This post is part of our new Future of Education series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Michal Avny, CEO and Co-founder of Symbolab.
1. What’s the history of Symbolab? Where and how did you begin?
MA: Symbolab, a startup based in Tel Aviv, started as a search engine for math & science.
There was no good way to search mathematical content on the internet. We come from the world of search and information retrieval, where you deal with text, but scientific symbols and notations are an untouched ground.
The search engine was beautiful, machine learning, true innovation, but we didn’t see engagement. It wasn’t enough for the users to get content that explains the problem, they wanted the solution, prompt.
To make a long story short, we tweaked the algorithms to solve math problems …4 years later we have 50 million users and counting.
2. What specific problem does Symbolab solve? How do you solve it?
MA: Math is a fundamental school subject, it is the language of science, it’s everywhere. But yet math is the hardest subject for most students. Research shows that more than 60% suffer from math anxiety.
First and foremost, Symbolab helps students overcome the fear of math providing step by step solution to any math problem.
It is a simple and intuitive way to improve student’s math skills and understanding; building up confidence by gaining the building blocks to tackle any type of Math problem. it is an anchor.
There is no math gene, learning math takes practice, just like sports. Symbolab offers adaptive practice based on the student’s level and learning behavior.
3. What’s the future of education?
Prediction #1: Student-centered learning. Students will choose what they will learn, how they will learn, where they will learn, and how they will assess their own learning.
Prediction #2: Teachers as mentors. Students will incorporate so much independence into their learning process, that mentoring will become fundamental to student success.
Prediction #3: Project-based learning. Students will gain knowledge and skills by working to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge to adapt to realities of the changing marketplace.
4. What are the top 3 technology trends you’re seeing in education?
Trend #1: Adaptive learning. Adaptive learning is about personalizing the learning experience.
Trend #2: Artificial Intelligence. AI is used to create customized content, personalized learning, real-time feedback, and recommendation.
Trend #3: Mobile learning. Mobile learning provided the ability for traditional learning to break out of the classroom.
5. Why is the education industry ripe for disruption?
MA: We’ve witnessed so much change in such a short period of time, technology reshaped the world, not so much in education. The role of teachers remains the same. It is not enough, schools are not preparing the kids of today for the challenges of tomorrow.
We are witnessing a power shift from teachers to learners who adapt faster to change. We’ve seen this with Symbolab, while teachers were reluctant to use a tool that solves math, students embraced it, it helps them learn.
Disruption in education is inevitable.
About Michal Avny
Michal, Symbolab Co-Founder & CEO, is an entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in innovation, research and technology formulation. Michal is the former head of Relegence IL, a pioneer in real time search. Michal has built the Relegence R&D and innovation teams from the ground up leading to a successful acquisition by AOL in 2006. Prior to that, Michal collaborated with various technology companies in the Washington D.C. area. Among the companies are Disclosure, Vantage, Comsearch, Vidar and Marquette. She helped innovate, architect, and develop state of the art information systems. Her significant contribution, innovation, leadership and direction resulted in a buyout of Vantage. Michal is recognized as an expert in the field of Information Retrieval.
Michal holds a BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Tel Aviv University