Startup Spotlight: NumbersAlive! is Creating Friends You Can Count On
Over the last thirty years, Dr. Rebecca Klemm has taught math to students from grades seven through graduate school. But Klemm is no ordinary math teacher. You will never find long formulas scrawled across a board or worksheets with endless problems. And there will definitely never be students memorizing concepts for tests. There is no need for any of that, because Klemm teaches her classes through stories.
After receiving her Ph.D. in Statistics, Klemm became a specialist in explaining mathematical concepts through everyday language and storytelling. And as unconventional as it seems, it works. While on faculty at Georgetown University School of Business she received the 1982 Decision Sciences Instructional Award from the American Institute of Decision Sciences for her disruptive style of teaching.
Then in 2010, Klemm conceived and produced a musical called Cookin’ Up Numbers. Although the musical was meant to be a one-time project, parents and teachers pushed Klemm to keep creating and this was the beginning of NumbersAlive!.
Today, NumberAlive! is an award winning collection of supplemental educational tools that aims to help students understand the fundamentals of numeracy through storytelling and real world connections. By producing a range of products, this 1776 member is able to combine digital and disruptive learning tactics.
Just like the numeric system, the core of NumbersAlive! are numbers zero through nine. Each number has a unique story and character, but together they are known as Team Ten. Students can follow Team Ten’s adventures through books, songs, and various activities. There is also an app called “Hello Numbers” that received a five-star certification from the Education App Store. Each member of Team Ten, also has their very own plush.
By giving each number a character the “math becomes alive,” said Klemm. No longer are these numbers something that students have to memorize in sequence, they are friends that show them how numbers are a part of the world around them.
And the numbers are not the only ones with a character. Klemm has taken on the persona of Numbers Lady; the eccentrically dressed math genius known for her signature red hat.
NumbersAlive! is all about taking math “off the page and into the arms and imaginations of kids,” said Klemm. For most students the linear way in which math is traditionally taught does not lead to understanding. And Klemm has seen this first hand through out her years of teaching. “All they’re doing in class is giving [students] tricks to make [math] faster,” she said. “But if you don’t understand the concept, the tricks make no sense.”
And research has shown that this lack of understanding can be detrimental. Students will shut down and math becomes a source of fear and anxiety. But when they can touch, hear, see and feel the concepts in their own lives, students become curious and want to learn more. Math becomes fun. Teachers and parents say that they are ecstatic about the products and that their children do not want to put the numbers down.
Looking to the future, Klemm plans to continue creating content for NumbersAlive!. From new adventures for Team Ten and the STEM Squad, to new ways to interact with the characters, Klemm has ideas on the horizon. She also wants to partner with other companies to create a unique platform for her digital content.