, math started living in their home in a very different way than it did before.
Usually, when that dreaded four-letter word was uttered with the word “homework,” behind it, all Katie wanted to do was hide in her bedroom, never to be seen again, hoping her kids would figure it out on their own.
The fighting, anger, and tears that she’d spend in front of that grueling workbook, the dreaded fill-in-the-blank, and the terrifying chart was the last thing she wanted to do when she got home from work.
With Elephant Learning, that attitude was very different.
The first step in Elephant Learning’s platform is the placement exam, which sets each student up for their own unique learning experience.
Unlike the school system, each child on the platform goes at their own pace, while showing continuous improvement due to the strategic way AI systems that advance students further and further along in the game. There's no competition or comparisons necessary, and it's also impossible to fail. Instead of utilizing a pass/fail program, Elephant Learning will continue placing a certain problem in a student's learning path until they've mastered it, and unlike a free online tutorial for math like what Katie was originally using, this is catered specifically to each student.
On the parents-side, and especially for parents who are like Katie and dread math, there's some more good news.
Elephant Learning takes parents through the learning process step-by-step, training them to be their kids’ own personal coach (without having to slave away at difficult math problems with them). Aside from providing them with information about their child’s progress through in-depth progress reports mailed straight to their inbox, EL also alerts them when a student is struggling on a certain concept and even provides video instructions on how to best address any learning problems as parents.
Additionally, the team here at Elephant Learning believes that no child should be using the app more than an hour a week-- which we’d hope is a big improvement than the hours spent slaving away at ever-changing math protocols.
Katie started Alfie on the platform first. She knew that he’d take a bit longer to get accommodated to it, as his frustration and adamant negative association were pretty intense and difficult to tame.
With many growing learners, improvement may take a moment longer than some other kids on the platform. But because of the highly personalized experience, it's meant to work for all different types of learners.
Some charts show drastic slopes of improvement, and others a gradual lift. Either way, learning comes in all shapes and sizes, which is exactly why EL's platform is the way it is.
At the beginning of the program, Alfie’s Elephant Age was 7.42.
Remember that initial exam we mentioned earlier? At the end of it, each student is awarded what we call an Elephant Age, which represents the level or age at which each child will begin their unique learning process.
So far for Alfie, age 9.4, his Elephant Age went from a 7.42 to a 7.68 in less than two weeks, and his chart is only showing upwards motion.
Typically, Katie would have to drag him to the computer kicking and screaming to show him the latest free online tutorial for math she could find. But one day, shortly after he started showing signs of improvement on EL, he just started going on the computer on his own to sign on.
Like many students, for Alfie, it just took a little bit of time.
Madeline’s work with Elephant Learning is set to begin within the month. Her curiosity about her brother’s game on the computer compelled her to ask her mom if she could participate, too. Katie was a bit nervous to introduce her initially, as she was trying to provide her with some consistency during her time of transition from middle to high school, but with Madeline's insisting on being on the same platform as her brother, Katie certainly didn't pass up her daughter's interest in growing her math skills!
For Katie, seeing Alfie finally start sitting comfortably while practicing math was a life-changer. Not only did he start looking at math differently, but she did, too.
When he'd hop on his computer, she started getting on hers and found some podcasts on money mindset strategies. She began building up a resource list of e-learning communities where she could learn basic money management strategies for small businesses. She started feeling more and more comfortable to start providing guidance for her family's restaurant and starting building up their financial resource pool.
Because with math, anything is possible.