Draw kids away from TikTok with math techniques

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Luis Von Ahn aims to draw kids away from TikTok with new version of math techniques from popular language learning app

Duolingo founder and CEO Luis von Ahn aims to draw kids away from TikTok and Instagram with the new version of math skills from the popular language learning app. The app, which focuses on math at the elementary school level, is expected to launch next year. And the company increasingly sees its rivals as other popular free apps like TikTok and Instagram, rather than educational platforms, as all compete for attention on screen time. “Duolingo is known for learning languages, but our mission has always been more general – it is about all education,” Mr von Ahn told BBC News.

“Building physical schools around the world would cost billions, with smartphones we can reach two-thirds of the human population. “But the problem with smartphones is that they’re a double-edged sword – they also come with disruptive elements, like TikTok.” Parents tell us they view Duolingo as productive screen time. “We could add things that don’t have educational value, just to keep people engaged, but we choose not to.” Launched in 2012, Duolingo has 40 million monthly users and has been downloaded 500 million times around the world, including, just revealed, 20 million downloads in the UK. “We started with language learning because there was a huge need in the world to learn English , which can immediately increase your earning potential, but we always wanted to teach other things, “says von Ahn. He designed the first Spanish course in the app himself, as a speaker native of Guatemala.

‘Secret sauce’

Duolingo rewards users with digital coins and winning streaks, while cartoon avatars take on the role of teachers. But Mr. von Ahn says, “A lot of people don’t realize with Duolingo that when you start a lesson it’s personalized to you.” Part of that personalization comes from tracking a user’s previous performance, but the app is also constantly experimenting on its millions of users, improving its model through crowdsourcing data – Mr. von Ahn’s specialty as a as an academic researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.

For example, the general rule is to teach people who learn Spanish plurals before the subjunctive, says von Ahn. But when teaching Portuguese Italian, is it better to teach adjectives before plurals? To answer such questions, the application teaches a batch of 50,000 new users in a different order, in order to compare their performance with that of those who used the previous method. “Another part of the secret sauce,” Mr. von Ahn says, “is that we don’t just give you things you’re not very good at because that would be frustrating, we keep you as engaged as possible, with exercises that we think you have about an 80% chance of succeeding. “The hope is that it is so. [the new maths app] stands out – but it remains to be seen if it works.

“Solid references”

Translating from language to math, however, may not be a simple equation, especially since the new target users will be mostly children. Mathematical techniques have a very different learning path than languages, says Martin Hassler Hallstedt, a psychologist who studies children’s education at Uppsala University, Sweden, and develops his own math games for children. . “Duolingo is a popular platform with strong credentials,” he says, “but it’s not scientifically proven for math.“ It will be interesting to see how it captivates younger people. ”Our research shows That for children, learning math online works best if it is fun, short, and integrated into game design. “It’s not enough to just be a digital version of math homework.” China has led the way in the education technology sector and the market continues to grow in the developed world. In the UK, however, it is competitive, with platforms such as Mathletics and HegartyMaths already popular. They are sold directly to schools before being distributed to students as the pandemic accelerates the adoption of e-learning tools. Duolingo has yet to decide whether to market its math app to schools or schools. individuals, said von Ahn. But it plans to follow the same business model as its language app, which is free. Only 5% of users pay for a premium subscription – and 75% of the company’s revenue comes from it, the rest from ads.

“morally just”

There has been “tension” from investors and some colleagues to stick to this free model, von Ahn said. But it has helped the app grow – through word of mouth – and it’s key to its long-term future, while being morally fair. “I come from a poor country, Guatemala, and I saw the difference between those who had access to the best education and those who could not read or write, so I wanted to do something that will give people the access to education, ”he says. “In 2021, everyone should be able to receive a quality education. “There are decades of work to do, but I am dedicating my time to it.

This news was originally posted on BBC


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