Perspectives

karim ani

Mathalicious: A New Way of Learning

Math can be fun and interesting! Read about Karim Ani, founder and director of Mathalicious.

How did Mathalicious come about?

After getting my master’s in secondary math education at University of Virginia, I taught eighth grade math in rural Virginia. Like most teachers, I struggled with engaging students and presenting material in a way that made sense and wasn’t heartbreakingly boring, and also trying to do that in the climate of high-stakes testing. I taught the way the textbook suggests you teach: procedurally.

Later, in 2009, I got a job as a middle school math coach, or instructional specialist. My job was to help teachers teach math in a way that increased conceptual understanding, and I started working with teachers to write lessons. I no longer had the day-to-day responsibilities of being a classroom teacher. I had the flexibility to step back and try to identify what was going wrong in the process. This is where Mathalicious was born.

What does Mathalicious do?

mathalicious logo Mathalicious offers teachers a new way to teach math. We write lessons that teach standards-based math, but using real-world topics that students care about. Lessons explore whether game shows are rigged, whether people with small feet pay too much for shoes, the odds of finding life on other planets, etc. Our goal is to put teachers in a position to teach math more effectively, but also to foster problem-solving and critical thinking, and engage their students in interesting conversations. Mathalicious isn’t just about learning math, but using math to learn about how the world works.

One of the problems you see in education is the desire for “silver bullet” solutions. We don’t see Mathalicious as being the only thing teachers teach, but rather a piece in a much larger puzzle.

We also don’t see Mathalicious strictly as a curriculum company. The types of questions that our lessons address are interesting well beyond the classroom, and over time we envision Mathalicious evolving into more of a story-telling company. Our goal is to put everyone – students, teachers, parents, everyone – in a position to see the world differently using math. After all, that’s what math is all about.

mathalicious screenshot

Is Wheel of Fortune rigged? This is one of the many engaging lessons Mathalicious offers.

Did you like math as a kid?

No. I learned math the same way most people learn math: as a bunch of skills to memorize and regurgitate. I didn’t understand it, didn’t like it, and wasn’t very good at it. When I was in eighth grade, my math teacher straight-up asked me, “Are you dumb?” and how do you respond to that?

In college I studied economics, and one thing I really appreciated was the ability to quantify things that aren’t at first glance easily quantifiable. It wasn’t until I was in my graduation ceremony at Stanford that I started daydreaming of creative ways of applying the economic principles I had learned to other areas. I really like that analytical way of looking at the world. I really enjoy applying mathematical tools in new and creative ways, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with Mathalicious.

Check out the Mathalicious website!

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