How Artificial Intelligence Can Save Schools and Parents Money

Emerging Technologies and Edtech May 02, 2017

Most math education in the United States doesn’t add up. A recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranked the country 41st in the world for primary school math. Instead of improving its performance since 2003, America’s students actually delivered poorer marks. As the world becomes more and more dependent on technology, this math deficiency will have a significant impact on jobs and the economy. The problem in the United States is particularly pronounced. The State’s Department of Education shows only 59% of students meeting basic math performance standards – far short of the 75% goal. Ironically, a solution can be found in the same technology that is driving economic change around the world.

The US invested heavily in education, with poor results. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Apart from a few exceptions in Asia (Singapore, Japan, China, Korea) and in Europe (Finland, Netherlands), the rest of the world is doing poorly in math international tests.

We worked the European Union to tackle the math problem across the Atlantic. Our discovery was simple. Artificial intelligence technology could vastly enhance the experience of learning math. Gone are the frustrating equations that have kept generations from grasping key mathematical concepts. So long to the hours spent bored with problems that are too easy. Thanks to these new innovations, the course adapts to the students pace and patterns. It’s the same materials, just presented in a way that your kids can get it. AI can cook for every single kid the exact kind of mathematical dish they need to learn with solid foundations, with different ingredients for every one of them. But, at the same time, making sure they are learning serious and demanding Math, building up the kind of fluency that is needed today. That way, it is possible to build in them the powerful growth mindset that would enable them to bust their self esteem, making it possible to enjoy the daily deliberate practice with grit.

By no means is this technology designed to be a substitute for teachers or traditional instruction. Instead, it can provide a powerful supplement to what kids are learning in the classroom. As school budgets get tighter, this kind of program can help ensure students on the extremes of education are still being effectively served by the education system. That 41% of students struggling with basic Math could be drastically reduced by connecting them to technology that responds to their particularly challenges. It’s like that patient teacher, tutor or parent who walks you through that tough equation. Yet, in this situation it would enable those teachers to spend more time progressing through their syllabus. That’s good for all students.

On the other end, students who quickly grasp math are told too many times to put on the brakes. Many parents can’t afford expensive tutors or after school math programs, such as Kumon or Russian School of Math. Between their busy schedules and that of their kids, there’s not enough time in the week to haul kids back and forth to these centers. What’s more, the quality of these tutors and programs varies widely. Those in rural areas are often a disadvantage. Artificial intelligence overcomes both of these challenges.

Technology enables us to now deliver a world-class education anywhere in the world. It can help promising students to advance quickly to the same level as their best counterparts from Asia to Europe. Again, teachers struggling to keep the rest of the class on course are most often not able to spend the time these students need to move ahead. This is the most exciting potential of artificial intelligence applied to teaching math. It breaks down the barriers that have held back too many. Imagine what it would mean for education, entrepreneurship, exploration, and economy of the world.

While not a silver bullet, this kind of technology has shown great promise. In other parts of the world where it has been used for just fifteen minutes a day, 94% of the kids improved their math scores by 40%; that is time even the busiest kids can spend. Parents, educators, and public policymakers need to ask themselves if they are willing to invest in this cutting edge approach to Math education. Unlike many of the public, private, and personal educational debates, this one comes with few tradeoffs. Teachers win because they have more time to teach. Struggling kids can now keep up with the class. Advanced students can keep up with the world. Parents can ensure their children are ready for the jobs of the future. Many countries will have a workforce, businesses, and economy that are ready to compete in a challenging global marketplace.