Mathematicians Turn to Entrepreneurship without Leaving Academia

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

Options for mathematicians have become increasingly diverse in the last twenty years. Instead of deciding between academia, federal government jobs, and wall street, math majors have encountered a third option: entrepreneurship.

Compared to the stability of established professions, startup life does not pay as well, but many students have chosen the creative route because of its ability to make a positive impact on real problems.

Social Entrepreneurs Secure Funding and Improve Math Education

Grade-school math education in the United States falls short of international benchmarks. According to the Education Commission, the U.S. scored below average in mathematical literacy among the OECD nations. Countries like Latvia and Slovenia post superior scores. This is a well-diagnosed problem in the United States, which New Classrooms is trying to solve.

Joel Rose and Chris Rush started New Classrooms in 2011, intending to help deliver effective education software to secondary schools in the United States. Since then, the small organization has secured funding from the Jeff Bezos Family Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and NewSchools Venture Fund. Their charity has enabled New Classrooms to spearhead the application of personalized learning in math. Over 5,000 students benefit from Joel and Chris’ solutions today.

TenMarks is aiming at the same problem, but its founders adopted a for-profit model instead.

TenMarks Successfully Sells to Amazon

Founded in 2009, TenMarks struck out into personalized math programs for kids from grade 2-12. After receiving funding from Catamount Ventures and Birchmere funding, the company was picked up by Amazon last month. The total figure of the deal was undisclosed; however, funding rose above $3 million before TenMarks sold. The selling price was in all likelihood much higher.

The success of both of these organizations was determined in part by their understanding of their target market. These organizations will also smooth the path for future math entrepreneurs who seek funding for their ideas. Opportunities in education will remain open as long as the United States seeks to improve its standing in the global job market.