In fact, the question most people ask is, “what on Earth is an adaptive algorithm???”
An algorithm is a formula, process or set of rules that you (or a computer) follow in order to complete a task. An algorithm for brushing your teeth might be:
open bathroom cabinet > take out toothbrush and toothpaste > open toothpaste > measure needed amount onto toothbrush > brush teeth etc.
Miss a step, or do it in the wrong order, and the task is not completed satisfactorily.
We use algorithms in DoodleMaths to analyse responses and set work that is adapted to suit each user’s individual needs.
Why do we need these adaptive algorithms? The answer is simple, and something we have touched upon in other blogs: making the right choice is extremely difficult.
Give children the choice of what to learn and most will choose the simplest task that will give them the greatest reward most rapidly. Ask parents to choose a topic for their child and they are usually baffled by the choice of topics they are confronted with (the website shown below invites parents to choose from the content for Year 4. Not only is this overwhelming, it also neglects the fact that many children in year 4 still haven’t mastered Year 3 topics, whilst others need to be stretched by Year 5 work). Whilst teachers are not baffled by such a choice, they are still likely to select work on the basis of what is best for the class as a whole and not each individual. The truth is, the exodus towards digital resources over the last 10 years has not raised standards in maths. Common sense will tell you that simply replacing paper-based content with digital will not accelerate a child’s learning.
The advent of ‘big data’ and the power to process it has opened up a better way to do things. We collect information on every question answered by every child – every minute of every day. This is analysed on an individual basis to determine the level a child is working at, their strengths, weaknesses, and the pace at which they need to learn. The data is also analysed on the basis of the population as a whole in order to hone our questions and algorithms and make them more effective.
Of course, there is nothing new about we are doing. Any good tutor will assess a child to determine their level, strengths and weaknesses prior to teaching them.
And it’s fairly easy to determine a child’s weaker areas. What is more difficult is to respond to these in a way that maintains a child’s motivation and doesn’t knock their confidence – particularly when you can’t see their face or listen to their voice. This is where our content is vital. Questions are very carefully written to work alongside our algorithms such that they are always slightly, incrementally harder than what has been previously mastered. All our content has been written by leading maths teachers.
To be clear: with DoodleMaths, children get no choice at all in what question comes next – it is determined purely on the basis of what they most need to learn. This, though, is what gets – and guarantees – results. Our competitors, in the form of digital resource banks, are only as effective as the individual selecting the work. With DoodleMaths, on the other hand, we can say, with confidence, that any child earning 100+ doodlestars per week for four weeks will increase their maths age by three months.