Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

The Wizard of Oz: Can Australian edtech major Matific get its maths right in the land of Byju's?

Matific, with its AI-driven learning process and an immersive and gamified environment, has over 1,000 schools in India on its platform

Rajiv Singh
Published: Dec 10, 2021 03:43:45 PM IST
Updated: Dec 10, 2021 04:00:03 PM IST

Craig Shotland, chief executive officer of Matific
Two-and-a-half years in India, 1 lakh students and over 1,000 schools on its platform, Australian edtech major Matific has been silently growing its maths platform for K-6 in India. “We are expecting these numbers to grow three-fold in 2022,” asserts Craig Shotland, chief executive officer of Matific, which operates across 60 countries and offers content in over 40 languages including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Hindi, Tamil, and Marathi. Founded in 2012, the Australian maths global edtech major entered India in June 2019 but started operations a year ago. The CEO offers a plausible reason for taking time to hit the ground running: Matific was doing its elaborate homework. “We intended to be well-equipped and whet our resources before we tapped into the Indian market,” says Shotland in an exclusive interview with Forbes India. Maths, he underlines, is a universal language and has proven to be a foundation for many skills that children acquire over the years. Focusing on conceptual understanding and critical thinking in mathematics helps children in honing their aptitude, and thus securing their future, he adds. Edited excerpts:
Q. You came in late, started a year ago but have made heady progress in India. Seems you are getting your maths right here…
We have got an overwhelming response within a year of our operations. We have completed phase one of our approach and are now rapidly accelerating towards the second phase of expansion by expanding team size to cater to a larger audience.
We see India as a key strategic market, which is driven by factors such as robust market potential, strong demand for edtech, and government policies like NEP (national education policy). But most importantly, the passion for education and learning, willingness to adopt technology and a strong affinity to gamified educational content makes it a great place to be right now.

Q. Can gamification make maths a fun learning experience?
Gamification has revolutionised the learning of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects for young learners—from kindergarten to secondary schooling—and strengthened the foundational numeracy and conceptual skills. Unlike the traditional method of teaching in the classroom, gamified learning modules are based on the learner-focused approach that leads to higher engagement levels in students.

Gamified learning blended seamlessly with an adaptive approach of teaching makes for a good package to make students grasp and retain more. With gamification, students can apply complex principles and solutions in their real lives and achieve a higher rate of memorisation. This results in higher student engagement on edtech platforms. We have also observed an increase in students' results by 34 percent with the use of Matific in the classroom. Using an AI-driven, personalised and adaptive learning process, Matific offers an immersive and gamified environment which adjusts the activities as per the level of understanding of each student. This has made it easier for parents and teachers to assign work and support students with personalised practices.
Q. The foundation has to be strong for a lasting impact. Right?
Foundational numeracy and literacy has been a significant factor for the growth of young minds, and plays a vital role in their personality development. At the tender age of 6-7, kids start asking logical questions, and this is the exact moment to mould these young minds into diamonds. We should pay special attention in this phase and answer their doubts to fuel their spark.

The need of the hour is to invest more time and resources in foundational numeracy and focus on adaptive learning while setting a new pedagogy in the learning process of kids. This will enable the kids to level up their learning and retaining process while being on a steeper growth trajectory. It will also help them to master skills that aid them in choosing the right career path with high profitability.

Q. Is the hybrid model of online and offline teaching the new normal across the world, and in India?
Covid-19 has put educators on a different path where they adapted to a contemporary approach of teaching and mentoring students.

The Indian education system is adapting to the new way of learning. However, the inefficient resources and people adapting to the technology at their own pace has been an obstacle, along with connectivity and infrastructure challenging the graph. This is further leading to the unresolved concerns of teaching younger children and establishing effective education strategies in rural areas. Owing to the support by the government of launching policies like NEP and encouraging the adoption for a blended and hybrid model of teaching, both rural and urban sectors (private as well as government schools) will ensure quality education.
The pandemic has brought edtech from the periphery to the forefront in education. It has speeded up the pace at which adoption of edtech platforms took place. Schools, teachers and students have witnessed the benefits of these resources first-hand and found them effective. They are already equipped with infrastructure to support it and thus the system has proven its mettle in the current scenario and is reflecting how it shall retain itself in the coming times too. The emphasis of integrating this contemporary system is not to replace the conventional one but instead incorporate it to seamlessly blend with the current requirement of hybrid learning.
Our platform is aligned with the local curriculum (ICSE/CBSE), is fully integrated into the education system through Google Classroom and Microsoft, and offers an offline mode which allows students to access math and sync the work performed once connected again. Matific is in constant contact with teachers to understand the impact IT has in the classrooms which helps them to continually refine and improve the platform.
Q. Are Indian students different from their global counterparts? What were the initial challenges?

Indians understand the importance of mathematics and are passionate about learning easy ways of understanding concepts. We recently organised The Junior Maths Championship for the first time in India, and the participation and engagement from the Indian students were amongst the highest.

We understand that each student’s learning pace differs. So our platform comprehends the learning pace and rigour of each student and offers a highly personalised learning experience. In fact, we have been a part of several discussions with Indian school principals and educators.

If we are to talk of a challenge we faced in the early days of Matific, it was the feedback we received from some of the users who suggested that we focus more on delivering the lessons fluently in a language that is comprehensible by the mental capacity of young minds. We embraced the feedback with open arms and have worked relentlessly to resolve this concern which has further resulted in us enhancing our product to a whole new level altogether.