NewSchools Announces Winners of Math Challenge

May 5, 2016

Today we’re excited to announce the winners of our second NewSchools Ignite challenge,  focused on Middle & High School Math. These entrepreneurs address one or more of the critical needs voiced by teachers and students, with products that create rich experiences where students can learn math conceptually through real-world content, employ elements of collaboration, access engaging contexts, and receive age-appropriate support –if needed– to build the foundation required to shift from basic to more complex math.

Congratulations to our newest cohort:

  • Carnegie Learning
  • CueThink
  • eSpark Learning
  • Learn Fresh
  • LearnZillion
  • Make Music Count
  • Mathalicious
  • Motion Math
  • The Learning Sciences Group
  • ThinkCERCA
  • Tuva
  • Woot Math
  • YouCubed
  • Zeal
  • Zearn

While the math edtech market is perceived by many to be saturated, the vast majority of products emphasize procedural math – rote drills and practices that don’t get at the core concepts of math. As math becomes more complex in upper grades, the stakes are raised. Students who understand the underlying concepts behind math are better able to advance while others struggle to keep up. In a world where a student’s Algebra I grade is the best predictor of college completion, having a conceptual understanding of math is crucial to success in higher education, social mobility and developing key life skills.

We initially scoped this challenge only for high school math. However, through our market research with educators, the call to expand the challenge to include middle school was overwhelming.  Far too many students enter high school with underdeveloped math foundations, and middle school is where most of these gaps can be addressed.  We conducted dozens of educator interviews to shape our selection criteria for the challenge.  In aggregate, educators told us they need conceptual math tools that:

  • Make math learning accessible to students of all abilities and cultural backgrounds
  • Provide age-appropriate scaffolding for underdeveloped foundational concepts
  • Enable rich social interactions with peers and teachers
  • Encourage growth mindset, metacognition and student agency
  • Create opportunities to apply math knowledge to real world challenges

We’re thrilled to have found a group of 15 companies that support these areas of critical need. This NewSchools Ignite cohort is comprised of innovative companies at a variety of development stages. Most are fairly young companies, new to the NewSchools portfolio. However, a few notable exceptions were previously funded by NewSchools; we see this as an opportunity to support them as they expand their math offerings. We’re equally thrilled to partner with early and later-stage companies who are new to us and bring fresh perspectives in conceptual math.  

Early-stage organizations like Make Music Count and Learn Fresh were founded by entrepreneurs whose products have shown unique engagement through tying math to cultural relevance – music and basketball, respectively.  Another early-stage company, The Learning Sciences Group, aims to assess students’ progress in real-time and help teachers and students identify their needs and next steps for instruction. . We’re excited to help these companies grow their national scope as they engage students in math learning. In addition, Carnegie Learning, a well-respected and established organization in the edtech community, is developing a new product that provides continuous formative assessment and age/knowledge-appropriate adaptive feedback and scaffolding.

Companies like Mathalicious, eSpark Learning, and Woot Math lead the way in applying math to real-world situations and the important area of creating multiple representations of mathematical concepts — so all learners can connect with mathematical concepts.  The power of student collaboration takes center stage in CueThink’s student-to-student interactive math tool creating a peer-led approach to engaging in mathematics. We’re also excited to work with entrepreneurs who focus on “growth mindset” as applied to mathematics.  Examples include the gaming company, Motion Math, and teacher-facing YouCubed, an organization led by renowned thought leader Jo Boaler who seeks to scale teacher development on growth mindsets and incorporating real world challenges in math classrooms across the US through a digital platform.   

We value the importance of building foundational skills for the multitude of students who arrive in middle and high school classrooms with underdeveloped math skills.  With this in mind, we’re excited to support Zeal, Zearn, and LearnZillion.  These companies each use a different approach to provide “just right” material to students so that they are challenged in the right ways at the right time, with the right supports and are able to scaffold up in mathematical concepts as their knowledge progresses.  Finally, using ThinkCERCA and Tuva, math teachers can employ literacy and real-world data sets (respectively) to contextualize math concepts and help them come to life for students beyond the confines of school.

NewSchools Venture Fund is proud to support the visionary entrepreneurs behind these terrific companies, and we look forward to working together so even more students have the opportunity to be inspired by, and engaged with, the world of math.