RightLobeMath.com — main website / homepage
8:40 - RightLobe Math - The website is a platform that delivers a program that helps any child master arithmetic. When I say master arithmetic, I really mean master. Through our personal experience, we have felt that elementary schools were not delivering the quality of math education that we felt our kids should have. So we thought that there was a gap there. So as an engineer, whenever you have a problem, you look to see if anyone has created a solution. And if you look to Asia, this is a method for teaching basic numeracy, number sense, and all of arithmetic in a visual way. I think that’s really the modernization of the use of the abacus for math instruction. It teaches kids to process numbers in a mechanical way that is very visual.
12:30 - For example, when you walk into any public school here in the United States, you will never see any instruction to do arithmetic calculations using complements. But this is how your computer does all of its calculations. When we instruct using the abacus, all of their subtraction and addition processes are routed through base 10. So when you understand and can manipulate numbers using complements, you better understand how our base 10 system works. It teaches you place value right from the beginning.
This device and this method is very method in how we are applying it because it gives kids such a deeper understanding of our numbering system.
14:45 - In a lot cases, we see kids understanding the concepts but still not coming up with the right solutions because their basic number sense is missing. So we concentrate on that.
15:35 - You’ll hear a lot of educators talk about kids having or developing the grit to work through a problem to its final solution. We have found - and developed into our program - a systematic way to help kids develop their mental endurance. They can concentrate for longer periods of time. They can focus more intently. These kinds of skills, you can call them soft skills, are very important to be successful.
20:17 - Parents are shocked with how quickly we can achieve results with their kids. For example, we were working with a third grade teacher. She had been teaching for more than 20 years, and always struggles getting the kids to do well in math. She tried our program out. After one month of implementation, a third grade girl was crying. At first I thought we did something really wrong. But the little girl came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Terry, I’m not crying. These are happy tears. I thought I couldn’t do math. But I can do this.’
22:35 - A lot of parents don’t understand where their kids are mathematically. This is a big problem.
24:20 - My daughter entered kindergarten multiplying and dividing double digit numbers using this system. The school’s requirement entering kindergarten was simply to recite the numbers 1 to 30. My kids aren’t some gifted math geniuses. It’s a matter of the efficiency of the learning process.
For third party evidence that this approach works - if we look at the highschool level. The PISA scores, the international testing that 72 countries participate in, the United States is 39th in math out of the 72 countries. The top 10 are all Asian countries. In all these countries, the soroban has been a significant instrument in math instruction.
Some will argue that it’s not really used in the public schools, but you’ll see significant use in all the private sector all across Asia. So whether public or private, it’s still happening.
26:28 - When you begin to look at the early research - there was a research project done by professors at the Department of Education, led by a guy named Duncan. And he was looking at what affects future learning outcomes more than anything else? The study showed overwhelmingly that if we focused on math early on, that it would produce better future academic outcomes by a factor of 2. Math, even more than reading or attention skills, or other areas that we typically look at in the early years - focusing on math in kindergarten will produce better readers down the road than focusing on reading will.
It has a lot to do with how we’ve evolved as humans. We’ve only been reading for a couple of centuries. But we’ve been developing logic and reasoning and problem solving for a millenia. So our brains are well developed for mathematics that uses all these areas of the brain. Reading is something that we have to learn.
41:04 - One of the things we did early on [while developing the program] is we began asking questions. When a teacher gives students a math test, she goes online or pulls it out of a book somewhere. And because she doesn’t want kids to cheat, she gives students a different version of the test. And I always wondered - is that really fair? Does she know that each one of those tests is equivalently difficult? I started to poke around, and saw that no one was creating tests with that in mind. So we wrote some software to really analyze all of the different number combinations, and we were shocked. There was a tremendous variation in difficulty level. If you just looked at the two tests, you’d say they look exactly the same. But when you peel back the onion, software analysis had shown us that there was a tremendous variation in difficulty. One of the things that we’ve done with our content - not only is it generated dynamically, that gives us a lots of variation, but we are able to analyze what we generate, but we can put constraints on it, so that we can guarantee that every quiz we give at any given level will be exactly the same in difficulty level as any other quiz that we put in front of a kid.
43:22 - Kids love to compete.
43:45 - To those looking to build their own learning platform - be ready to throw away everything you’ve done. You have to go where the kids go, and not be married to your ideas. And that’s been a winning solution for us. Constantly paying attention to our users, and they always showed us the way.
44:36 - The guiding principle for us has been twofold - 1) We want our students to enjoy the process of learning. We want it to be self-empowering. We want them to go through this process and see their academic endeavor as something that enables their future and opens up doorways. But it’s also about 2) efficiency and the efficiency of learning. Just like adults, kids don’t like to waste their time. So everything we do is all about helping kids getting to their goals as quickly as possible.
Many academic websites, they say we ‘gamify’ learning. So they put learning in a videogame context. We have taken a different approach. We use the mechanics of gaming that motivates kids, but instead of useless payoffs of digital artifacts you can’t do anything with, we decided to open up other academic areas that might be of interest. So now when kids train on our site, kids earn digital money and can buy kanji characters for example.
48:41 - [On ‘fashionable’ STEM learning efforts] Just go ahead and look at the statistics that the labor department is putting out. They do 10 year projections on what the job market will look like for our kids post graduation. I think the last report is predicting by 2025 that more than half of all new jobs will require math and computer skills. And they expect that trend to accelerate. So mathematics is becoming more and more important.
50:34 - Our current system is allowing kids to pass through with significant gaps in their math understanding. So what happens is once they go to middle school and on to high school, the research shows that those gaps never get remediated.
51:44 - When you really boil it down, it’s the simple stuff [early education arithmetic education] that will have the biggest future impact.
The softer skills - endurance, concentration, grit, to push through and not give up - if we can build those qualities into our kids in elementary school, I think we have a bright future. If we don’t, the rest of the world is advancing. And they’re competing for the best jobs and getting their kids into the best universities. I think we need to step up our game.
55:25 [On Adult Learning] There are a lot of adults who want to advance their mental calculation skills. Having mental calculation skills is just useful in general life. As we get older, being able to use our mental faculties - it’s proven that that’s a worthwhile endeavor. Look at recommendations that come out of Alzheimer’s associations and studies on dementia - they constantly talk about older people and the need for them to continue learning new things.