Education startup Maths Pathway has raised $2.1 million in funding, to expand the reach of its technology platform to help kids learn maths in a more efficient, and personalised, way.
The raise was led by Social Ventures Australia, which contributed $1 million, and also includes contributions from existing investors, who have not been named.
Launched in 2010 by former teachers Justin Matthys and Richard Wilson, Maths Pathway provides a data-driven teaching model designed to create an individual learning experience for each student, based on their own development levels.
Speaking to StartupSmart, Matthys says the two teachers had been experimenting with some new ideas in the classroom — both individually and together — and came up with some strategies that “could make a big difference for a lot of students”.
The solution was “not something anyone who is not a teacher could work out”, he adds, and so the co-founders left their jobs and spent 18 months working out of a shed in one of their back gardens, to get a product off the ground.
“It was that moment of thinking ‘if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?’”
The solution is designed to help teachers leverage technology to change their classroom practice, shifting the way in which learning is structured, meaning “maths is being taught in a far more rich and deep way”, he says.
It’s about teaching children whatever it is they need to learn next, rather than moving on to the next step when they haven’t fully grasped the concept.
“That’s how we’re meant to teach, but making it a reality has always been really hard,” Matthys says.
When tech is not enough
The $2.1 million in funding will allow for additional innovation and improvement of the platform, while also putting a structure in place to support further growth.
“In order to allow new [clients] to come on board, you need to have those supports ready for them,” he says.
But, he stresses in an industry like teaching, technology isn’t enough to change the way things are done. This is something the co-founders learnt the hard way early on.
Having built a solution they thought would work, “we plugged it in, and it didn’t”.
Technology is a part of the solution, but what Matthys and Wilson realised was “for deep and consistent change to take hold, it’s more about change management and professional development than resources and tools”.
Now, while Maths Pathway provides tech, it also has consultants who work with schools on implementing it properly, and who can discuss how they can benefit from the product most, and what support the company can offer.
“It takes more than tech to make such a deep change,” Matthys says. The business does “considerable” face-to-face collaboration as well.
Eyes wide open
Having made the leap from maths teacher to entrepreneur, Matthys says while it was a daunting prospect, he felt he was in a good position to do it.
“Sometimes you make a big decision and you look back at the way you made that decision and think you were naive at the time.”
With Maths Pathway, “I went in eyes wide open”, he says, even though “I knew it probably wouldn’t work”.
Matthys saw there was a problem he cared “very, very deeply about”.
“I could see I had a shot of being able to bring about a solution,” he says.
“I knew that if it wasn’t me stepping in to do it, then it probably wouldn’t happen.”
Equally, while he knew there would be personal time and financial costs, he notes he was — and is — in a privileged position.
“I’m an Australian with a family who won’t let me starve to death … I won’t have to sleep outside,” he says.
“Most people in the world don’t have that safety net and that support network,” he adds.
It was also the passion Matthys has for the project that has made it all worthwhile.
“If you don’t believe in it, don’t do it, because it’s bloody hard,” he says.
“You have to have a bigger purpose — a servant mentality rather than a hero complex — or it will just wear you down,” he adds.