Alumni spotlight: Arcadia is turning math to a child’s play
Have you ever been so inspired that you managed to get out of your comfort zone and just make an incredible change?
After almost two decades of working as a creative in a big advertising agency and “helping the rich getting richer”, as she recalls, Michal Gonen has decided that she wants to do something else with her talent for creating new and creative ideas. It was only after she read Peter Diamendis' book, “Abundance”, that she knew what that change would be. The book includes plenty of insights about innovation and solving problems using technological tools. It also had a part that referred to education and explained how gaming can become a very useful tool for educating the next generations to come. That idea inspired Michal and sat almost three years in the back of her mind until it started to take shape.
“Do you know that feeling you have after sharing a concept? A feeling of commitment” she says while we were talking about how she met Alina Colton, Arcadia’s Co-Founder and her partner for this endeavor. Michal first saw Alina at a children’s school event that they both took part in, where Alina explained about her job at SpaceIL, but no contact was made at the time.
It was almost a coincidence that brought these two to meet again. They were sitting next to each other during a ride on the train and that sparked a conversation. It was the first time Michal shared her idea of combining the gaming world with the education world out loud and that was the first time she felt committed to it. The amazing part was when Alina, who has 25 years of experience in teaching and developing innovative tools for learning, shared the same thoughts of finding a scalable and engaging way of teaching kids. Apparently, Alina had already started the process of becoming an entrepreneur in the field and she was looking for the right partner.
From different places and fields, Michal and Alina both came to the same solution for the same problem -teaching kids Math in a friendly way using gaming techniques.
Blob Quest is a unique mobile game for children aged 7-11.Through playing BLOB QUEST, a child learns the meaning, the application, and the skill of multiplication. The child doesn’t even see the symbol of multiplication during the game and yet playing it gives him full control of the subject. The game is a humoristic tale of a friendly monster who is determined to accomplish a heroic quest. On the way to its goal, it is required to fight monsters and overcome challenges. Yet, his true mission is to get kids to love and master the skill of multiplication.
“While gaming, children are not afraid of making mistakes or to fail, because they know they can always try again and there’s nothing wrong or shameful about it. This is the opposite to most experiences of failing in school. The experience of solving multiplication problems without using any symbols helps the kids feel like they can have fun and study at the same time.”
A recent study found that students who studied the highest level of math in high school are more likely to earn double the salaries of those who studied lower levels, even if their field has nothing todo with mathematics. One of the conclusions drawn from this study and many more like it is that the level of self-efficacy regarding mathematical abilities can really affect a child’s self-esteem during adolescence and even in adulthood.
Today, a connection made by our program between our partners Bank Hapoalim and Arcadia, had led to a great and exciting collaboration- children from five cities in Israel are now able to earn coins during the game that will be transferred into real money and every child can choose a charity to donate the money they’ve earned through the game. Another successful cooperation with McDonalds has been made lately and now allows any costumer to enjoy the game and the benefits that come with it. Many other associations have been made with HR departments in many companies, the Romanian Science Festival, Napa County in the US and so on.
When asked about their big goal at Arcadia, Michal said: “to make a revolution in the educational world. Help kids enjoy the process of studying and becoming motivated and confident.”
It takes courage to leave a successful and appreciated career and start over in a new field from scratch, but having enough motivation to make an impact and the right people around you along the way, will take you wherever you dream.