For whatever reason, sometimes we get trapped in our own little U.S. bubble. Especially in the EdTech sector. However, we just came across a really interesting company based out of Berlin, Germany. bettermarks has created a ton of adaptive courseware for math educators. betterware’s technology is pretty amazing. We had a chance to ask Luisa Sieveking, of bettermarks, a bit about the company.
What is bettermarks?
bettermarks provides personalized math learning online and is currently available in English (US and Indian curriculum), Spanish, and German. The online platform offers over 100 interactive math books covering primary and secondary level (ages 10 – 16). These books contain more than 100,000 questions with full explanations, and provide personalized help for every exercise step. The marking and result evaluation is automatic, instantaneous and analytic.
bettermarks has been creating their adaptive math courseware with a team of 80 people since 2008 and won the tender for the OLPC (One Laptop One Child) math content in Uruguay.
Who is using bettermarks?
bettermarks’ goal is to improve math education provision worldwide, and as such the target users are teachers and students. For students bettermarks provides personalized math learning online, guiding each student individually and adaptively. This frees up the teacher’s time, helping them to manage different ability levels in the classroom more easily.
Why did you build bettermarks? What problem are you taking on?
As the foundation for abstract and logical thinking, math is a very important subject in the school curriculum – and at the same time it is considered to be a “problem-subject”. Teachers are expected to use new active-learning approaches to instill a deeper understanding in their students, but their audience has incredibly diverse needs and abilities. And even though over the next 30 years more children will graduate from school than have ever done so in the rest of history, schooling doesn’t necessarily mean learning: in some areas, 3 out of 4 children do not progress in math over a school year (India, Acer Report 2011 by Pratham). bettermarks aims to change that, with a new, innovative and adaptive education tool.
How is your product different from what is currently available?
A lot of educational programs only offer multiple-choice exercises, putting great limitations on the freedom of learners to experiment and make mistakes. bettermarks believes students learn best from their mistakes. Pencil and paper allows unparalleled freedom for making mistakes, but paper doesn’t give feedback. bettermarks offers more than 100 different interaction tools for answering and visualizing mathematics problems, allowing every possible mistake to be made. Furthermore, bettermarks does not simply check whether an answer is right or wrong – every submitted answer is analyzed precisely. bettermarks identifies the source of errors and immediately provides intelligent feedback based specifically on what the student wrote. Students always get a second try so that they can apply the feedback directly, thus reinforcing the learning effect. This brings a powerful sense of achievement, motivating the students to go further.
Was there an “ah ha” moment?
The founders were looking for a new project idea to solve a relevant issue in a rapidly developing market. Since they have all experienced difficulties in school math education – either themselves or with their children now – they were keenly aware of the need for a better learning experience to create a deep understanding of math. They decided to develop an online tool that personalizes math learning and gives students all over the world access to high quality math education.
Tell us about your founding team and their backgrounds.
The founders are Arndt Kwiatkowski, Marianne Voigt and Christophe Spéroni, who all came across from ImmobilienScout24. Arndt founded ImmobilienScout24 in 1997, which he led as CEO until 2008. ImmobilienScout changed the face of the real estate market in Germany and became THE marketplace for properties to buy or rent in any category. The company was sold to Deutsche Telekom in 2007 at a valuation of € 540 million. The following year Arndt, Marianne and Chris founded bettermarks. Now more than 80 teachers, content creators and software specialists are working on developing the adaptive learning system.
What’s the next step? What are your short-term goals?
– being tablet-ready for iOS and Android (app to be launched in August 2014)
– offering interactive math books that comply with the complete Common Core State Standards
– new language-version Dutch and expanding to the Netherlands
– new distribution partners in English and Spanish speaking countries