Innovation Awards profiles: Komodo Learning – online maths education
Difficulties in early-stage maths learning have long been associated with later problems in terms of science, technology and engineering subjects at second and third levels.
Belfast-based company Komodo Learning is helping to tackle the problem through a new online learning system for teaching maths at home to children aged five to 11.
It works on the web, iPad and Android tablets using a library of 60,000 questions to deliver tailored practice exercises in short, regular sessions.
“For parents, the number one concern in terms of their children’s early education tends to be maths learning,” says co-founder Gerard McBreen.
“The cost in terms of lost opportunity with maths is enormous, particularly in the emerging knowledge economy.
“The situation we have at present is that 40 per cent of students who do GCSE maths in the UK don’t even get a pass grade.
“The problem has its roots in primary school when children don’t master essential arithmetic skills. This is also when problems are easiest to address – before confidence is damaged.”
McBreen is a maths teacher who taught in schools for eight years before going into the online learning sector.
“Our solution is regular self-paced practice to complement classroom lessons”, he explains.
“This is nothing particularly new, mothers have been teaching kitchen table maths for years. Encouragement and support from parents makes all the difference in the child’s progress, even more so with young learners.
“Komodo takes a new whole-family approach to learning maths and it’s fun and rewarding for the children.”
He is quick to point out that Komodo is not a game, however.
“A good game will keep a child at the screen for a long time and that’s not what we were looking for. What we want is to achieve the maximum effect in as short a period of time as possible.
“Also, a child’s level of expectation of what a good game would deliver is so high that it is beyond the capacity of a small e-learning company like ours to deliver.”
Following more than two years in development the solution was released without fanfare onto the market in late 2012. It is marketed utilising a subscription-based model with parents being asked to pay £9 (€11) per month or £69 (€84) per annum.
“It’s been going very well since then,” says McBreen.
“We chose the subscription model because we don’t believe you can create a sustainable business model for something like this around the App Store.
“We are offering parents an opportunity to considerably enhance their child’s learning experience and their subscription gives them access to all the latest versions of the product. We are up to the 12th version now.”
Having proved the product on the market, Komodo is now gearing up for growth.
“We have been completely self-funded up until now and our main objective was to get out into the market, get traction for the solution and then refine it. We are now in the process of raising finance for the next stage in our development and that is going very well. We have had a lot of interest from potential investors.”