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Member Spotlight: Inteo’s Answer to the College Algebra Problem

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The numbers depicting the current state of math education are staggering. In the first year of post-secondary education, 60 percent of college algebra students will fail. Drop-fail-withdraw rates in college algebra at too many secondary education institutions are at or above 50 percent, and the growth of class sizes isn’t slowing down. According the Mathematical Association of America’s College Algebra Renewal project,

“The importance of college algebra is clear, if for no other reason than it enrolls over 1,000,000 college students each year.”

Inteo, a 1776 member startup, asserts that education needs better materials for better outcomes and that the most gaping wound in math education right now is in college algebra. Inteo’s interactive math app is learning by doing. The free-response, auto-graded interactive mechanism ensures that student users have enough material to learn autonomously while also providing transparent and timely communication with teachers.

Inteo’s founder and CEO, Matteo del Ninno, graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a mechanical engineering degree and went on to earn a Masters degree at Iowa State University. He’s not a serial entrepreneur and didn’t expect to start his own company when he was in school, but his subject matter expertise and experience set him up perfectly to see an issue in the education field and respond with the Inteo solution.

When he started teaching at Iowa State, del Ninno realized the problem that math teachers and students alike are facing all over the country: a lack of individualized, real-time attention to help students learn math step by step. He found keeping up as a teacher nearly impossible and didn’t know how the U.S. could hope to excel in STEM fields without being able to facilitate quality learning at the college algebra level. Explaining what motivated Inteo, del Ninno said,

“It’s more the experience of learning that’s interesting to me, and that’s what I wanted to bring to next-generation learner.”

So, del Ninno got to work and assembled a bright team to help lead Inteo. Coming from the teaching world, del Ninno is on the product side of the operation. Inteo’s lead developer, Dennis Theurer, is actually based in Tokyo and provides an invaluable perspective in addition to his technical work. A long-time friend of del Ninno’s and Case-Western Reserve University alumnus, Paul Chhakchhuak handles Inteo’s finances as a director of business development and investor.

Inteo also has a strong conglomerate of edtech advisors — including Kevin Moore, a successful entrepreneur with a PhD in education and instructional design technology — helping along the way. With the help of its advisors, Inteo’s leadership quickly saw the real need to address the gaps in college algebra and pivoted the app’s focus from K-12 to the first two years of post-secondary education.

While many online learning models already exist, Inteo’s line-by-line interaction and feedback loops put it on the competitive cutting edge. Inteo’s real-time feedback tool is embedded in all its content that students can read, watch, practice, and follow sample problems in. Additionally, teachers can create their own math problems and send out assignments in Inteo.

Inteo’s focus on college algebra is also unique in the online learning space and critical to the education industry. College algebra is the strongest indicator of matriculation as it measures college and career readiness, and de Ninno said,

“The problem we see is this need for strong foundational skills in math and science. We think that having better materials and measurable interactive content will improve outcomes — decreased drop-fail-withdraw rates and increased matriculation.  We’ve created a platform for these better materials to be created and consumed.”

Inteo is now in the process of securing partnerships, and del Ninno explained that the app would work well to help publishers enhance online textbooks and schools to better achieve benchmarks. Inteo could be the answer for international students pursuing math credits, U.S. students studying abroad, community colleges hoping to transfer credits to four-year institutions, students struggling to build strong math foundations, and teachers drowning in homework assignments to grade. Line-by-line improvements in college algebra means even more meaningful improvements in the education industry and innovation economy overall.