5 Common Math App Pitfalls — and How Elephant Learning Is Different

August 19, 2019
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As a parent with a child struggling in math or striving to get ahead, you have an overwhelming choice to make. Between thousands of online resources and hundreds of math apps, you may wonder what makes one resource different from another aside from the price point and the graphics. If you’ve already tried a number of apps, you’ve probably noticed that a typical math app’s strategy is to throw math components into an online game, but this never gets to the root of the problem: if a child has math anxiety or is averse to doing mathematics, the game is not fooling them. If anything, it may be turning mathematics into work.

When we see statistics like 75% of high school students are not proficient in high school mathematics (and that is up from 66% in 2007!), it’s clear that while the number of applications on the market for mathematics has exploded, none of them are moving the needle. At Elephant Learning, we believe it is possible to make educational software that emphasizes education first and is also fun. It is an important difference. Our only goal is to ensure that children are empowered by mathematics. From our founding mission to the curriculum behind the games, here are five ways Elephant Learning is different from many popular math apps.

1. We Are a Gamification of a Proven Curriculum

Elephant Learning started with the most effective mathematics activities as documented by early-age education researchers — scientists that have dedicated their lives to finding the most effective way to teach. We used these activities to create puzzle games for children. Because we are starting with an activity that we know works, rather than figuring out how to mishmash math into a game that will be “entertaining,” we know that the outcome is going to be effective. This places the emphasis on learning. The rest of the tool is built around this.

2. Our Choices Are Research Oriented

Science says that if a child does activity A in order to do activity B, then activity A becomes work. In the case of having children do math in order to play games, this means that mathematics is becoming “work” to the child. That does not feel like empowerment. With every decision we make, we are painstakingly ensuring that the message we are sending to the student is the most empowering.

That is also why we are creating coaching videos to help you use our tool every step of the way. The way we overcome math anxiety is by ensuring that children understand the concepts, and that we develop a healthy relationship with mathematics going forward. In fact, the research says doing mathematics at your level of understanding is fun, like a puzzle game, and it develops the problem-solving skills that children need everywhere in life.

3. We Treat It Like a Med

If you’ve ever read the “Four Hour Body” by Tim Ferriss, he talks about a med (medicine). With medicine, you want to take the required dosage; anything greater than the required dosage creates declining results. Ferriss’ example was tanning. If you tan for 15 minutes, it’s the optimal amount of time in the sun. Any more than 15 minutes and you run the risk of burning; any less and the results are not as optimal.

Every choice we make treats our system like a med. That is why we have daily playtime timers to limit usage so that students do not burn out. But more than that, that is also why we do go overboard on motivational techniques. People have studied the most addictive apps on the market and have books with formulas designed to make apps consume your time. That is not Elephant Learning’s goal — empowerment does not come through addiction. Our goal is to get children to use it 10 minutes per day, three days per week. If a student wants to do more, let them, but it is important to keep it within reason so that the student does not burn out on it. The child takes the “med”, they get the result and they apply it in their lives.

Related Article: The Real Reason Math Curriculum is Failing Your Child

4. Progress Based on Reality

For most students (everyone older than five), the Elephant Learning app experience starts with a placement exam or training phase. They train with the app’s algorithms, which determines their initial math comprehension. This is vital because you won’t be starting your child out at where they should be according to their grade or age. Instead, we’re starting with the curriculum that your child is actually ready to tackle, based on their comprehension. This ensures children feel empowered (because they’re not automatically greeted with math problems they’re bound to fail, as soon as they start using the app), they have fun doing math problems they’re capable of doing and the math doesn’t become annoying “work.” Meanwhile, other apps assume your child may know, for example, multiplication tables because they’re in third grade. Elephant Learning actually takes the time to find out where your child really is in their math comprehension and where their math gap actually started. The resulting experience for the child is a huge, empowering difference.

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5. Power to the Parents

Many math apps are parent-free zones or, at best, parents are an afterthought within the app. Elephant Learning knows that the best results come when the parent is involved in the child’s education. Every study shows outcomes for students are better when parents are involved.

The truth is, when I started this company, my first child was on his way. I created this system as a tool to ensure that he receives the benefits of mathematics education and avoids the American educational pitfall. We live in a time when, increasingly, if you are not the person creating the automation, you are the person being replaced by it.

Our reports detail exactly how we intend to teach each topic down to the milestone level with advice on how you can further learning with fun games outside of the system. This turns your child’s playtime in the system into a tool to succeed in playtime with you. We provide advice on how to work with the students on mistakes so that the pressure is always off. At any point in time, if your student is struggling, we are always happy to look at the data and advise.

That is why Elephant Learning can guarantee results. The math app you choose for your child’s learning matters. Apps that focus on games and graphics with math sprinkled throughout may end up turning those math problems into perceived work for your child (and can become addictive). Elephant Learning begins with a proven curriculum and scientific understanding of how children learn math. We then build games and puzzles around the curriculum, empowering students to truly grasp math concepts. Knowing that parental involvement is key to student success, we also ensure that you, the parent, are involved every step of the way.

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