What is the role of math learning software, anyway?
I was riding in an Uber through Pittsburgh last night with my driver, Tom. As you may know, Pittsburgh is home to the self-driving, "autonomous" vehicle. Multiple companies, including Uber and Ford, are working on developing these cars that don’t require drivers.
I usually ask my Uber driver what they think about the autonomous Uber and the fact that they are all over Pittsburgh. The usual response is, “I could never trust one of those autonomous cars. How do they know to stop or parallel park?” I usually let this pass over me with a response of something like “uh-huh” or “yep,” or a really intelligent “I hear ya."
Well, last night was different. I started to think about this more deeply. Here is where you can start feeling bad for Tom and you can see my Uber rating drop: 3.9, 3.8, 3.7, 3.6…
If I back up a bit to my twenties, my driving history is a little checkered. I sometimes get a little absent-minded behind the wheel. Through my high school and college days, I got into three accidents:
What did all these accidents have in common? The driver did something to cause the accident that could have been avoided if they had better reactions or had been paying attention.
Now I am back in my Uber, talking with Tom about the self-driving car. All of its choices have been programmed. When it hits black ice, the wheel stays straight rather than mistakenly turning into the skid. It is always paying attention; the spinning camera on top doesn’t even blink, or look in the back seat for a snack, or play with the radio. It sees everything.
MATHia, our adaptive math learning software, is a lot like that self-driving car. It sees not only what the student is doing, but also how they are approaching the problem, and is programmed to deliver precisely the right support. If a student makes an error, just-in-time hints pop up. If a student gets stuck, MATHia knows why and gives them information to get them unstuck. MATHia will never get into a hypothetical “math accident.”
Yet like self-driving cars, math software is sometimes viewed with skepticism. Is it here to replace teachers? Can it really be as accurate as a human tutor?
Math software is not and never will be a replacement for a teacher, because the impact of a good teacher is paramount to a student's success. It is, however, a powerful tool to help teachers drive their classes more effectively. In the schools we work with, MATHia extends a teacher’s reach and makes them more successful, because they just can’t be everywhere at once. There are far fewer fender benders where students move on to new topics without mastering the precursors, or have questions that go unanswered, struggles that go unnoticed.
Now that's a driving record you can trust.
Peter is an educator with over 20 years of strategy, education and product development experience. He led the redesign of a university, built new educational programs, designed content and taught middle school. At Carnegie Learning, Peter shapes our organizational and product strategy and ensures that we continue to develop leading-edge products and services that help all students learn.Explore more related to this author