Elephant Learning teaches mathematics conceptually. What this means is that we are focused on the language of mathematics. Many students use memorization techniques when they do not understand, and mathematics builds on top of itself like a brick wall. When there are gaps in understanding, it becomes difficult to understand more advanced topics. Elephant Learning finds those gaps and fills them with activities that were proven by third-party research to teach math concepts better than a classroom environment. In a classroom environment, as students say the answers out loud, it becomes difficult to ensure that all students understand the concept and are at the same level. For a teacher, individualized attention is a time-consuming proposition that is extremely difficult to achieve.
Because our algorithms are constantly adapting to the students, we are always working right at each student's individual level. Our reports provide parents and teachers with the individualized reports that allow them to understand exactly what each child understands. Using that knowledge, we can identify and fill gaps quickly.
If you have ever learned another language, you know the best way is to experience speaking in context within that language. In a similar way, we provide mathematical experiences that we can place language around. The activities build intuition in mathematics by providing a safe space for children to play with the concepts using the puzzles on the screen. It is like when you buy a piece of Ikea furniture or get a new recipe: after you've done it once, you get it.
As children learn the concepts and develop intuition, the classroom experience is enhanced with a deeper understanding of the concepts. Math time actually becomes enjoyable when you are not memorizing procedures but rather learning a new way to solve a problem that you are familiar with. We like to say: “Empowerment is understanding the concepts. Enjoyment in a classroom setting is understanding the teacher.”
Elephant Learning was at Denver's Westwood Chile Festival this year and we had machines set up for children to play with the system while we talked with parents. One girl told us she was doing multiplication and we put her in that curriculum. The software displayed 4 groups of 5 objects. You could see her counting to get the answer. We then asked her, "What is 4 times 5?" and she quickly responded "20."
She had memorized her multiplication tables, but she did not know how to use the multiplication to solve a problem. We see this problem very often, it is why children struggle with word problems and have troubles when they get to Algebra. The math is essentially useless for her, and math class is probably a stressful exercise in memorizing random facts. That is the reality for many of our children, and it is a cruel situation to be in.
It is why almost half of the first and second graders report having math anxiety. They tell themselves they are not a "numbers person" and decide not to learn math. Children understand later in life how to use multiplication to solve these problems, and that is the saddest part: they just did not know it when it could have made a difference. These concepts are not difficult to grasp nor are they innate, our software presents activities that are known to teach these concepts in a safe environment where there is no judgment or biases. We allow children to develop their own intuition around mathematics.