November 2007

Designing a Business Model to Help Students Learn Math

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Data from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) suggests that the maximum number of failures in board exams is in Mathematics. Why Mathematics? What's the solution?

It's not that everyone is bad at mathematics. If we assume there are a billion students, the top 5% of them can be considered to be good at math. So there are 50 million students who are good at math. What makes them good? Let's explore the secrets of good students.

We listed the strategies good students follow that enable them to be good at math and therefore enjoy it. These secrets helped us to design businesses and products that make life easier for students to learn math. Finally, we came up with a website www.mathguru.com that helps thousands of students to master in mathematics.

How to study math
The 3 secrets of a good student
Secret #1. Do all the problems.
Secret #2. Spend as much time as possible on a problem before giving up.
Secret #3. Write down all the solutions neatly.

The student who acts upon these secrets is bound to do very well in every exam. In addition, students will suddenly find themselves liking math-another secret is that most people who do well in exams tend to love math.

A business model to help students do well in math
As we have seen, all it takes for a student to do well in math is to do all the problems. But there is no student who always gets the right answer. And the wrong answer always makes the student feel bad.

Students hate math, because they do not get the right answer. The contra-positive of this statement is: If students get the right answer every time, they will love math.

Students feel really bad when they turn to the back of the book and find that they have got the wrong answer. And if this happens most of the time, students begin losing confidence in their ability to do math problems, and end up hating the subject.

So the key issue in designing a business to help students do well in math is to help them overcome this issue of feeling bad on getting the wrong answer. If one looks at all the current business models, all of them involve helping a student deal with this issue and to encourage them in doing more problems.

For example, the popular Kumon system (made in Japan and now popular all over the world) is about a series of problem sets that are graded from easy to hard and have to be done by students in a specific time. A test decides the level of the student, and the first problem sets are based on what the student knows. After lots of practice, students begin doing better in math in school.

Mathguru.com
The three secrets of good students are useful pointers to understand the business scenario. The website mathguru.com is an example of a business designed to help students when they get stuck on math problems. This site is meant for CBSE students from Grade 6 to 12th. Each problem of the standard NCERT book is addressed.

When a customer (a student in class 6-12) gets stuck on a problem in the NCERT book, he/she can log on to mathguru.com and browse to the relevant question. On clicking a problem, a video file plays which shows a teacher explaining a problem step-by-step. The student sees the solution being written on a piece of paper, and hears the teacher explaining the solution.

At present there are nearly 10000 solutions on the site.

The website www.mathguru.com has helped students solve problems, understand math and thus helped them do better at school. In less than 2 years, mathguru.com has become the standard must-have tool for many students.

We have seen how the secrets of good math students can be used to design products. The success of mathguru.com suggests that Internet based businesses can be an exciting new way to help students learn. 

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