Chalmers alumni, Henrik Appert and Arvid Gilljam are the founders of Matteappen, an app that will soon launch in the US as Magma Math. Their invention enables teachers to identify knowledge gaps and allows them to understand their way of thinking.
The founders studied the bachelor’s programme in Industrial Engineering and Management at Chalmers. Even back then, the two childhood friends dreamed of developing something that would make a difference and benefit society.
"At Chalmers, we learned how to improve systems through different types of processes. We also got to know how modern companies make their decisions based on data”, says Henrik Appert.
The results of the international PISA survey in 2015 worried the founders since it showed that mathematics was a great challenge for the students, both in Sweden and internationally.
Currently, almost every fifth primary school student in Sweden doesn't pass the national tests in mathematics in the ninth grade. A worrying societal development where the founders immediately saw great potential for improvement.
”We had to try to find new solutions, both for the sake of the students, but also from an economic point of view. We applied the system thinking that we had learned at Chalmers to solve the problem", says Henrik Appert.
The founders both believed that valuable data on how to improve education got stuck in the students' notebooks and worksheets. If the teachers could easily access that information, they would make better decisions based on the data. With Magma Math, the teachers can see the difficulties students face and exactly how they solve problems, so they can lead the best math class.
Solving the problem in real-time
That was the starting point for their invention Matteappen which was first developed for mathematics education in Swedish primary school. After an analysis of what digital solutions were available on the market, the founders realized that there were not many options to work with mathematics digitally.
“The available digital tools were either click-based or meant that you could enter answers with your keyboard. But mathematics is best done by hand, where you have as high a degree of freedom as to when you work with paper and pen. Therefore, we developed a technical solution where you can show your calculation with a drawing tool on a tablet or the computer.”
The app corrects the answer automatically and sends the information to the teacher in real-time.
“Teachers can project different examples of calculations on the whiteboard and use their student's work as an example. They can also clearly see which students that may need additional support. According to Henrik Appert, the response from both teachers and students has been overwhelming so far. In various surveys, teachers feel that the service reduces their administrative work and provides more time and space for individualized teaching.
Fast-forward into the future
When the global pandemic flared up at the end of March in 2020, the company quintupled its growth rate within only a few weeks.
“We have fast-forwarded into the future due to the pandemic. Corona has been a catalyst that has accelerated digital development and forced people to go beyond their usual comfort zone to find new solutions.”
Today, their company is valued at 90 million SEK and the plan is to grow with about ten employees within the next year. Several European countries have shown interest in the service, but the company has set its sights on expanding in Sweden and a launch in the US after a successful test run at a school fair.
"We received a fantastic response at the fair. About a hundred teachers signed up to test our app and told us that it was exactly the product they were looking for. Mathematics is a global language and we can see the same needs and challenges in other markets. The US has come a little further in terms of digitalisation in education and there is a larger market there than in Sweden."
Used in the Bahamas
The US version of the app is called Magma Math and is currently being tested as a pilot project in several different US states and will initially be used as a complement to school teaching. The service is also used by several schools in the Bahamas.
“It feels unreal that what once started as a simple idea is now a product that is used by students and teachers on an island in the Caribbean.”
In parallel with the launch overseas, continuous development of the original idea is underway.
“The service we offer will never be finished. There will always be ways to simplify the learning process. We can develop the app for high school students - or even for studies at the university level. It is only the imagination that sets the limits.
Text: Vedrana Sivac