“Over 7/10 kids in schools take an after school class and over 75% of them go to an after school class for maths,” said Manan Khurma, founder of Cuemath.
Yes, maths remains as daunting for kids today as it has been for generations past. But technology and startups are definitely reducing the learning curve to a great extent. Like SplashLearn, BYJU’s Toppr, Vedantu, Unacademy, and Cuemath.
Since 2014, Cuemath has been providing online lessons under its Foundation maths Program and live online classes. The former caters to kids in the bracket between kindergarten and grade six, where Cuemath partners with teachers, and provides students and teachers with the right learning material and a Cuemath tablet. Its live online classes are for kids between grades seven and ten and include slightly more complex lessons.
For Khurma, maths has always been a passion — and when it comes to maths, a passion for numbers is half the battle won. He started teaching maths basics to other students even when he was a student at IIT Delhi leading him to start LOCUS Education in 2007. But after teaching thousands of students he arrived at the conclusion that by grade tenth, the fundamentals are either built or not. “It is very difficult if not impossible to build capability in later grades without a good foundation in earlier grades. So I exited the business and founded a new startup focused on younger grades i.e K-10, the crucial years that create the maths ability needed to win in today’s world,” he said.
But what is it that makes most children dread maths as a school subject?
A 2012 paper published by the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education at the Tata Institute For Fundamental Research states, “If one were asked to isolate and point to one single challenge as the most important among the plethora of problems that we have mentioned, it would have to be that of creating a pool of good mathematics teachers in the required numbers.”
Further, introducing systemic measures to achieve quality in teacher preparation is perhaps the most urgent need in Indian mathematics teaching today.
On similar lines, Khurma believes that by building user-friendly pedagogy and customised tools, Cuemath can enable every teacher to be a great maths teacher. “The real problem we are solving operationally is the lack of quality maths teachers at the scale, the world now needs,” he added.
Can Cuemath Teach Teachers?
As per an analysis by Datalabs by Inc42 in The Future Of India’s $2 Bn Edtech Opportunity Report 2020, live online classes will gain popularity in the year ahead and in 2021 as a visual explanation of concepts will be a crucial factor in creating engagement.
In today’s business environment where there are many players for every category of product, consumer experience is the king. Thereby, offering the best quality no longer serves as a competitive advantage and businesses need to look beyond.
For Khurma, the focus is on the teacher. That’ll be the difference, he reckons.
“Quality content is available for free at Khan Academy, then why buy a video lesson?”
Cuemath bets high on the “presence of teacher” factor in online classrooms offering individual attention. “For many other platforms content is the business they are in. We don’t believe that only content leads to better outcomes. We need to customise it for every child and that is the role of the teacher,” said Khurma.
The brand competes with other players in the same market offering personalised online classes namely, Khan Academy, SplashLearn, Byju’s, Toppr, Vedantu, Unacademy, Mathspace, Prepworks and MySchoolPage among others.
Unique to Cuemath is LEAP, its platform that customises every class, every worksheet for every student, and allows the completion of course curriculum 20% faster than other competing options.
“Our data shows that kids almost double speed in six months and double logical ability in a year,” Khurma added.
Backed by Sequoia Capital, CapitalG, Manta Ray Ventures, Unitus Ventures, Alphabet and Trifecta Capital Advisors among others, Cuemath believes that the investors have helped them in various aspects but largely through mentorship and guiding the team to building tech for a global scale.
The Tough Sums Of Business
The emerging edtech sector of India is faced with various challenges that range from parental bias, brand discovery challenges, language barriers and disrupted content streaming among others. Khurma believes that the challenge is always about creating the capability to learn better and faster amongst kids at scale. It’s not about doing this for just a few kids, but delivering better outcomes for an entire generation.
He added that to deliver massive learning outcomes at scale the key is to personalise the learning journey for each kid, get them to love maths and do this consistently for millions of kids.
“Every kid can be good at maths, there is no such thing as a maths gene.”
However, Khurma believes that this is not just a pedagogy issue but a deep tech problem. “In the last two years, we have invested over 50% of our engineering team strength to this task. We have now created a unique maths teaching platform. The technology allows kids to complete the coursework in 80% of the time that is standard across medium, with about half the amount of time spent in a formal class with top tier results,” he said.
He added that the progress so far gives the startup the confidence that it can serve the needs of millions of students worldwide. A student typically pays about INR 2000 per month for 12 classes.
Khurma said the company does not want to operate its own centers but rather wants teachers to operate from their own homes with the use of technology. With over 5K teachers currently on board, Cuemath handles training, certification and enters into revenue-sharing arrangements with them.
Cuemath claims a gross revenue of $10 Mn ARR (annualised run rate) and is banking high on its digital platform. “Our growth focus is through the digital platform that we have built in the last 12 months. Our digital business is growing at breakneck speed and by the end of this year will account for more than 50% of our revenues. Digital classes are also instrumental in expanding outside India as well and have students from over 15 countries,” said Khurma.
As for trends, Khurma believes that for maths the complexity will dramatically increase as the world becomes more AI-driven and rapid adoption of new techniques will be required, which give maths-focussed platforms a massive opportunity.