Osmo launches self-paced kids math games for pandemic learning

Osmo is launching its Math Wizard educational games series, which lets kids learn math at their own pace and helps parents augment pandemic schooling.

Quarantines are keeping many children in the U.S. home during the fall semester, and parents worry about their kids falling behind in key subjects, Osmo CEO Pramod Sharma said in an interview with GamesBeat. What kids need are games that are less intimidating than most math lessons, he said.

Sharma said Palo Alto, California-based Osmo, which is now owned by Indian education company Byju, has created a new curriculum-inspired Math Wizard series for children ages six to eight. The series teaches math through fun, hands-on, narrative- and adventure-driven games, where kids learn math by touching and manipulating objects and experimenting with everyday applications of math.

“As soon as we closed our acquisition about 18 months ago, this was a big thing we decided to do,” Sharma said. “It is a much larger task. The goal is for kids from kindergarten to third grade to learn math at their own pace. We are starting with two products right now.”

These self-paced games help kids build confidence and are perfect for digital learning at home, Sharma said. In the games, children are prompted to pick up objects and place them in front of an iPad or Amazon Fire Tablet. Through a mirror and a camera, the Osmo software recognizes the object and determines whether the child has picked up the correct object. Object-based manipulation helps kids learn much better than memorizing formulas or processes, Sharma said.

Osmo

Above: Osmo is targeting kids six to eight with its new Math Wizard series.

Image Credit: Osmo

“We’re trying to provide a lot of physical artifacts or elements that reflect those concepts. And then we connect them with a digital world,” Sharma said. “It is difficult to grasp the concepts. But when you hold it with your hand, it’s much easier. That is a founding principle of everything we do. We don’t want kids to feel like this is part of their school.”

Sharma calls this kind of learning “phygital,” as it combines physical objects and digital learning, and it is the foundation of games Osmo has created since 2013.

Osmo has already reached millions of children through its games and apps that combine tablets and physical objects such as letter blocks. Its products are now used in over 30,000 classrooms in the U.S. (at least under normal conditions) and more than 2.5 million homes.

Relieving anxiety

Above: Osmo Math Wizard and the Magical Workshop

Image Credit: Osmo

Math creates a lot of anxiety for students, parents, and even teachers, according to research, which shows almost 50% of elementary school students, 20% of U.S. adults, and 25% of teachers face math anxiety that may start as early as kindergarten.

Math Wizard games aim to alleviate some of this anxiety by creating joy and excitement within a non-threatening, learning environment, Sharma said. This is helped by the fact that most people don’t view games as a task or test.

The first two titles in the Math Wizard series launching today are Magical Workshop and Secrets of the Dragons. The series is intended for first and second graders (ages six to eight).

Magical Workshop (available for iPad and Fire for $60 at playosmo.com and Amazon.com) is an addition and subtraction adventure where kids brew potions with dragon claws and sparkle dust to master place value, and they continue their quest by counting balloons to help dragons fly. The games teach things like counting while creating potions or counting objects while flying on a magic broom.

Secrets of the Dragons (available for iPad and Fire for $60 at playosmo.com and Amazon.com) allows kids to learn and master measurement at their own pace as they explore the Dragon Reserve and its outlying biomes. As dragon scouts, they discover new dragons, measure them, and feed them based on their size. They can earn merit badges to become a master scout.

The next two releases in the series will launch in March 2021.

“We will continue to add to the series. Our goal is to have about 12 to 14 products and about 40 different games over the next 18 months,” Sharma said.

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