Duolingo has risen to prominence over the past decade with its language learning app offering people around the world a low-cost or free option to learn dozens of languages. With a reported 500 million users as of 2022, the app has found a loyal base among aspiring linguists. Now, the East Liberty-headquartered Duolingo has decided it’s time to branch out and use its expertise to tackle a universal struggle: math homework.
The forthcoming Duolingo Math platform will have two options. If you have a child between the ages of 7 and 12, then you can practice their multiplication and fractions in a game-like fashion. But, if you’ve got a student at home over 13 who needs to work on their mental math — or you want to practice math basics yourself — then Duolingo Math is offering “brain training” to help users improve and apply math to their everyday lives.
The idea, Senior Software Engineer Sammi Siegel told Technical.ly, is to expand on Duolingo’s mission to make education accessible, and to make math a little more fun.
“As a company we’ve learned a lot over the last 10 years about teaching on mobile platforms, from game mechanics like experience points to developing interactive lessons to increase learning, all things which are transferable to other subjects,” Siegel said. “We want to make learning math more accessible and fun, just like we’ve done for language learning.”
The development team included Siegel and two other engineers and at one point the team was even able to use Siegel’s coworker’s daughter as a source of feedback. The public got a preview of Duolingo Math last August during Duocon, the free, virtual, pre-recorded conference providing updates on the company’s business strategy and product features. Duocon 2022 is being held today.
Why a math app now? In the wake of learning loss due to the pandemic and pre-existing math anxiety amongst most Americans, Duolingo felt now was the perfect time to address the current need for supplemental math instruction, per the company. Because Duolingo wanted to ensure the lessons were relevant, the team included a math learning scientist whose job it was to provide insight on what kids would be most likely to learn and the best way to teach the subject.
“Our goal to be an educational app that teaches in a fun, gamified way is the same,” Siegel said. “The math exercises are still as interactive (and depending on the concepts being taught, even more so!) as the language app.”
Siegel added that although math was a favorite subject for her while growing up, she’s not unfamiliar with what it’s like to struggle with it. As the only woman in higher-level math courses throughout her education, sometimes she also found herself feeling downright isolated, she said. Without the support of her math professor father, Siegel recalled that she might have given up on the subject entirely. Still, she’s aware that not every struggling student has a mathematician in their living room to use as a resource so she hopes the app can provide some relief.
“We want to make learning math more accessible and fun, just like we’ve done for language learning,” Siegel said.
Duolingo Math’s tech stack is made up of “primarily Swift and some SwiftUI,” the engineer said. “From a technical perspective, much of the underlying user interface code in the Math app is the same as the original Duolingo language app.”
The app will be available in beta testing on iOS devices and has already gained a waiting list amid plans to launch later this year. Sign up to join it here.
Learn more about Duolingo Math during Siegel’s talk at the virtual Duocon conference, happening today:Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
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