This year is the tenth that Mathletics has been available to Australian school and we’re mixing a bit of celebrating with some reminiscing. I have been very fortunate to have been with the company during all of that time. It has been a journey of incredible growth and learning for Mathletics and all of us at 3P Learning. Our company’s core purpose is love learning and during the last ten years that purpose has certainly kept us on our chosen path.
I remember as a Year 6 teacher trialling a resource called Scaffolding Maths in my class early in 2005. The immediate impact on my students’ enthusiasm and passion for maths made me think there was something special in the new thing that was online learning. My school had just embarked on a one to one programme and any new resources that fit the bill were eagerly investigated. Scaffolding Maths, in the early days was a CD ROM resource that went on to become Mathletics which was made available on the internet. Later in 2005 the 10 Million Challenge was launched. The challenge was for Aussie kids to answer 10 million correct questions in one week. Well, blow me down; they went on to answer 26 million! Nothing beats that sparkle in a student’s eye when they learn something new and the realisation of what they can do with is immeasurable. At my school, during the challenge, maths overtook sport and music as the topic at each of the daily assemblies. That was big news indeed.
The thing that made Mathletics so attractive to students was the blending of sport and maths. The live head to head competition in Live Mathletics and the will to win drove students on to answer not millions but billions of questions correctly. At the time of writing, students around the world have answered a staggering 27.6 billion questions.
The Scaffold Education team (as we were called back then) comprised of four people like me who worked out in schools along with Shane Hill who came up with some of the original ideas, Tim Power our Managing Director whose publishing and business experience got us off the ground and a handful of developers. It was a small team and we occupied a small space in Blake Education’s office in Sydney. Our job was to see as many schools as we could. The thing that got us noticed in the early days was the delivery method which was online and relatively new to classrooms and the high engagements levels that came out of personalised learning mixed with high octane competition. I recall we were worried what teachers would think of the head to head competition to drive learning. Our fears were allayed as soon as they saw how engaged their students were. I tell no lie; I have been in Year 9 classes after demonstration lessons with students, who were previously disengaged, ‘high fiving’ the teacher on the way out and asking if the school could buy Mathletics. I remember a high school in the outer suburbs of Adelaide in which a Year 10 student printed a just earned certificate and ran to the Principal’s office to show it off. Not unusual you’d think but when the Principal arrived in the lab to see what the fuss was all about, he said he couldn’t imagine that particular student being enthusiastic about anything, never mind maths. The school bought on the strength of that and interestingly it is still a Mathletics school.
Our early work in schools gave us the strength and confidence to try Mathletics in other countries. After all maths is maths the world over. In July of 2006 we launched the Trans-Tasman Challenge which happened to coincide with the Bledisloe Cup and a New Zealand versus Australia netball series. That set us up to start working with Kiwi schools. Later that year we did the same thing but in tandem with the Ashes cricket series. England won the maths and Australia won the ashes; spoils shared. We went a step further in March 2007 with the first ever World Maths Day attracting students from over one hundred countries. In 2008 we went into a mini-meltdown as our servers couldn’t cope with demand. We upset a lot of users that year. Thankfully, they are a forgiving bunch and we set about making sure we never fell short again. Plans were drawn up for us to create our own data centre in the US with failover capabilities. Once in place we could scale up should demand require it.
Our story hasn’t only been about maths meeting sport. While students were taking each other on and completing curriculum questions, the development team, in our shiny new offices above a shop in Gordon, Sydney, were feverishly working to add new activities and features. Feature such as Concept Search for students and the ability for teachers to assign activities for class or home work.
Since those early days we have spent a lot of time listening to teachers, watching students at all levels of education and researching best practice to refine our resource. Are we perfect yet? Absolutely not. Have we finished learning? No. The next 10 years promise to be just as exciting as the last. Education and e-Learning in particular is moving incredibly fast and is picking up pace. Teachers are far more in touch with what is available and are now more able to make well informed decisions about which resources to use to support their students’ learning. For companies such as ours the relationship with teachers and schools and the pedagogy behind our resources is becoming crucial. We hope to form lasting partnerships with our schools into the future. That is why we have invested heavily in our team. We have more people supporting schools ‘on the ground’ than any other company. We are not an American or British company with content ‘adapted’ to Australia. We are an Australian company with Australian made content and we are incredibly proud of the fact that our resources are now being used around the world.
I wanted to say a big thank you to you, our teachers, for supporting us in developing the best eLearning resource possible. You have been patient, supportive and creative in your use of Mathletics over our first 10 years. The Mathletics you know and love today is in no small part to our community. We value that.
So join us while we take you down the Mathletics memory lane…
Andrew Smith, CEO 3P Learning Australia