Teaching Maths to Americans, Indian-Style

Bob Compton co-founded Indian Math Online after watching a documentary which made him realize that Indian teenagers who were around the same age as his daughters were three years ahead of them in math.

Indian Math Online is a start-up that aims to take on that disparity by teaching math to American kids using techniques from Indian schools. “If you don’t get mathematics to the highest level you possibly can in high school, your career options shrink dramatically in the 21st century,” Mr. Compton said. “Our society basically tells girls they’re not good at math. I was determined that was not going to happen to my daughters.”

Mr. Compton and Indian Math Online’s co-founder, Suresh Murthy, hired a team of math teachers and software developers in India to build the site and its curriculum.

The site’s curriculum is based on some crucial differences between math education in India and the United States, Mr. Compton said. Math homework in India consists of math problems that students work through, as opposed to the United States, where homework is heavy on reading about math topics in a textbook. Math teachers in India have college or graduate degrees in the topic, he said. Meanwhile, most American students in grades five through eight learn math and science from teachers without degrees or certification in these topics, according to a National Academies report.

Indian Math Online gives students a diagnostic test for their grade level and then breaks down the results by topic area, such as factors or prime numbers. It sends parents a report showing the topics in which their children are strong and weak and sends students learning modules full of practice problems. It will soon add online chat and live tutoring from math teachers in India for an extra fee.

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