Meet Eli Luberoff. He skipped out of kindergarten, took a month off from sixth grade, dropped out of eighth grade, and then left high school altogether two weeks into tenth grade before graduating from Yale University. Yet despite these early challenges in the education system, he’s decided to devote a career to improving the experience for others by becoming one of the market’s newest entrepreneurs.
“From a very early age, my mother instilled in me the belief that school was a means, not an end,” says Desmos Founder and CEO Eli Luberoff. “Learning was the ultimate goal.”
The catalyst for leaving the classroom, Luberoff says, was almost always boredom. “The biggest challenge our educational system faces is its failure to attract the best possible teachers,” says Luberoff. “When I loved my teacher, I loved school.”
Yet, when a teacher or school failed to inspire learning, his mother took him and his brother to Australia and New Zealand for experiential learning across the globe. In sixth grade, he spent a month developing a model of the moon in his basement. In eighth grade, he began auditing math and physics courses at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
These early, self-motivated explorations of math and science set the foundation for his future endeavors. Today, Luberoff is finding a unique way to inspire learning and change for other students like him in one of the toughest subjects in the classroom – math.
Desmos inspires math interest through easily accessible tools.
The Desmos team, which first developed out of a previous project focused around online tutoring in 2007, follows a mantra: interactive content, for every platform, for everyone. Its first step was reinventing the graphing calculator.
Desmos launched its first browser-based calculator, located at Desmos.com, at TechCrunch Disrupt in May 2011. The online calculator now receives upwards of 5,000 visitors a day.
“I firmly believe that education is the bedrock and foundation of our society and economy,” says Luberoff. “I’m contributing in the way I know best, infusing my love for math and respect for its beauty into software that hundreds of thousands of people can use.”
Luberoff says, Desmos reveals two things about educational technology and math:
- It is unforgivable that educational technology has fallen so far behind the curve of other technology, and it’s clearly holding education back. That’s starting to change.
- Students don’t dislike math, nor are they bad at it. Given the right tools, they will voluntarily and voraciously learn and explore.
“The focus of education is moving away from cramming our heads full of answers,” says Luberoff, “and toward a process of exploration and discovery, a way of thinking rather than a set of memorized formulas.”
The Desmos calculator is an extension of knowledge. It gives students a place to explore and experience math in ways that are more visual and interactive than before, setting the stage for creativity and facilitating a new way of thinking about math.
Demos is inspiring exploration and discovery in math.
Many students create visual diagrams and pictures using the calculator. For example, a student recently created a picture of a crouching dog that caught Luberoff’s eye.
When asked about the image, the student responded, “My pre-calculus class had to make a graphed picture using the at least one of each of the trigonometric functions. It was time consuming and difficult to do on the TI84 so my friend recommended the Desmos website that she found through Google. It was great! It made the project fun and cut my work time in half!”
“Here’s a brilliant artist, using math as her medium,” he adds. “She’s learning and having fun in the process. That’s kind of a dream for me.”
“With Desmos, our goal is to replace antiquated, expensive technology with free, modern alternatives,” Luberoff says. “By removing a mental hurdle, we’ve unleashed a wave of mathematical creativity. Students who come to our site sometimes spend hours not only graphing equations, but playing, exploring and discovering.”
Desmos is a Learn Capital company where Tom Vander Ark is a partner.