With recent NAPLAN scores, PISA results, 2017 HSC maths participation reportedly at an all-time low and the announcement of Gonski 2.0, Australian numeracy is firmly under the microscope. Looking through the lens is Leon Kamenev, co-founder of Matific, a leading online maths resource, who views online learning as the real key to unlocking student potential and supporting teachers in the classroom.
While the issue of declining numeracy standards is one facing educators and schools all over Australia, it has been an even bigger issue in remote and regional areas due to distance and less access to resources.
Australian standards of education are lagging on the world scale. Reports from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses the science, reading and math skills of 15-year-olds in OECD countries, ranked Australia 20th in mathematics with a score of 494 (this translates the two and half years behind children in the top-ranking country, Singapore with a score of 564). This figure also represents a consistent slide since 2000 and down from 17th in 2006. Even more troubling is that if you look more closely at the figures, Australia has one of the widest ranges of student achievement – for example the maths score in the Northern Territory was 16 points below the Australian average at 478 and Tasmania was even lower at 469.
While many Australians recognise the need to address the gap in educational opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous Australians as well as for those living in remote communities, there are some leaders in the education space who are actually ‘walking the talk’ – Leon Kamenev is one such person.
Recognising the lack of access to resources, particularly for students and teachers living in remote areas of Australia, Matific recently introduced a philanthropic gifting program that offers disadvantaged schools in these areas the opportunity to use the resource free of charge. Some of the schools did not have access to iPads, tablets or computers, which Matific also provided so that the software could be used in the classroom.
Matific provides teachers with a resource that is designed to empower young learners by presenting maths in a fun, simple way so children can learn at their own pace, improve their confidence and skills, and develop a lifelong appreciation of how to use maths in the real world.
“Our vision is to give all children the opportunity to use the program, by gifting it to those schools that cannot afford it, while continuing to grow as a commercially successful company,” says Kamenev.
Born in Ukraine, Kamenev is an online entrepreneur who grew up and attended school in Tyumen, Siberia. He completed his degree in economics before migrating to Australia as a refugee in 1990. With limited English and no work experience in his chosen field of study, Kamenev realised that his only option was to start again.
He began learning English by day and delivering pizzas by night, until he was able to create and launch his first successful online venture, HotelClub. Within six years, Kamenev had become a successful entrepreneur and had established offices around the world. Kamenev decided to sell HotelClub 2004 and move on to what would become his next successful venture, popular online food-delivery service, Menulog.
While he was establishing Menulog, Kamenev supported several charities, but decided that he wanted to be more focused with his philanthropic endeavours. Passionate about education and the impact it can have on shaping young lives, Kamenev decided that the most powerful new venture would be one that could teach children at an early stage and give them a good head-start in life. This led him to invest in Matific.
Kamenev is committed to the success and vision of Matific, making the resource available to all schools at a reasonable price and gifting it to those that cannot afford it. The resource has already been donated to a number of schools in Indigenous communities in Australia, and Kamenev is eager to continue the roll-out of the resource in these communities.
“One of the challenges for remote and rural communities is accessibility,” says Kamenev. “An advantage of online learning is that it removes barriers for these communities, making it possible for students to access the same learning opportunities they would get in the city. Technology or online learning programs are not teacher replacements, but should be used as aids to make learning a fun and enjoyable process.”
Kamenev’s favourite memory since he began his Matific business journey, was when he visited a maths lesson at the Yiripinya Indigenous school in Alice Springs and saw a teacher struggling to control the class. “Once the students had been given Matific, they were so engaged that they spent their whole lunch break learning maths. The teacher later told me that there was a young female student who had previously not been very engaged, but since using Matific, she had started to put her hand up and ask questions in the classroom. It was really quite magical.”
The resource has also been gifted to special needs schools in Australia, and has had some remarkable results in the classroom. Some of Matific’s “episodes”, or games, are based on real-world application mathematics and feature Australian currency, telling time and buying toys from a shop. These games have been important tools for teachers in helping their students to improve life skills and become familiar with maths as it is used in the real world.
Matific is at the forefront of maths education and is available in 45 countries and in 26 languages, has more than 1.2 million users and over 6.5 million questions answered in a day globally. It also has an option that allows a language to be programmed for kids who do not have English as their first language, making the resource even more inclusive.
The company recently launched a Trans-Tasman competition, the Matific Games, whereby primary schools can enter and win up to $50,000 worth of cash and prizes.
For more information, contact Brent Hughes on firstname.lastname@example.org.