Blog: Maths - Big Data Analytics with Litmus


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Imagine if, as a teacher you could see which students didn’t understand how to use the quadratic formula, or which students got stuck on eliminating one of the variables in a simultaneous equation, all on a single screen.

I’ve corrected my fair share of Maths homework - as a student, an older sibling and a tutor. Regardless of my role the routine rarely changes; flip to the back of the book and go through each answer, hoping they match. When they don’t, I comb through the equation line by line, looking for any mistakes. Sometimes this process is quick, but it can go on for hours with me having to do the problem to highlight the offender. This process is rinsed and repeated between student and parent/sibling/tutor and can be very educational as going through each question allows parents and tutors the ability to explain mistakes or to further cement the methods or concepts being taught.

But what happens to students who have no one to help? Whose homework goes uncorrected? They’re at risk of making the same errors that build up over time and unfortunately rear their ugly heads later on, complicating future teaching.

After yet another “all nighter” correcting Maths homework, I thought to myself, surely there’s an app for that!? An app that lets students solve their Maths equations line by line whilst highlighting mistakes along the way; allowing students without access to tutors the ability to identify and learn from their mistakes. While searching for such a solution, I came across a variety of resources:

  • KhanAcademy provides Maths videos for students to watch; a tool for self-teaching rather than correcting. After watching a video, students then solve a few questions to prove their understanding of the concept being taught. Whilst students can avail of tips/hints when stuck unfortunately their solutions are not corrected, only their final answers are.
  • Photomath, my personal highlight of a category of tools (e.g. yHomework, Wolfram ALPHA) I call equation solvers. Photomath provides step by step solutions of entered equations. What separates Photomath is that it allows sums to be entered by camera, i.e. you point your phone camera at an equation, the app scans it and provides a step by step solution. While equation solvers may be very useful tools none have the capability of highlighting students’ errors to help them overcome their mistakes.

Further research revealed more equation solvers or more sites with math videos similar to KhanAcademy. At the time, I was in my final year in college finishing my Product Design degree. I needed a final year project and quickly realised I already had an idea for a product which was lacking on the market.

Fast forward eighteen months and I have a co-founder for an edtech startup.

Together we have gone through the Dotforge Impact Accelerator, where we were lucky to meet many great mentors, not least RSA’s Rachel Barker who has introduced us to various Fellows who have already contributed to our work.

The result of this has been Litmus, a Math learning app that corrects student’s work line by line (finally, there’s an app for that!). Whilst developing the app alongside teachers, students and researchers we realised there was potential to do so much more. For example, rather than just saying when a student is incorrect, it should also keep track of these mistakes in order to highlight common ones that need to be addressed to help the student progress. Also, why not give students hints and videos when they’re stuck? Simple ideas from working with our target audience have transformed Litmus into more of a tutor than a digital copybook.

Litmus is now available on the Apple & Google App Stores for free, and whilst it currently only features a few topics (basic algebra, quadratics, simultaneous equations) it’s showing really exciting potential.

We believe Litmus has the potential to radically change Maths learning and we want your help. We are still very early in development and are looking to expand our team and work with interested parties to capture this potential and change the lives of so many students and teachers worldwide.

We are looking to work with teachers and their students to pilot Litmus. The tests will be very flexible and should take no more than two 30-40 minute classes to complete. The test will involve a basic introduction into how the app works followed by students then working on basic algebra/quadratic/simultaneous equation worksheets as per your teaching instruction. Litmus will then correct these worksheets and display data on your class. We will conclude with a feedback session.

If you’re interested in supporting Litmus or trialling the product, please get in touch: [email protected].

To find out more please visit the website: or download the app by searching “Litmus – Maths Tutor” on the Apple App/Google Play stores.

I value your feedback and industry insight and look forward to hearing from you.

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