Malvern implements new Knewton math program


Tommy Pero

English has Membean, Math has Knewton.

Led by Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot and Math Teacher Mr. Kevin Moore, Malvern has implemented an online, personalized Math education program called Knewton.

Knewton’s website bills the program as “the world’s most powerful adaptive learning engine.” The company was founded in 2008, and has ten million student users.

Knewton works by getting to know each student’s strengths and weakness from his previous work answering questions. It then uses this data to teach the student in the best way to fit the way that he thinks, Moore said.

“If [students] are learning about the Pythagorean Theorem, and they are having a tough time with the Pythagorean Theorem, the program decides based off of prior knowledge of how the student is doing to teach [the student] via exponents or via geometry with the triangle,” Moore said.

“Our relationship with Malvern certainly is special,” Knewton Project Manager Katia Teran said in an email interview.

Talbot first introduced Moore to Knewton. Moore then contacted Teran to find out more about the program.

“Excited about [the opportunity of working with Malvern], we invited Mr. Moore and Mr. Talbot to our headquarters in [New York City],” Teran said. “During the visit, we shared the vision of Knewton and also learned about the excellent and innovative teaching methods employed at Malvern.”

After the meeting, the two sides decided to partner and initiate a summer pilot of the program with incoming freshmen, according to Teran.

“[Knewton] was good. Once you get started, it’s easy to pick up and do,” said Ryan Mills ’19 who participated in the summer pilot program, “I think it’s applicable [for classroom use].”

Cruz Sigala ’19 also participated in the summer pilot and thought Knewton was helpful. “It was really different how it showed videos before problems to help you out. If you’re having problems it would show you a video to make it easier for you,” he said.

Malvern’s relationship continues with Knewton during this school year with Moore’s Algebra II class and one of Mrs. Diane Giordano’s middle school classes, according to Moore.

Malvern has become a development partner with Knewton meaning Malverns students helps Knewton by giving them feedback from students and teachers on how to improve the program, Teran said.

“Malvern students and teachers using have provided us with invaluable feedback of what is working well and what isn’t working well within the product,” Teran said. “Such feedback helps us better understand our users, validate assumptions we’ve made, and prioritize future work.”

Knewton is still in its Beta phase meeting that the developers are still working out the final bugs of the program, and there is no set timeline for the program to come out of the Beta phase.

Moore praised Knewton’s support team and said that there is someone who is specifically assigned to Malvern to support with any technical problems. He said that the bugs are “very minimal” and that the purpose of the Beta phase now is to test out student input on different interfaces and features.

“Ultimately, I hope that this becomes a way for students to achieve levels content outside of the classroom so that we’re able to focus on deeper learning within the class period,” Moore said. “This also allows for more project-based work in the classroom, since content is being achieved and reached proficiency outside of the classroom.”

Moore said that one of the main advantages of the program is that it allows students to move at their own pace. Advanced students can move at a faster pace and students who need extra help can get it.

Teran said that teachers and students use Knewton a variety of different ways, and their goal of working with Malvern and other schools is to find out how the program can be used best.

Similarly, Moore said how teachers will actually use the program is still being worked out.

“I think now— while we’re in Beta phase— it’s more of a supplemental program. Once it’s out of Beta, this could potentially become a primary source of delivering content,” Moore said.

“Without a doubt, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to work with the Friar family to help us refine our product and bring our vision to life,” Teran said.