“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” – Albert Einstein
Education is one of the most essential parts of our lives: it shapes not only our future and opportunities, but also our happiness, self-esteem and fulfilment. But despite great amounts of research and investment, education has not fundamentally changed during the last 200 years. Students might be learning from teachers in videos, rather than in classrooms, and solving exercises on tablets, rather than on paper worksheets - but the content is basically the same.
The primary goal of education is usually passing an exam. A teacher tells students how to solve a certain problem, they memorise the methods and algorithms, and then practise them by solving many similar exercises.
Instead, education should be full of creativity and curiosity. Students should be able to investigate, explore new ideas and unknown problems, and be amazed by their discoveries. This is not only more enjoyable but also much more rewarding and insightful.
All student are different – yet they all follow the same curriculum, do similar homework problems and write the same exams.
We think that every student should have their own streamlined curriculum: not only the selection of topics but also the content and explanations themselves, matching their knowledge, skills, interests and ambitions.
Most textbooks or lessons are just a collections of facts and exercises – without an interesting narrative that captures the student’s imagination.
Learning should be fun and entertaining, yet limited time and resources often make it impossible to teach about real applications, cross-subject connections, historic context, and exciting storylines.
Right now, all of this is only possible if you have your own personal tutor. There are simply not enough funds and good teachers to provide an optimal education for every student. But at Mathigon, we believe we can change that using new technologies.
“I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is
among elementary school youngsters than among college students.” – Carl Sagan
Everything in our world follows mathematical laws: from the motion of stars and galaxies to the transmission of phone signals, bus timetables, weather prediction and online banking. Mathematics lets us describe and explain all of these examples, and can reveal profound truths about their underlying patterns.
Unfortunately the school curriculum often fails to convey the tremendous power, countless applications and great beauty of mathematics. And it is hard to understand how learning long division or memorising trigonometric identities can help us in everyday life. Mathematics is an essential part of our culture, just like Mozart and Shakespeare – it enables science and innovation, and describe profound truths about our universe.
Yet, the real power of mathematics is not what you lean, but how you learn: logical thinking, problem solving, reasoning and proof. It is often said that “mathematics is not a spectators sport” – you have to actively do mathematics to really understand what it is about.
The Mathigon curriculum combines a wide range of topics, covering three distinct values of mathematics:
Learn mathematics used in everyday life, like accounting, measuring, estimation or data analysis.
Stimulate problem solving skills and teach logical thinking, precision and diligence.
Use mathematics to understand nature and technology, and learn about the history of mathematics.
When I started working on Mathigon, my goal was to show how fun and colourful mathematics is. I created the first resources while volunteering with Stimulus, an outreach project at the University of Cambridge where university students teach at local schools.
Soon, the individual worksheets and lesson plans developed into immersive websites and eBooks with a coherent narrative. Visitors love the beautiful graphics and the innovative presentation, utilising the web’s interactivity to make advanced mathematics more accessible and exciting.
Rather than just watching a video or reading explanations, I want students to actively participate – by solving problems, discovering patterns or answering questions. Using adaptive content, step-by-step explanations, advanced problem generation, and a unique level interactivity, we pushed the bounds of digital education further than ever before.
Mathigon is not just a groundbreaking learning platform: we wrote a completely new curriculum that takes advantage of the powerful interactivity and personalisation features. It combines traditional topics like arithmetic and algebra with more unusual ones like graph theory, cryptography or fractals.
Rather than just teaching students a collection of algorithms and solutions to memorise, we want to focus on thorough understanding and real applications. Students should be able to explore new topics independently, and discover results on their own. Education is just as much about creativity and the process of learning, as it is about what you learn.
In the future, we want students to be able to interact with Mathigon almost like they would with a personal tutor: asking questions, receiving hints, or be guided step-by-step through new topics. Meanwhile, we observe all their interactions and use machine learning to adapt upcoming content to match their learning style, knowledge and interest.
Philipp studied Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and Mathematics Education at the UCL Institute of Education in London. He is currently a Software Engineer at Google, having previously worked at Bloomberg, TouchPress, BBC Horizon and Wolfram Research.
Philipp regularly gives talks at conferences on education, including MoMath’s Matrix Conference (Leeds, 2016), the first IMAGINARY Conference (Berlin, 2016) and the Mathematical Association’s Annual Conference (Keele, 2015).
In addition to creating Mathigon, Philipp has volunteered with other education projects like Code Club, ReachOut! and the Millennium Mathematics Project in Cambridge.
We are grateful to all of the following for their contributions, support, proofreading and testing: Wolfgang Laun, Samantha Marion, Lovkush Agarwal, Anwit Roy, Joel Lord, Andre Wiederkehr, Michal Kosmulski, Dirk Eisner and Meenakshi Mukerji.
All content on Mathigon is free. Your donations can be used to cover web hosting and development costs, licensing, marketing and software. Thank you so much for your generosity!
Unlike many other EdTech companies, Mathigon not only produces a platform but also the content itself. Creating these new courses is a slow and expensive process, requiring both content and editorial effort, as well as new code, illustrations, media and interactivity. We also need to invest into marketing and platform scalability, while continuing to develop new features. Finally, we want to create mobile apps to make our content more widely accessible, and improve our AI and machine learning engines that help personalise the content.
Our initial focus will be the KS3-KS5 age range, and access to this content will always be free. At the same time we want to work on a range of projects that could generate revenue in the future:
While the initial creation of content is a large investment, it will then be scalable to any number of students. We can market Mathigon to schools and teachers around the world, as well as integrate it with other educational tools like Moodle or Google Classroom.