The inspiration behind
The Polyup movement was built on a vision conceived at Stanford University in 2015 by visiting Prof. Yahya Tabesh, a lifelong math educator and an Erdős international math education award winner. Yahya teamed up with Shaya Zarkesh, a math-inclined high schooler who wanted to spread his love for math to the world. Together they set out to build a digital playground for mathematical thinking. With the leadership of Dr. Amir Zarkesh, a serial entrepreneur and awarded teacher, and Zohre Elahian, a philanthropist having brought technology tools to over 25 countries’ education systems, and through three years of R&D and testing in hundreds of classrooms in California, Polyup has made that vision of such a playground a reality today.
What it is
Polyup is a math education app available freely on the web. With the goal of instilling creative problem solving and computational thinking skills into K-12 students, Polyup allows students to play with numbers and functions in a freeform environment.
How it was built
Polyup is available today on the web on any internet-enabled device. As its core philosophy, Polyup is and will always be available for free to students and teachers. Furthermore, Polyup encourages all of its users to create content on its digital playground.
Challenges we ran into
Basing our mission on being an open and equitable platform that strives to empower student learning with critical 21st Century Skills such as computational thinking, we believe technology and the internet are the tools that can make this education accessible for all. However, the reality we face today is that technology and the internet is not available to everyone in equal measure. This is the main challenge we faced from day one and continue to face with our mission.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Many organizations are building their own Polyup activities, including Stanford’s youcubed (a leading math education center with more than 120K global math teachers following their teachings). Polyup has also been promoted by AVID across over 6,000 schools. AVID is the largest teacher professional development organization in US that trains more than 70K teachers per year and impacts more than 2M students. AVID’s new STEM teacher development kit for creative problem solving, released in summer 2019, uses Polyup for much of its instruction. Polyup launched Poly Challenge in January 2019, during which students can solve and author creative problems and help others to do the same. Poly Challenge uses “Polycoins” as a measure of learning — every time a team causes learning in their community, they generate Polycoins. In four months, over 20 million problems have been solved by more than 100,000 K-12 students, in turn generating 200 million Polycoins. In the coming months, Polyup will further connect math to its applications in computer science and physical science using the world’s first Moddable Augmented Reality platform, enabling students to modify the world around them using math (for free!).
What we learned
On the journey of Polyup so far, we have faced a number of different challenges, but have never let them stand in our way simply because of a big lesson -- every challenge presents on opportunity. It is with this mindset shift that we strive to tackle every obstacle we may come across. In this particular case, it has brought us face-to-face with our over-arching challenge - how do we grant equal access to everyone? We know it can't be done alone, so we are reaching out to the world to build a collective effort all together in the name of equitable education for a better tomorrow starting today.
What's next for U.S. Challenge
School closures due to the COVID19 pandemic have brought the traditional educational organizations to a complete halt. Teachers have been physically separated from their classrooms and their students, students no longer have their classmates around to share their learning experiences with. In light of this unprecedented crisis, the inequalities in the realm of education that previously went unnoticed are now taking center-stage. Corporations with the capacity to support communities, organizations with the know-how and reach in the field, teachers who tirelessly work to build a brighter future our children, parents who want nothing but the best for their little ones: the time has come to rally together and co-create a collective solutions that serves us all!
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