1. What inspired you to start Zap Zap Math? Start from the beginning…
Ng: My passion for teaching mathematics began as a tutor in Singapore (2001). As a high school student in secondary four, I was teaching secondary three pupils math. It was then that I discovered: I could teach pretty well and really enjoyed it.
Fast forward to 2004 and my passion became a realization: I took up a teaching position at the River Valley High School (Singapore). By the way, I had graduated with an engineering degree, but became a teacher in my first job! Around that time, computer applications were just being introduced into classrooms to facilitate learning and I began observing how students interacted with the new software.
Students would learn how to solve algebra using the computer software. But the problem was—it was slow, hampered progress. The user experience was so poor, it would have been easier to just use pen and paper! I saw this huge learning gap in education and technology and set out to solve it.
2. So, as a former math teacher in Singapore, how have your early work experiences (good or bad) shaped Zap Zap Math’s product development?
Ng: Before Zap Zap Math, I was using interactive videos staged on my website to teach kids math. My stance then was: technology is the primary way to solve education problems. But I realized I got my priorities wrong, education always comes first. Technology acts as the facilitator and accelerator. Meaning, parents and teachers’ active involvement is indispensable, teaching in itself is compulsory—but technology can enable you to teach students more effectively, using much less time and effort.
3. What has been your happiest/proudest achievement to date, in terms of Zap Zap Math?
Ng: Building the MVP (minimum viable product) in 2014 with my two startup co-founders at 1337 Accelerator. I felt that that was the beginning of real condensed change leading to where we are now. We were a lean team initially, comprised of a hacker, game designer, and writer. And we didn’t have all the answers then either, that we do now, but those were fun, challenging and creative trial days for us—learning from each other in a close, accelerated way.
4. What are your thoughts on Common Core’s importance in today’s teaching methods, since all your games are mapped to US state standards?
Recently, a friend mentioned that he was “PokeConsulting” business owners who were willing to spend big marketing budgets to hire Pokemon trainers. The objective: to lure more people into their business premises! Ever thought a job description like this would have existed years ago?
5. What do you hope to achieve for Zap Zap Math?
Ng: Coach Po-Shen Loh, coach for the US International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) Team. Under his expert coaching, the US team placed first at the IMO world championship mathematics competition for two years in a row. More than 100 countries competed in this year’s competition in July. US team’s last win was in 1994, a long gap! My dream is to have my hero, coach Po on our board of advisors. We both have a similar long-term vision, to provide young students today with problem-solving and critical thinking skills that will help them do well in high school, college and their professional lives. So I think coach Po would be a fitting value add for Zap Zap Math!
7. Any takeaway message of encouragement you’d like to leave for teachers/educators like yourself out there?
9 out of 10 teachers and parents say that it helps improves kids’ math skills. If you’re a teacher or supervisor who would love to pilot Zap Zap Math in your school, do write in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get in touch with you. Download Zap Zap Math here today for smartphone or tablet.