Duolingo launches its much-hyped math app this week
Duolingo’s long-awaited new math app is unveiled, in beta, at the company’s annual meeting. Duocon conference on Friday.
Duolingo Math, which already has a waiting list for its beta testing on iOS devices, uses the same game-like interface as its oft-remembered language-learning app to teach and test elementary-level math concepts like multiplication, division, fractions, basic geometry and reading an analog clock.
Samantha Siegel, senior software engineer at Duolingo who leads the team behind the app and is showing off the beta edition on Friday, says it’s a natural consequence of Duolingo’s mission to make quality education accessible to everyone.
Mathematics was Siegel’s favorite subject growing up, with a math teacher father and a mother who also worked as an educator. She acknowledges, however, that many children and adults feel anxious about the topic, and the Duolingo team hopes the light and playful app can help them overcome that nervousness.
Future versions will also likely include “brain training” exercises aimed at adults (and the current app could certainly be useful for anyone of any age who has never quite mastered, say, fractions).
It’s far from the first digital tool to help kids study math: games like Math Blaster! and Number eaters have been around for decades, as have countless web tools that offer flash cards, video instructions, and other features. But Siegel says Duolingo is working with educators, including a math learning expert, to create the app, which so far emphasizes a visual and conceptual understanding of the subject.
Multiplication and division lessons use illustrations to emphasize multiplication as repeated addition and division as separating into equal-sized sets. And numbers, angles, and other elements of math problems are dynamically generated, so users can use the app repeatedly and practice their skills with new content.
“Everything is drawn dynamically in code, so there’s a certain level of randomness in every lesson,” Siegel explains.
In addition to answering multiple-choice questions, users drag and drop blocks into sets, build angles with a virtual protractor, and even hand-draw numbers on their phone or tablet screen. which Siegel says children enjoy and find useful. The app reuses some of the code from the company’s language-learning tool along with some of its bestselling features, like assigning continued use sequences and cute, colorful mascots, including, in this case, geometric figures like spheres and pyramids.
“We have some really delightful animations in the app,” says Siegel.
The company hasn’t yet developed a plan to monetize the app, as it’s still collecting user feedback and looking to confirm “product-market fit,” says Siegel, though the post-beta launch of the app will likely be announced later this year.
This isn’t Duolingo’s first foray into parenting – the company has launched ABC Duolingowhich teaches basic reading skills, in 2020 – and it may not be the last expansion beyond language.
As Siegel points out, “We really think there are a lot of subjects that could benefit from this.”