Haile Miles and her 3-year-old daughter Kennedy can tell you, being shy about counting numbers runs in the family.
“I haven’t been a fan of math since I was a kid,” Miles said, “and so I want her to enjoy math.”
It's a problem Dr. Aditya Nagrath has seen first-hand. He taught mathematics courses at his alma mater, the University of Denver.
“They come into our office, we try to help them with the problems,” said Nagrath, “but they don’t really understand what we’re saying.”
That’s why he and his former college math professor, Alvaro Arias, created an app called Elephant Learning. It's a downloadable app for children ages 2 to 12 to develop math skill faster through games and activities
“On average children are still learning about a year and a half every three months,” Nagrath said.
The Elephant Learning platform teaches concepts for skills like addition, subtraction and even fractions rather than forcing memorization.
“The statistics show that if you get into algebra and you didn’t understand these basic concepts, that recovery is virtually impossible,” Nagrath said.
The platform launched last July and they have been evaluating students each month to check on their progress.
“Since April we’ve added an evaluation mode,” Nagrath said, “so now when children come into the system, we are able to evaluate them from nothing.”
But some in the early childhood education field say apps like these can be limiting.
“It seems like a quick answer to say they’re all these problems in education and this is a quick solution,” said Dorothy Shapland, lecturer of Early Childhood Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “Learning math is a very social experience and really problem solving and critical thinking where children are talking to one another and trying to figure things out and the app kind of removes a lot of that.”
“Children that do more math, they’re not just better at math but at all subjects,” Nagrath said.
“If you walk into a classroom and you understand what the teacher’s saying….1) you’re going to enjoy the class a lot more but 2) you’re going to do a lot better in that class.”
The program is trying to prevent students from dropping out and give hope to parents like Miles to make sure her own daughter won’t be shy anymore.
“Once it did click and she was just doing it on her own, then I was just like wow, this could actually help a lot by the time she gets to elementary school “Miles said.
Elephant Learning is with an organization called Project X-ite, to make sure that kids of all income levels are able to use the app. Whenever one person downloads - and pays for the app - a free download is available for children in underserved neighborhoods.