MathFlow post-mortem

“If you want to build a technology company, make sure the problem you are trying to solve CAN be solved by technology.”

That was my core hypothesis; Creating technology that enables personalized learning would help students to learn math with less pain

Outcome: Learning at their skill level and pace is not helpful for students. Quite the opposite, it gives the student more work without benefits.

“Make something people want”

Learning is not the goal for students. The goal is to pass the test with a satisfying grade so the student can advance to the next school of their desire. If the student does not know what to do with their lives, they either enjoy school or cope as they have no meaningful things to do. The latter is when things get heartbreaking.

Universally, learning is not the goal of anyone. Learning is the way to get to the goal. Learning is painful; achieving the goal is rewarding.

Every student is required to take the same test at the same time. So learning at their skill level and pace does not help the student achieve the goal, quite the opposite. It gives the student more work without benefits.

If the student can not keep up with the pace of the curriculum, memorizing is the only way to get a better grade. It is a shortcut that benefits in the short run but causes cumulative problems in the long run in math. Because everything builds on top of previous knowledge, many people hate math but like history or biology, where the information is separate. The student can use the shortcut every time and get better grades. The school system incentivizes this behavior, terrorizes learning, and makes them think they are stupid.

If the student is ahead in math and things are too easy, they will get a good grade. The student can not advance in their studies, so learning more does not help them achieve their goal faster. All they can do is wait and become bored. The school system wastes their time, gives the wrong picture of learning, and handicaps their development.

I believed I could eliminate unnecessary suffering and make learning more efficient, but I was wrong. The lack of personalization in our school system is one of the debates and CAN NOT be solved by technology. Technology can only assist if the school system desire to personalize learning.