They say that the first impression is everything.
Think about all of those subjects in school that you thought you would enjoy, until a horrible teacher ruined it forever.
Unfortunately for subjects like math or history, students’ first impression of these subjects are too often in straight-to-the-point, boring classes based on memorisation and repetitive practice.
Zapzapmath is the brainchild of Visual Math Interactive, a Malaysian startup.
Founded by Wei Chong, Kim Seng and Adam, they’re embarking on an uphill task to turn boring ol’ math into something that kids might actually enjoy.
Instead of classes, Zapzapmath takes kids through a sci-fi world filled with friendly aliens, interstellar math equations and a tiny spaceship that zooms them through the mysterious world of space—from the planet of additions to the planet of divisions and beyond.
Okay, I hear you say. There’s a lot of educational games in this world, so…
Is there anything special about Zapzapmath?
- It’s a math app, instead of a disk for a desktop. This means that the gadget-loving kids of today can just download and launch the app.
- Zapzapmath also offers a dashboard for teachers or parents to monitor the kids’ progress, and adapt the difficulty level accordingly.
- Zapzapmath’s games can be easily integrated into the normal school syllabus, and even assigned as homework.
- Zapzapmath is also available in nine languages, including Chinese and Malay.
Wei Chong also thinks that Zapzapmath can help teach out-of-the-box thinking, which is “often difficult to teach and learn in a normal classroom setting”.
“Many adults would say, ‘I’m athletic, creative, I’m a writer… but I’m not a math person.’ Zapzapmath is here to change the way kids think about math.”
– Wei Chong
It’s free for download, though much of the content is hidden behind an annual $9.99 (RM42) paywall for primary-school aged kids, and a one-time $2.99 (RM13) for Kindergarten-level math.
“The idea about the dashboard—the interface that parents and teachers can monitor their kids with—came about to help kids improve.”
“We need to able generate reports to update parents and teachers, analyse the gameplay data and questions answered,” said Wei Chong.
“But we are not stopping here, we are using the data to develop an adaptive learning feature to automatically adjust the difficulty of the questions and give recommendations on how to improve.”
According to founder Wei Chong, “While I was teaching in Singapore in 2003, I loved to use technology in the classroom, and realised that students learn better and are more inspired when math is related to technology. I realised this could be an effective method.”
“The idea lingered in my mind for 3 years when I started working as an engineer. Feeling a great urge to do something about the idea, I saved up money and decided to leave my full time job at 2007 to try to create math ed-tech product to help kids learn math better.”
To achieve this vision, he eventually recruited Adam, who was once a creative director at an app development company, and co-founder of a local game company, Takeout Arcade. He now heads the UI/UX of Zapzapmath.
“I believe the classroom environment is ripe for innovation,” said Adam, who spent his schooling years drawing and playing games instead of paying attention to his teachers.
There is also Kim Seng, who is both an investor and co-founder of Zapzapmath. He mainly focuses on big picture thinking of the app. He came up with the vision and mission of Zapzapmath, and steers the spaceship towards that.
As one can imagine, there are some parents who aren’t too happy with the equation of kids + gadgets, so this is something that the team has to address.
Not to mention, if it’s going to be paired with schools, they have to make sure that it’s a type of school where kids do have the privilege of owning a device.
“But we believe that few years from now that mindset will gradually change,” said Wei Chong.
Since their launch in 2015, Zapzapmath has been downloaded across 293 countries, especially from USA, China, Philippines, India & Canada.
They’ve also reported that they have 120+ schools on board their site now, and close to 2.3 million downloads from teachers and parents.
They’ve only got a handful of Malaysian schools on board right now, from friends and family’s recommendations. The team does hope to change this soon though.
After all, they’re based in Malaysia. And some Malaysian kids consider math to be an alien language too.
Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to reflect the updated number of downloads that the app has.
Feature Image Credit: Zapzapmath