Fund for X: Department of Education awards $900K to enhance algebra learning technology

Graspable Inc. will develop its app prototype into a classroom-ready product

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Graspable Inc., an Indiana University-related startup, has received a two-year, $900,000 SBIR Phase II grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences.

The company will use the funds to develop Graspable Math Activities. The high-tech, dynamic algebra notation app provides opportunities for students to practice algebra on their laptops and tablets. A video about the underlying technology is online.

Graspable Math Activities will consist of three parts:

  • An app that allows students to work on algebra activities, provides instant step-by-step feedback and creates teacher reports for formative assessment.
  • A library of algebra activities -- organized by standards, topics and grades -- for teachers to assign to their students.
  • A professional development plan for training teachers on integrating the app into their classroom practice.

"We will then work with our partners to conduct a pilot study to explore the efficacy of Graspable Math Activities in 40 ninth-grade classes," said Erik Weitnauer, company co-founder and president. "We will examine the technology across several criteria, including usability, reliability and efficacy."

Weitnauer said the company will be prepared to open Graspable Math Activities to a larger market toward the end of the Phase II award period in early 2021.

"We will license Graspable Math Activities to schools and tutoring centers. Our goal is to help teachers and tutors better address the needs of individual students and to increase engagement and algebra performance," he said. "We will also work with publishing companies to integrate interactive algebra activities into their digital instruction and assessment materials."

Graspable Inc. licenses part of its intellectual property from the Indiana University Innovation and Commercialization Office. It received earlier funding from IU's Johnson Center for Innovation and Translational Research to complete proof-of-concept projects. Additional information about the SBIR grant, number 91990019C0034, is on the Institute of Education Sciences' website.

What they're saying

"Becoming a proficient user of algebraic notation is fundamentally important for STEM careers and is a breaking point for many middle and high school students in the United States. Success in algebra is related to higher graduation rates and future employment, yet few students reach an advanced understanding of algebraic concepts." -- Erin Ottmar, co-founder, Graspable Inc.

"Graspable Inc. is one of only eight companies receiving an SBIR Phase II award from the IES this year. This is an incredible opportunity that will allow us to reach many students with our research-based algebra technology." -- Erik Weitnauer, co-founder and president, Graspable Inc.

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