If there’s any subject that gets a stronger reaction than most, it’s math. Love it or hate it, some students find it one of the most difficult subjects in all of their academic experience. With increased focus on STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), educators know that in order to compete post-graduation, how well students learn math must factor into the equation. Can learning math actually be fun? This company seems to think so. They just may be right. Carl Malartre (yes, that’s him above in cartoon form) is the Director of Projects at Scolab, Inc., the creators of an exciting mathematics learning tool that’s generating some, well—buzz.
Victor: Why did you create BuzzMath?
Carl: BuzzMath was created to give students a better experience than a traditional textbook, as they practice their math skills. We believe that students learn better if they are enjoying what they are doing.
Victor: What does the name mean?
Carl: BuzzMath represents fun and excitement. When you think of BuzzMath, you think of entertaining math activities!
Victor: What is it? Who created it?
Carl: BuzzMath is an engaging tool to help students practice and learn math skills, and to allow teachers to track the progress of their students. It is currently geared to middle school students.
Claude Laverdure is the mastermind behind the idea. He is a teacher and programmer, a rare combination. At Scolab Inc. (a name derived from School Lab), we are a team of programmers and designers who enjoy creating memorable online experiences, and most of all, who love to work with educators. We want to find the most efficient way to learn on the web.
Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?
Carl: BuzzMath allows students to develop and reinforce their math skills while having fun. They receive immediate feedback to help them improve these skills. Students benefit by learning and practicing their math skills in an entertaining and non-intimidating environment, which promotes learning and retention.
Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?
Carl: I think our approach is fresh and visual. We are effective in implementing real math manipulatives, and in generating random values in our questions. Students can manipulate 3-D objects, vectors on a graph, create graphic displays, and so much more. Furthermore, the interface is visually appealing. The objects that we use are superior to many other companies; for example, when students type a slash for a fraction, a real fraction bar appears. BuzzMath is also helpful at home and engaging on the SMART Board. It can be utilized in the classroom, at home, a library, or anywhere there is Internet access.
Pearson’s MathXL, Aleks, Study Island, Carnegie Learning, and MangaHigh are currently on my radar. A lot of these services favor multiple choice questions because this type of question is typically easier to develop. We prefer math objects that can be manipulated, even if they are more complex to develop.
I think that BuzzMath has the right mix of ingredients to keep the student’s interest as he or she learns. BuzzMath is also intuitive to use and is more visual than most of the competitors.
Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Carl: BuzzMath started as NetMaths about five years ago. Claude, the developer of NetMaths, is colorblind and likes two main colors: grey and turquoise. He began creating a learning software that his middle school students found quite fun and interesting. I thought “Wow, even with all these weird colors, the idea is solid!”.
Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?
Carl: BuzzMath is brand new and this is the fourth iteration, but the original software was developed five years ago in Montreal, Canada. You can get BuzzMath in the U.S. and in Canada.
Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?
Carl: For a school, the price is between $10 and $20 per student per year depending on the number of grade levels a teacher or school subscribes. For a family, it is $20 per month.
For your readers, we are offering BuzzMath free for this school year to the first three schools who contact us before September 15. We only ask that they give us feedback on the product.
Victor: What are some examples of it in action?
Carl: There are currently students in Massachusetts using BuzzMath and we have more than 50,000 students in Canada.
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?
Carl: We have created a great practice tool and optimized it for teachers who are looking for the best options to guide and motivate their students at the middle school level. It is not for high school students who are working at or above their grade level.
Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?
Carl: A lot of elementary teachers have difficulty with math. I’d like to help them practice their own skills so they feel comfortable teaching math.
Also, with Netbooks, the iPad and other low cost mobile platforms, we are not far from being able to have Negroponte’s dream of One Laptop Per Child.
Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating BuzzMath?
Carl: Claude was always doing card tricks and math magic that impressed me. I think BuzzMath needs to impress the students, and I believe it does!
Victor: How does BuzzMath address some of your concerns about education? Carl: With such a hectic school day, teachers need better and more efficient tools to help their students. BuzzMath is more fun and efficient because it can report student progress that a conventional practice book cannot. It is nearly autonomous, which gives the teacher more time to focus on other areas of teaching.
Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?
Carl: Education could benefit from a community atmosphere, where teachers and students are able to share dynamic content and knowledge. Teachers could also receive live feedback in class about their students’ understanding of the concepts they are teaching.
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of BuzzMath? What makes you say that?
Carl: If you need to engage your student in math and save time, BuzzMath is the best website for that. Check out the videos to understand why and contact us if you want to be one of the three schools to get a free subscription for the remainder of this school year!
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Do the math yourself at BuzzMath.com. What do you think—does it actually add up to better learning in the classroom and at home?
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: [email protected]