Everyone can get better at math. That was the message at this week’s Math Quest.

Like education, teaching math has remained pretty much the same for the last 100 years. A teacher puts problems on the board and students get them right or wrong. Everyone goes through the same spiral curriculum at the same pace. At TVS, we have innovated: learners go at their own pace. They are free to choose what they want to learn next and how they learn it. But we wondered… is there an even better way?

Computers can now perform millions of computations in one second. Algorithms are replacing human labor. The future of the workplace is one that we can’t imagine. Is math even an essential core skill?

Many of today’s great mathematical minds have thought about this problem: Jo Boaler at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, Stephen Wolfram from Wolfram-Alpha. It comes down to the fact that math is more than just computation. A true mathematician poses a question about the real world, creates a mathematical model, performs a calculation, and transfers the model back to the real world to see if the question is answered. Then the process is repeated.

To highlight, computation is only ¼ of that process, and it is the part of the process that is most easily performed by a computer. Why wouldn’t we use a tool that can quickly and accurately calculate vs. doing it by hand?

So we posed a question, “What if we used all the steps? What would math look like?”

It was a deep dive into how to learn math. Like many things, math is collaborative. Math is relevant when it relates to the world. Math questions are ideally low-bar (simple enough for anyone to start) and high ceiling (a potential for using very complex math). Problems should include a visual component because mathematical thinking uses 2 visual regions of the brain. From all of our research, Math Quest was born.

In Math Quest, learners are challenged each week with Skill Builders (collaborative, game-like activities). At the end of the week, they come together to solve a real problem as a team. These problems are open-ended (no right answer) with many ways to solve. The studio shares solutions at the end of the day.

For example, can you solve this challenge? Draw a shape in the middle of a square piece of paper. Fold the paper so that with 1 straight-line cut, you cut out the shape.

So far this session, learners have explored probability and geometry. We’ve had fun tying our questions into each quest from this year. It has given us a chance to reminisce about time in the woods for survival quest and the intense role-playing of the American Revolution.

Everyone can get better at math, even TVS.